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Welcome to Ryley Writes, a collection of thoughts, stories, and work from deep in the heart of Texas.

10 Things I'm Loving Lately

10 Things I'm Loving Lately

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One of the things I like about making these lists is I notice themes I never would have otherwise. It’s officially summer in Texas (even if the worst of the heat is still to come), and I didn’t even realize just how much that’s shaped my day-to-day rhythms until I started thinking about the things I’ve loved most over the past couple months. You’ll see what I mean!

  1. The first signs of summer and my craving for Central Texas are a chicken-or-the-egg situation every year. I don’t know which one spurs the other more; but to me, no matter how home Katy/Houston feels, summer for me will always be the wildflowers and rivers of the heart of Texas. That space on the map between Austin and San Antonio tugs at me every weekend, and for a lot of them, I happily give in. I’ve only been down a couple of times so far, but rest assured, a lot of hours in the next few months will be spent driving west on I-10.

  2. I am abominably picky about denim shorts — not too short, loose around the legs, preferably high-waisted, just frayed enough — and had mostly given up on finding a pair that lived up to my dreams. But when Madewell announced earlier this year that they’d be releasing a high-waisted, curvy fit denim short, I dared to hope again. I strategically preordered a pair that was a couple sizes too big (for aforementioned leg looseness), then took it to my tailor that I told y’all about in my last 10TILL, who lectured me about how enormous they were while she tried to pin them in around my waist. I wasn’t sure how the final result would turn out, but when I pulled them on, they were worth the effort (and, you know, the money, since by that point I’d dropped probably too much in most people’s opinion on a pair of jorts). I will say I’d prefer them like, one inch longer, because I am impossible; but other than that, they are the denim shorts of my dreams. Madewell + tailor = success. Summer may commence.

  3. Another staple of warm weather for me? Country music. (And for those of you who just felt this visceral, compelling need to let me know just how passionately you hate country music, consider this: I do not care.) I listen to it in waves throughout the entire year until about May, when it pretty much becomes the staple until August or September. Favorites include Midland, Turnpike Troubadours, Cody Johnson, Flatland Calvary, and, of course, David Ball and Dwight Yoakam, who are staples of my childhood. (Speaking of Dwight, have you checked out Jesse Woods’ cover of A Thousand Miles from Nowhere? Because you must. Even if you don’t like country music, you will love it. And if you’re in the mood to cry, pair it with Culberson County by Red Shahan.)

  4. I let my friend Cammy at Urbaneve Salon surprise me when she colored my hair a couple weeks ago, because I’m 25 and work for myself and I trust her and why not. She dyed it pink and purple. And I am definitely loving it.

  5. Went and saw The River and the Wall when it hit theaters at the start of the month, and while I expected to love it — Ben Masters is one of my favorite documentary filmmakers, someone who I look up to as creative and hope to work with in some capacity someday — I wasn’t ready for the depth of emotion the film would hold. Masters and a group of friends/outdoor professionals traveled the length of the Texas and Mexico border to explore what impact a physical wall would have on the land. The result is a moving and bracingly raw story that I think has the power to inform and change a lot of minds. One of the things I respect most about Masters’ previous work is how truly balanced he tries to make it — he seeks as many different perspectives as possible, and gives them a chance to speak unfiltered by his own viewpoints. He’s also amazingly willing to paint himself honestly as a character in his films, not simply in the best possible light. All in all, border security is obviously a wildly complicated topic, and the film tackles one aspect of it with humility and a lot of power. If you’ve spent any time in that landscape, I’d be shocked if you don’t find yourself in tears a few times throughout it, too. Such important work. Go watch it!

  6. On a much less important note, I stuffed my suitcase with Irish soda bread at the end of my trip and transferred it all to my parents’ freezer. A few times a week since, my mom and I thaw a piece or two and eat it covered in butter and jelly. It’s the next best thing to actually being there.

  7. There were certain friendships I was so excited to return to when I moved back to Katy in October, and it’s been wonderful to reconnect and deepen those. But I’ve been surprised and delighted by new friendships that I never saw coming and have been such a complete blessing — in the true sense — in this season. I was hanging out with my friend Cortney at the climbing gym last night and the thought crossed my mind that it feels weird I haven’t always known her. Isn’t that the best when relationships feel that way? Super thankful.

  8. On the flip side (and in further support of point No. 1 on this list), I spent part of the weekend with my best friend since 7th grade. She and her husband and two kids moved to New Braunfels a few months back, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to go visit since. And honestly? It didn’t even matter, just like it hasn’t ever mattered with us. No matter how long we go between talks (though usually it’s not long) and how far away we live (though hopefully never too far), Cait is my person; the one who, assuming I get married one day, my husband will have a tough time beating in the knowledge-of-Ryley-Rush department. We’re so familiar with each other’s quirks and senses of humor and hopes and histories that I sometimes can’t imagine being more comfortable with someone. Between wading in the river and passing around children and eating sandwiches and wandering in and out of cute little shops, we caught up on all the things, and I was reminded all over again just how great old friends are.

  9. Also while in Austin this weekend, I visited the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. I went for their Texas From Above exhibit (of Jay B. Sauceda’s aerial photography project, which I’m almost positive I’ve waxed poetic about on here before), but I hadn’t been to the museum since I was in high school (or maybe before) and had forgotten how great it is. I ended up wandering the whole thing. There’s a floor-to-ceiling screen on the first floor that just plays 10-second clips of landscapes across the state, and it was so beautiful that I got emotional, so like, it’s worth it to go just for that. Plus, they were having an actual accordion competition in the lobby when I went! What more do I need to tell you guys?

  10. While visiting with Cait (see No. 8) this weekend, she asked me how I was feeling about work. And my answer was, “You know what? For the first time, I’m feeling like some of those things I’ve always hoped I might be able to do ‘one day’ might be realistic to actually do… like, soon.” And she kind of cheered, but also kind of wasn’t surprised, because we are always better at recognizing possibility in the people we love than we are for ourselves. But yeah! Some of those big, vague dreams I’ve always had for myself, I’ve realized recently — wait, I’m actually kind of doing it. I might not be doing it on the scale I’d like to eventually, but I’m working for myself on projects I care deeply about. I’m crafting independent, outdoors-centric stories on the side, and I’m connecting with all kinds of incredible people as a result of it. I’m back behind a camera, and few things give me more joy. So I’m loving work lately, and loving seeing some fuzzy dreams become sharper goals.

That’s it for this list, which means, per usual, it’s your turn. Comment or email or carrier pigeon me your favorite things from the last two months — they might make the next list because I love them so much, too!

Trip Log: Northern Ireland

Trip Log: Northern Ireland