Swope, December 2014

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Like all real treasures of the mind, perception can be split into infinitely small fractions without losing its quality. –Aldo Leopold, The Upshot

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As I reflect on the past semester, I can’t help but think about all the things I have seen. It was such a great experience to watch the seasons change at McKinney Falls State Park every time I visited. After the first couple of journeys, I really started to feel connected to the park and all the aspects of the park. I even got to know one of the rangers! It seems surreal to think that I’m not going to be required to go to the park anymore, but honestly though this project, I will probably return next semester just for fun. It seems like a second home now, and I want to explore even further and have the opportunity to grow in my personal experiences.

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September: Thinking about the beginning of the year, I must admit I was a little reluctant to have to write this blog. It seemed like busy work, but if I was going to have to do it, I wanted to do it right. I immediately set out doing research on close by parks and nature preserves. When I found McKinney Falls State Park, I knew I was going to enjoy it. It had hiking trails and swimming holes, and I was actually eager to begin my journeys. On my first visit, I thought that it was going to be very sad to have to visit every month because the dry landscape was not what I was expecting. I wanted to see the waterfall and when I got there it was a stream of water going over the rocks. It was very sad seeing the summer drought conditions had taken their tole on the area around the river, but it was beautiful none the less, so I continued to go.

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October: As time went on, I was given the chance to be witness to the changing landscape, and as the landscape changed, my thoughts on the park did as well. The changing landscape kept me interested in the park, and I started to see the life that lived in the water as well as the life around in the land. I was able to appreciate more with each passing visit, and the park seemed to become my home. I started to recognize plants that I had seen in past visits, and I recalled plants I wanted to check on. The blog helped to keep me attentive in my journey, making note of new things I saw and remembering things that I had encountered on past travels.

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November: Near the end of the semester, I was able to see the park in its full glory after God granted us with bountiful rain for days. Seeing the river as its peak performance was such a great experience and I could not be more grateful for my visits to the park. I loved watching the water coarse over the once bone-dry stones. I couldn’t help but wonder what all my animals were doing in these new conditions, especially the ones that resided in the submerged river bed. I wanted to check on them but I knew that there was no way now that the water cut off the trail in the middle. My blog reflected my varied experiences in the park with the environment as well as the people who were there.

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Looking at the word cloud after participating in this blog, I can see that the experience of life is often influenced by nature, water especially. This played a huge role in my experience and the interactions I had with others at the park. To elaborate, on my first visit to the park, I saw a total of maybe three people the whole time I was there. They didn’t talk to me, and I didn’t try to talk to them. Everyone kept to themselves, in a kind of solidarity for solitude. However, when I went after a day of rain, there were maybe thirty people that were at the park, and they were all happy and friendly. They were willing to interact with me and I felt much more willing to smile and enjoy myself. Then when the river was overflowing, so was everyone’s willingness to talk. I talked to an older couple who wanted to know why I was taking photos and I told them about the blog. They were very intrigued and asked me what school I went to. This happened with two other people, and I felt much more connected to the social aspect of the park when there was less to do, but more to see.

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December: My final quote from Aldo Leopold emphasizes that although we have all experienced different things with this project, we are one in our final experiences. I can relate to every word in the Word Cloud, and I think that is because we all can relate to nature in the same way. We all were able to see the beauty and diversity that can only be found in nature, and sometimes we are lacking in words to describe how much nature can mean to us. I think that is why I so thoroughly enjoyed writing these blog entries. With each passing entry, I learned new ways to express my happiness and joy at what I saw with every visit to McKinney Falls. I learned how to express to others my experiences with nature, and now this activity has come to a close. I am truly grateful for my experience with this blog, and although I will no longer be documenting my travels here, I will take note from Leopold and forever document them in the gallery of my mind.

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