My favorite thing to do in Austin is hike in the greenbelt. I try to make an effort to go every weekend, and each time I’ll find a natural gem. This past week I hiked through the Barton Creek Greenbelt and happened to stumble across what locals call “land bridge.” I was blown away. To think that this natural wonder is sitting right in the middle of Austin, TX absolutely amazes me. It was so peaceful up there as well, sitting up on this cliff, I got to experience a very Texas winter moment… enjoying overcast sixty degree weather listening to leaves fall in the gentle wind and admire the fresh water gathering from all the winter rain. After standing on the bridge itself, I moved back in a small cave- space that provided me with a wider view of this “rock bridge” and all of the cedar trees grasping for life. The trees made me think of how nature is able to adapt so comfortably in order to survive, as if this cliff didn’t frighten the life of these cedar trees, instead their roots just grew around the rocks grasping onto the soil that lies farther back in the hill. However, as I continued to admire the beauty, slowly reality sunk deeper into my mind. While there is all of this natural beauty in this spot, it is also tainted with unnatural human contact.
For instance, in Aldo Leopold’s novel, A Sand County Almanac, he discusses how humans look at land as a commodity. It is something that belongs to us, which we must conquer in order to continue surviving. I understand where Leopold is coming from as he has these frustrations with our behavior because it is the exact opposite mentality of the cedar trees. The trees are not trying to exploit the environment they were placed in. They are adapting, working around their conditions, and ultimately living harmoniously with their environment. Humans on the other hand have left their marks. There were graffiti tags all along the cave I sat in, and a previous visitor even left their plastic water bottle behind, amongst other debris. Its as if we have disrespected the spot all together. It has not been left in its original condition, which is perhaps one of the downfalls of it being located right in the middle of a growing city… Once this thought crossed my mind, reality came back and destroyed my moment with nature. I heard the hum of traffic and honking of cars. The buildings and fancy houses in the distance began to stick out amidst the green and leafless trees. It’s during moments like these where I fear what could happen to breathtaking spots like this. It is so difficult for humans to become more like these cedar trees, especially in a city that continues to gentrify and expand. It makes me question what is natural and what is not. For instance, I am grateful that there are areas like the greenbelt that aquatints us with what was here first, but then again isn’t it sort of unnatural to keep nature in a designated area. Especially, since we continue to tarnish it as opposed to living with it and learning from it.