A January month in this state cannot be predicted. Whether it’s below 32, freezing weather, or a beautiful 74 degree and sunny day, you know you’re in Texas when you observe both scenarios in one weeks time. In Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac”, he describes his experience in the month of January as being “almost as simple and peaceful as snow”; however, I don’t agree with this statement when it comes to the weather in Austin, TX at this time of the year – January is a month of chaotic and bipolar weather. To indulge myself in nature for this month’s blog post, I chose a popular spot located near my good friend’s condominium downtown. This location is prime because not only am I able to experience the nature closely and completely on foot, but I can also then retreat to her 5th floor balcony to observe the natural chaos that occurs below me.
The image above shows the trail that I’ve been hiking on each week for the month of January from the view of my friend’s balcony. This experience has been cathartic because not only have I been able to spend more time in nature, which has been relaxing and therapeutic, but I’ve also had the satisfaction of enjoying this incredible domain in a more observant and detailed way than ever experienced before.
On this particular day, a more lively day than the others, the weather was about 74 degrees fahrenheit and there were hardly any clouds in the bright blue sky. The wind was very calm that day; its light whisper felt good while hiking along the edge of the narrow and busy lake. The contrast between the tranquil sky, air, and water of the lake mixed nicely with the buzzing of Austinites hiking, biking, and dog-walking along the man-made trail.
I was surprised to find as many animals in the water and along the edge of the lake as I encountered. There were many ducks and birds floating along the top edges of the water. The specifications of the birds were difficult to identify due to their swift movement along the surface of the small lake. The birds seemed to be enjoying the beautiful weather that was a tease for the spring that is soon to come.
In addition to observing the active life of the birds in the area, turtles could be seen from the trails lounging on the rotting logs that were left in the water. A few turtles also made their way onto the land near the edge of the water. While I wasn’t able to capture any images of the birds, due to the steadiness and calmness of the turtles that were sunbathing, an accurate photograph was able to be taken. Though some research it seems that this turtle in particular can be identified as a Texas River Cooter Turtle. Witnessing this turtle in particular reminded me of the quote by Leopold when he is observing the blue plumes in October – “I wonder whether they are aware of their state of well-being. I know only that I am.” This quote struck me as relevant to this experience because while the turtles have some sort of sense of being, it is unknown to me philosophically whether they understand their sense of well-being as we do.
While hiking this traill throughout the month of January, the ecosystem seemed to be improving when the weather was warmer. There was much more activity and liveliness during the days that were in the 70’s, while the colder days seemed to be much more still and quiet. The overall community also seemed to be very lively in the month of January as compared to previous and colder times that I have spent on the trail – this created a greater sense of biodiversity along the lake as many more animals were active. Overall, this trail and blog experience for January has been an eye-opener in terms of observing my natural environment in a true explorative manor.