Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Naomi Shihab Nye - San Antonio, TX

Nye lives in a beautiful 100-year old house in the fabled King William district in downtown San Antonio. The neighborhood - which boomed originally in the middle of the 19th century - is an eclectic collection of two story houses painted in funky colors. Right across the street is an empty park and I stand there and look across at it for a while before going in.

We go through the house to a back room that looks out over the back yard and garden. Nye gets me iced tea and a tray of nuts and candy. She shows me some pages from a new anthology she's put together, one that pairs poems and paintings from Texas writers and artists. It's large, colorful, and rich inside with many folks that Nye has known after a quarter century in the state.

We talk about the project a bit, but soon my questions lead her into several terrific stories. She tells me about a 5 day trip thorugh Louisiana that she took with her husband and son in the waning days of 1999. They took turns being in charge of all the events of a single day. The trip, they called a "meander." On her husband's day, they all went and sat in a field, sketching. On her son's day, they knocked on a small town mayor's door to ask some questions.

They found themselves one evening watching the sun go down while standing on a jutting promontory. Water surrounded them; the sun bore down into the horizon. Nye tells the story with real feeling, and it's not hard to be caught up in the event as though I had been among them.

We go out to her bustling back yard and shoot some photos. It's been overcast all day, but as soon as we get out there, the sun starts poking through the towering pecan trees that are everywhere in this part of Texas. Nye, the wife of a photographer, is comfortable as I shoot. We continue chatting while I run a few shots with the Canon and then the newish Nikon. When we're done we go back inside. I go after the caramel popcorn squares, Nye signs a book for my wife and me, and too soon I'm back on the road.