"Jo Bagel is a bagel baking project in Austin, Texas"
So, hi, hello! I have some news, and part of that news involves changing this here description of Jo Bagel.
The short version: NEXT WEEK I AM MOVING TO THE DESERT FOR TBD MONTHS.
The longer version:
This has been an important, trying, exciting, informative year for me in a number of ways. It's not particularly shocking to say 2017 has been tough for any sensible person in this universe (i.e. navigating the nightmare political landscape we live in, trying to not get complacent, while also attempting to still celebrate the pieces of joy we have in life with family, friends, work, travel, etc.). Those last couple months of 2016 were especially gnarly for me, and I did the thing I do when stress is at its highest and I feel all kinds of lost: I drove west. On a whim I planned a trek with my pup out to Taos and Truth or Consequences in New Mexico. A few weeks later I was driving out again for a weekend in Dell City, Texas, just outside of Guadalupe Mountains National Park (don't be deceived by the word "City", Dell City has a population of 425. I spent the weekend alone with my pup, 100 acres, and the Ursula Le Guin translation of Tao Te Ching.).
Both of this trips did what I can really only describe as "recalibrate" me. In the thick of insidious work/life/current event stressors, I think it's easy to get overwhelmed and not even realize it. Traveling out west and coming back from a trek, I'm always sorta shaken by how revitalized I feel mentally.
"Querencia" was a word I learned at some point last year. When you google it, you often find references to Ernest Hemingway's compelling nonfiction writing on bullfighting "Death in the Afternoon".... but, embarrassing real talk, I probably picked it up through a random lifestyle sponsored blog trying to sell me "detox" tea and supplements while I was googling "mindfulness" or something, I don't know, I don't know.
I've been thinking about Querencia a lot lately. Querencia is essentially a place where our strength is drawn, and also a place where we feel safe. It's used in bullfighting to refer to the corner of the arena the bull claims safety, can recuperate, and is at his most deadly. Querencia is a place where the best version of ourselves is prominently on display.
Querencia for me is the desert.
I wish I could paint the landscapes, the flora and fauna, and the feelings that overtake me out there. I wish I could capture what it is that moves me, but truly, my skills as a writer aren't in any state to succinctly articulate what it is (and fortunately there are actually great writers who also look to the desert- Edward Abbey or Barry López were a couple I read this past year). In 2017, I've been out to west Texas on four separate occasions. It's not to say my anxious, control-fixated mode doesn't find a way to come through, but when I'm out there it's so much easier to pull myself down from that neurotic high, it's so much easier to actually stop and give myself permission to feel my feelings.
All my personal social media account descriptions have mentioned for years in a tongue and cheek way that I "should probably live in the desert". And now, life has lined up in a way where in this very moment, I just don't have something anchoring me down to Austin. So.. why not try and live in the desert?
At the end of this month, I'll be leaving my day job at the Texas Film Commission. I'll miss my team dearly- they're some of the toughest, most ambitious, hardest workers I've had the pleasure to work with, and I'm so proud of all the things they do for the moving image industries of Texas (if you are doing anything in film/tv/games/animation in this state and don't connect with TFC, you're missing out on a valuable public resource).
In October, I take off for Marfa in what I call my "kinda-sorta-sabbatical" (because I love to qualify everything I do. It is time off comparatively to my recent Austin work life BUT I still gotta make a living, y'all.). I'm attempting to get back into some freelance producing/consulting work, and additionally, I'll be working part-time in one of my favorite coffee shops, Do Your Thing .
I'll likely be out in Marfa for 6ish months. From there, seems likely I'll find myself back to my North Star that is Austin, but right now I'm open to a number of possibilities (move back to Austin, stay in Marfa longer, move to X-City/Y-City/Z-City).
Jo Bagel as a project isn't going anywhere. If anything, it's a new phase of the project (every baking project has a desert phase, right?). I'm using some of my time out there to learn even more about bread, sourdough, proofing, fermentation. And yes, there will be Jo Bagel desert pop-ups.
I'm riding a high of terror and excitement. I like this combination.
See you in the desert, Jo