Reality, A Place to Exercise Dreams

Reflections from the West Texas Desert

By Nic Annette Miller, in partnership with Subaru.

Banner Image by Kristen Blanton

In the last two months I’ve seen how much the landscape of ours can change from east to west. I drove away from New York with a few studio supplies and as usual, uncertainty for what it is I am doing.

However, by now I’m comforted in knowing what traveling does for my soul. The more time I spend on the road, the more my mind roams a little more freely.

As the plains stretch beyond the horizon and take shape into rocky formations, it’s so easy to see we live on a strange planet with an abundance of natural curiosity to explore. The opportunity to reflect on this comes from the most unexpected detour, a journey down to Marfa, TX for a dream escape in partnership with Subaru.  

Nic and Sarah dwarfed by a sand dune – photo by Kristen Blanton

I’m comforted in knowing what traveling does for my soul. The more time I spend on the road, the more my mind roams a little more freely.

 

When I get into Denver, I meet my new road mates Kristen Blanton, a traveling photographer, and Sarah Uhl, an outdoor activist and artist. We get familiar with the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek as we get to know each other and how we travel. Sarah puts her snacks in the side door pocket, Kristen in the middle cup holder and me, right in my lap.

We quickly open up on how we all got to “this place” and found solidarity in taking risks and falling into the currents of just figuring it out as you go. A constant survivor mode. All of these years we’ve put into following our hearts – never knowing where they would lead and getting back up again after all the rejection, life changes, trials, and errors. All of the adapting and not giving up.

Crosstrek, desert, dunes, and mountains – photo by Kristen Blanton
Layered reflections of Sara Uhl behind the wheel, and the road ahead – photo by Nic Annette Miller
Old polaroid, ready to capture – photo by Jules Davies

I mention to keep a lookout for murmurations as I’ve been getting alerts of recent sightings in West Texas. Despite spending two years studying the magnetic flight formation of European Starlings and talking about them as a reference to my depression, I had actually never seen one. It would be unreal to witness such a symbolic force on this trip with the direct connection to the last time I was on the road and wrote about it. That project has shaped my current dream: to better understand the stigma of depression. So, I ask them to manifest a murmuration: that we actually have to believe we’re going to see one. I even added it to my shot list.

We were in southern New Mexico, 700 miles into our trip when I mention, “Time flies.” Though I meant it as speed, with enough focus time can also soar. When coasting at such a pace, everything seems to slow down. The entire landscape and surrounding is more than just visible, you are with the present; no wanderings into the past or wonderings into the future. The mind is quiet and the body is still as the soul stretches. This takes a lot of concentration and indeed our trip was moving faster than any of us wanted already.

The entire landscape and surrounding is more than just visible, you are with the present; no wanderings into the past or wonderings into the future.

Crossing into Texas, in between two semi-trucks a black wave appears and disappears in the sky. I alert Sarah and a sleeping Kristen with a cool and calm, “Murmuration! Murmuration!” as I’m behind the wheel. There it is and there it was. We drove the rest of the way in silence.

The sun and temperature dropped by the time we get to Marfa and meet with the other dozen women also traveling in from all over the U.S., a few of us not coming from one place definitively.

It didn’t take long to realize that although we have very different professions, backgrounds and experiences, we are all pursuing careers unfolding which have similar obstacles, blocks, and questions – often referring to how we spend our time in the clouds or on the ground.

Pulling in to Marfa, meeting and greeting – photo by Jules Davies

We asked and we answered:

Do dreams or reality dictate how time is spent?

Is this even my dream I’m working towards?

Is fear of rejection in an assumed future altering our current reality?

How often do we hold onto past ambition or run into someone else’s inspiring new venture?

I’m really lonely doing this on my own. By the way.

The desert played the perfect surreal backdrop for a dreamy discussion with a group of women that encouraged these questions and inspired us to seek to our own answers. Through sharing our experiences we gained insight on not just each other but ourselves. Little did we know we were forming a community for aspirations; a dream team.

Whether on the road, a farm, a race track, behind a camera or at a desk, we are all navigating our way through this world that seems lost in translation of how to feel and what to do with our own dreams, our own experiences. Lost, but not alone.

Part of the group, posing. Nic is third from the left in the black hat – photo by Jules Davies

Lost, but not alone.

 

What if I told you that reality is a place to exercise your dreams. Where ideas and faith are both tested and determination is determined.

Some people are the most creative while running, some think of recipes walking through fields, or see connections while writing. Those moments of inspiration must be practiced every day to build necessary muscles towards dream awareness.

Dream here and elsewhere – photo by Jules Davies

I left Texas pondering if my depression and dreams are actually working together. Both seem to be trying to wake me up from whatever it is that is holding me back or rather, trying to give a reality check to make some changes towards where my mind wanders.

Dreams can be hard, depression can be even harder, but maybe it’s all challenging for a reason. To keep us curious. To make us evolve.


 

Nic Annette Miller (b. 1987, Utah) is an independent visual artist using printmaking and installation as mediums to conceptualize innate curiosity and relationships to the natural world. She currently resides in Brooklyn though currently making her way to Maui by spring. Find more of her work at nicannettemiller.com and on Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Nic Annette Miller, Kristen Blanton, and Jules Davies. See more from Kristen at helloamericaphotography.com and on Instagram. Find more of Jules’ photography work on her portfolio site.

Editor’s note: While this piece was published in partnership with Subaru, the opinions of the author are  all her own. Meet other Subaru owners at Meetanowner.com and follow along on Subaru’s Instagram.