I have explored the Barton Creek Greenbelt many times over the last two years, always entering through the same Loop 360 Access that spits you out into the center of the Greenbelt. But this time my motives were different. I knew I would be more reflective and observant of the nature surrounding me, trying to take in every aspect of this spot that I may have taken advantage of in the past.
We have been extremely lucky this January as far as climate. I arrive at the Greenbelt on a Friday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. and the temperature is approximately 68 degrees. The sun shines perfectly in between two trees from where I’m sitting in a bed of pebbles, and in front of me sits a fringe tree that separates my feet from floating directly above the water. This is the first time I have seen water actively flowing in the Greenbelt since I have moved to Austin. I always find a sense of serenity and peace in observing the water flow and crash against the rocks because in that moment, there is nothing else I’d rather see.
My legs numb from sitting cross-legged on the pebbles so I walk two feet from where I was sitting and discover a forest-like accumulation of thin, bare, tan-colored trees. It was difficult to see past them, as they were surrounding me like a swarm of bees searching for honey.
Past these bare trees I stand in the middle of a short trail with trees surrounding it in an arc-like shape. Within these trees I find brown branches filled with pea-sized red berries that I was unable to identify. Then I start to think about what species feed off of these berries, if any do at all. I can’t stand in this small trail for long, because it is narrow and there are many people walking with their dogs, German Shepherds and St. Bernards alike, soaked with water from their quick swim in the creek.
This is the only aspect of the Greenbelt that I might change. It has become such a common place for individuals to spend their time that I feel as though a piece of nature was dropped in the middle of the city and people are flooding into it.
This reminds me of when Aldo Leopold says,
“Parks are made to bring the music to the many, but by the time many are attuned to hear it there is little left but noise” (159).
I agree – and disagree – with this statement because although the Greenbelt can be filled with people talking and dogs barking at times, it is still easy to appreciate the natural beauty of it all when you walk further away from the main entrance of the Loop 360 Access. This is the problem with limited resources; we all want them but there aren’t enough to go around.
So I exit the arced trail and begin to observe the clear blue sky, because I know the weather will soon change into 40-degree days and 30-degree nights. Not only does the sun allow plants to grow and thrive, but I also thrive with the presence of the sun as it gives me energy and motivation to have a good day.
As I walk a little farther down the trail, I see an old cracked tree lying down on its side, sad, like a small child trying to stand up for the first time. The tree trunk is rough to the touch and flaky; little pieces of bark chipping off with ease. I sit on the long tree, taking pleasure in its calmness and observing the surrounding trees that seem so alive in comparison to this one. Leaves and sticks scatter across the dry ground below me, and I step off the tree to begin my final walk out of the Greenbelt.
I have always enjoyed the simple beauties of nature, but taking the time to closely observe it made me more appreciative of what it had to offer.
I look forward to my future visits to the Greenbelt and am enthralled to observe the natural changes that will occur over time.