Before I first moved to Houston in 2003, I flew down for two weeks to look for a job since the job I originally had lined up fell through. Zach and Renee were gone for the summer, so I stayed in their apartment and used their car. Each day I would map out a route, dropping my resume off at as many schools as I could in any given school district. It was stressful. I didn’t know the freeways or the major roads so relied entirely on my maps. I spent all day every day in the car and thought Houston was made up of nothing but freeways, strip malls, and apartment complexes. Concrete and glass everywhere. I longed for something natural.
That weekend in between the two weeks of job-hunting, I decided to explore the museum district. I headed for the Menil Collection and was surprised to find an open grassy area beside it. Even though it was close to 100 degrees with high humidity, and even though I was dripping in sweat and constantly swatting mosquitoes, I sat on a bench near the Menil and relished the peace around me. It was green and natural and open and pretty, and I couldn’t hear the sound of any freeway. I knew then that Houston would be okay since I had a sanctuary in the middle of the city.
The Menil continues to be my sanctuary. Except for one year, I have always lived within walking distance and love my Sunday afternoon strolls over there with a blanket and a book in my bag, sometimes with a companion and bubble tea, sometimes alone. I have discovered many more gems in Houston over the years, but that park is still my favorite spot in the city.