April in Austin, Texas has been filled with many sunny days, extreme storms, and a variety of warm and cold days. Despite these fluctuations in the weather, we are finally transitioning into warm sunny days, where the sky is clear blue and the greenery feels fresh and alive. On April 30th at about 11 a.m., it was a perfect sunny 75 degrees. Going to Barton Creek Greenbelt for the last month of April, I noticed a significant amount of greenery compared to photos I took in the same location in February. Walking along the trails, hearing the birds sing, listening to water crashing up against the rocks, I almost felt like I was in a tiny forest.
The section of rock across the creek of water is now filled with ankle-high weeds with tiny white flowers across the top of the bed. I spotted 5 orange butterflies within the timeframe of a few seconds across this bed of weeds, resting among the white flowers. I looked to the left and noticed a huge heavy tree that had fallen straight into the creek, wondering what would happen to it over time, and if this was a natural occurring situation that could be harmful. The water levels of the creek seemed to be the same as previous months, however the dirt trails with trees and plants surrounding felt extremely dry. I observed many wheat-like plants that surrounded the rims of the trail and tickled my ankles as I walked past them.
Instead of heading left toward the entrance to the water, I decided to take a new path and hike right all the way to the end of the trail. No matter how many times I visit the Greenbelt, there is always a new trail to discover.
Along the trail I began to observe the leaves on trees I passed, noticing that bugs and insects had bitten many. It was interesting to capture this, as if it were telling a story of commensalism. When I reached the end of the trail, I found my favorite spot and view of the entire Greenbelt, shocked that I had never visited this spot before.
With no large trees blocking the view, I could see the water and an abundance of trees in the distance, a picturesque moment that no photo could capture. This view reminded me of a quote from Aldo Leopold as he said,
“Our ability to perceive nature, begins, as in art, with the pretty” (102).
I was essentially awestricken at first sight of this view, but after noticing that it was pretty, I realized that it was much more than that. This massive abyss of nature is home to many species and is a spot of biodiversity. Insects and butterflies, dogs and deer, birds, and humans visit these places for some similar purposes. Personally, I’ve come to appreciate wildlife in such a way that I want to preserve it because that is what it deserves. Too many individuals abuse nature for selfish purposes, but we can also protect it while still benefitting from it. Spending time at the Greenbelt every week reduces my stress levels and gives me something to look forward to as an escape from everyday life.
Overall, this Nature Blog project has opened my eyes to appreciate the little things of the outdoors, and start asking analytical questions about what I see instead of simply observing it. This project has been one of my favorites across my college career because it is the first one that has actually relieved my stress instead of causing stress. Because of this Nature Blog, I’m more aware of changing environmental conditions throughout the months of January to April, and I hope to continue this in the fall so I can observe conditions from August to December. My goal is to take one photo in the same exact spot every month and track as many small changes as I can.
The most distinct change I noticed throughout the semester was the amount of greenery at the Greenbelt. In January, on the rocks across the creek, there were no weeds or greenery in sight. However as seen in the above photos, April saw a vast amount of green weeds covering the rock that used to be bare. The colder afternoons in the early months turned into warmer April mornings of clear blue sunny skies. The trees grew bright green leaves, as opposed to the dry leafless branches that were present in January.
I am not surprised by the words that have appeared the most among my classmates’ nature blogs: time, trees, beautiful, water, nature. The one that stands out to me most is time, being the most unexpected common word of the bunch. The interesting part about time is that it can be used in so many different contexts: not having enough time to be outdoors, noticing changes in the environment over time, or visiting a location for the a certain amount of time. Time can be the difference between an environmental catastrophe and a historically breath-taking moment. Time can tell whether flowers are blooming or leaves are falling. Time is the definition of changes in nature.
Water, beautiful, trees, and nature are all commonly used among the blogs because they are generalized terms that can be used to describe almost any nature preserve. What makes the entries unique is what specifically makes them beautiful, what the water conditions were, what kind of trees were observed, and how this affected the overall nature experience. It is important to be concrete about observations because otherwise, we would have all shared similar experiences. Because the common words among the blogs were generally vague, when I continue to observe the outdoors in the following semesters, I will think about more descriptive, powerful words I can use to describe my analytical observations.
I enjoyed reading some of my classmates’ nature blogs because it allowed me to understand what other people thought about and learned from their experiences. It’s interesting to see how each person is affected in a different way by the location they chose to visit over the semester. I’ve appreciated this project, as it has given me an opportunity to get out of my four walls and experience the world around me in a new light. I’ve learned about the effects of seasonality in Austin, Texas and will continue to do observations for the years to come.