Zilker park, an expansive field of lush green grass, serves as the perfect juxtaposition to the ever growing Austin skyline. Often times I spend my weekend mornings running around the area of the park, from the volleyball courts to the trees, from the lake to the rocks and back again, with my pup Oreo. From my perspective, I can’t see the details or the beauty of the ecosystem that surrounds me when I’m there. From my perspective, I see the families picnicking and the club soccer teams scrimmaging, but I often neglect the components that matter. Upon closer inspection, I saw the ants weaving within the blades of grass, swiftly moving on their way to the next fallen crumb. I observed the squirrels scurrying around the trees, searching for the perfect place to hide their nuts for “winter”. I saw the dandelion seeds dance around me with the breeze. And I saw the birds up above, swooping into the tree branches they potentially called home.
While Zilker Park is not home to as much biodiversity as say, the Amazon rainforest, it is beautiful in that so many different people (and dogs for the matter) all share the space. Ignoring the fact that humans are all the same species, the different stereotypes we categorize ourselves as could arguably be considered separate populations. I always find it so interesting watching the different people interact; do they embrace the differences of the stranger or do they maintain part of the park as their own territory? In A Sand County Almanac, Leopold asserts that “Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.” This really struck me and perfectly expresses what I have observed at Zilker park, the differences in the people that frequent and how this actually leads to the benefit to all; maybe not in terms of species, but in terms of a richer culture and a society that values and celebrates differences.
The first Saturday of this september the weather was warm and the clouds resembled all sorts of shapes and animals in the sky. Many people were out but noticeably without their dogs… with such scorching heat it would be dangerous to bring out man’s best friend for an extended period of time. The laughs of children were audible from any spot within the park, and the volleyball courts were all in use, disappointing some of the less competitive players who had the same idea as the teams already there.
The second Saturday I went to Zilker the grass was emerald green, due to the flash flooding we received (which was badly needed). Oreo came this time because the weather dropped a few degrees. He especially enjoyed the mischief he could cause by splashing around in the puddles that were haphazardly scattered throughout the park. He was especially playful when he trapped a grasshopper between his teeth and earned himself a little snack, something I was not exactly happy about.
As the month progressed the weather began to cool and so my Saturday mornings at Zilker with Oreo were even more enjoyable. The crisp air was refreshing and the ecosystem seemed more still. I looked forward to the peace I felt during the time which allowed me to reflect somewhere other than the inside of the Saint Edwards Library. Each time I left Zilker park, I left with more clarity and a tuckered out pup (thankfully).