So reads the street sign, and everything they say is true. The sky, the buildings, the cars, the winter weather – they all seem so much bigger here.
Downtown, early morning. A fading twilight was lifting above the Astrodome when I peered out through the curtains five minutes ago, and now it’s nearly daybreak.
The eastern horizon is promising cool and blue and cloudless – a perfect Texas dawn is calling. For now, Houston has a sleepy air, the metropolis still dappled and drowsy and awaiting the day.
If you want to know a city, just run through it streets, and look up and all around you. Breathe its atmosphere and history, and immerse your soul in the rush before your eyes.
Live a different life, for a few brief footsteps, and surrender your mind to the wanderings of your feet. Lose yourself.
This morning, though, I know roughly where I’m going. And so I run past the prison, then right on Main Street and follow beside the tram tracks. Down to Commerce, and there I hang a left and weave my way towards the edge of Allen Park.
There’s a patch of green down there, above a river. The park is deserted at this early hour, and a qualm of fear rises for just one moment, before I scamper quickly past it.
The paved track here proves good for running, set intriguingly beneath a tangle of highways as they loop across the sky. The veins of this city are bringing its lifeblood back to work for one more day.
I trot five minutes or so. I’m in no hurry, and despite the muffled roar of traffic, it feels strangely calm and peaceful.
A sign announces this as the Buffalo Bayou Walk, and I try to imagine those massive beasts wandering down to drink here, just two hundred years ago. But the image doesn’t come.
Across a wooden footbridge, around a maze of concrete highway pylons, the path climbs steadily to meet a bridge. I’ve not come far, but when I look back, the city skyline stretches right above the river. Sharp points of sunlight piercing gaps in glass and steel.
I turn back to the path, and carry on. There’s green beside the stream now, some trees and bushes, too. The traffic isn’t far away, but I begin to sense the landscape beneath my feet at last.
The air is finger-stinging chilly here, and soon the grassy bank is shining silver all in front of me. A winter frost, dazzling me in its unexpected brightness.
Running back towards the sunshine, the light is almost painful. A smoke of mist drifts lazily above the water, vaporising city blocks behind a shield of leaves and steam.
Each eastward step brings me closer to my home, just a quarter of a world away.
This time, I run across Sabine Street Bridge and skirt the bayou’s edge before climbing back to town. The streets are slowly filling with their early commuters and emptying buses. Houston is opening up, and it’s ready for the day.
I cruise down Smith, loop across on Louisiana and find my way back to Texas Street, where my day began. Just an hour has passed, but I’ve found a new perspective on this city.
A different Texas hides in Houston. It’s out of view, and still just in sight. Because alongside a million stories of these modern streets there’s another kind of history. Nature lies deeply buried and long forgotten amongst all that’s new, and yet glimpses of this landscape will still remain.
Not far beneath these freeways, not long before the traffic, the buffalo came to gaze upon the bayou. Winter frosts sparkled across the river’s grassy banks as the beasts came down to drink in the chilly, dazzling dawn. Steam rose above the sparkling water on cold December days, swirling gently as it drifted into crystal space above.
And the dawn rose unbroken, out towards the east.
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