I went to college in a small town in the piney woods of east Texas. It was far enough away from home that my family couldn't randomly drop in on me, and I could not go running home every time I got scared. It was small enough of a town and school that I didn't feel overwhelmed by it, yet it was big enough to feel like a real school and a real adventure. It was also so very beautiful.
I think it was the trees that sold me. The campus was nice enough though nothing really remarkable. The architecture for the most part was fairly generic and uninteresting. The older buildings were not cool old buildings, just old buildings. The newer buildings for the most part were more utilitarian in style than anything else. I am fairly certain the theater and music buildings were the only ones that came close to being interesting to look at. So that just left the trees.
You really couldn't go anywhere on campus, or in town, without being surrounded by towering pine trees. They stretched high above us looking as though they were trying to touch the sky. The smell of pine was ever present, but not that overwhelming sappy scent that is used in pine cleaners and car air fresheners. It was something more subtle and earthy and pure.
I spent a lot of time in east Texas as a child. My grandmother was originally from a tiny speck of a town in that area and most of her brothers and sisters had not wandered to far from the family farm. We would take a road trip to see relatives at least once a year. It was then, as a small child staring up at the magnificent giants, that I fell in love with pines.
In a way this made my choice in schools almost comforting. Walking out between the tall thin trunks, dried pine needles beneath my feet, I somehow felt a connection to my younger self. I felt a sort of peace there amongst the trees that had been the painted backdrop of my youth.There is a lot to say for familiarity.
In the early days at school, back when I still got painfully homesick, I would often just leave my dorm and roam through the trees on campus. It wasn't home that is for sure. There was little about that little town that reminded me of Austin. I missed everything about my home in those days. I longed to be back where I felt comfortable and secure. I would watch televised games at UT and almost cry when they would pan across the downtown skyline or focus on the capital building.
I would feel so alone and out of place and would eventually just find myself outside walking through the trees. I would walk there and look up at the tall tall trees and would remember being a little girl looking up at trees very like the ones in front of me. They weren't quite the mighty giants they had seemed to a small child, but still they were great warriors standing tall before me.
It was there amongst the trees that I found comfort.
There aren't a lot of pine trees in Dallas. There are some, but not nearly as many grand examples as I could find in that sleepy college town. Still, when I am walking along and I pass by one of my warriors, I can not help but to smile. I can not help but to feel the sense of peace from my childhood, and the sense of home they gave me when I needed it so.