Not Lost at All: Texas Pines, Debut Authors, and the World's Largest Gingerbread Man

Just came back from a weekend jaunt to the Texas Hill Country with the husband. Usually around this time of year we find ourselves in desperate need of a getaway and the weekend right as school lets out is usually when we can sneak off for bit. Bastrop, Texas is not exactly Vegas -- where we were last year at this time -- but then what is? Vegas has its own special debauchery and Bastrop has the Lost Pines Resort and either way I was going to get wine on demand and someone else to make the bed and feed me. I'm pretty easy that way.

In any case, here's the thing about the Lost Pines. If you drive through Bastrop State Park, you can see them -- loblolly pines that don't really belong in this region -- they're about 80 miles away from the pines of East Texas -- but somehow are there anyway. There's even an Indian legend about how they got there, although botanists suspect some sort of glacier activity probably spread them. Pick which ever explanation suits you. Personally, I favor the legend - which tells the story how someone brought pine seeds to a homesick girl who had married into a Central Texas tribe. Weepy brides are just more interesting than glaciers. At least to me.

Did some hiking and drinking and eating and relaxing and even got a massage while we were at the resort, although massages are generally a futile activity for me, even more so this year with the whole debut novel adventure tensing up my poor little shoulders since September. I try to be the type of person who can actually lie mostly naked on a little table while a stranger attempts to knead my muscles into submission, but usually it just makes me more tense, which I understand is totally not the point. It's like my body just says, "Screw it. I'll have that third glass of Pinot Grigio if I must, but you are absolutely not going to get me to loosen up by telling me that I need to relax and then digging your fist into my back."

But back those pine trees. They are, I think, simply proof that nature finds a way. (I seem to remember Jeff Goldblum's character saying something like this in Jurassic Park right before he was attacked by the T-Rex. The man-made dinos weren't supposed to be able to breed on their own. Yet there they were, chewing up the accountant while he tried to hide in the bathroom.) Pine trees don't belong in Bastrop Sate Park. But there they were, thriving away in front of my eyes -- at least as much of them as I could see from the passenger seat of husband's Prius this afternoon as we drove through the park on our way to Smithville, a tiny hill country town famous for having created the world's largest gingerbread man. (That last fact doesn't have anything to do with the Lost Pines, but it's the kind of kitschy "giant ball of twine" thing I adore, so I've included it anyway.)

I wasn't supposed to do what I did this fall, either. Find my second act and write a young adult novel that four months later is still on the shelves and finding readers. This was not supposed to happen. Not because I didn't want it to. And not because I'm not a good person most days. Or not a hard worker. I am. But sometimes that's just not enough. You don't always get your dreams. Only this time, I did. Like those pines, you can come up with more than one possible explanation. Maybe it was just time. Maybe I really did work harder than everyone else. Maybe Publicist Paul is just that good. Maybe it was glacier activity. Honestly, we'll never know for sure.

But here's what I think. I think sometimes with people, nature finds a way, too. Maybe that's what miracles are. Something grabs you up by the roots and transplants you somewhere new. And after the shock wears off, you get another surprise. You find that you're thriving there. This new place and this new life -- they fit you. And so you dig in and make it home. Maybe it's not where people expected to find you. But it turns out it's where you belong.

I didn't expect to end this decade as a published author with more books on the horizon. But here I am anyway. Roots tucked into my new terrain. And like those pine trees, not really lost. Just home at last.