Protano, December 2014

It’s December already and I’m curious as to where the semester went; at some point, September must have snuck by and currently here we are. This blog post is suppose to be dedicated to reflecting upon my semester spent in the great outdoors and how the assignment has affectively altered my perspective of the environment, society, or a combination of the two: how athropocene’s modify the environment! Perhaps this experience left me enlightened or served as a stress relief at the end of a very busy week; honestly though I first perceived it as a check box to be ticked. This semester is my last semester on the Hilltop and my goal was simple: check the boxes, graduate, move to Vietnam. I initially found the process to be time consuming and a bit undesirable, but only because an hour outside felt like years under the hot Texas sun. August turned into September and September at some point became October and so forth and with a drop in temperature the level of my enjoyment received by the activity increased ten fold. Kind of like Henry David Thoreau I experienced my own sense of peace and tranquility by immersing myself in the outdoors (obviously in not as an extreme of a way). It was a very unique experience to maintain stillness while being able to observe the constantly changing environment around me, whether it was Zilker Park or the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Often times change surprises us because we are unable to watch it progress in our own lives since we, millennials especially, are constantly moving and working towards some sort of end; our generation never truly learned to appreciate the art of relaxation, we never learned to patiently wait for change. While unexpected, this is exactly the effect that this semester long project had on me; I increased my patience.

Throughout the semester, I also began to notice more things in my environment; this is a direct result of what was learned in this class. For instance, before when I observed a piece of human waste on the ground, I accepted it as reality and was not too concerned with it’s effect on our environment. This is not to say I wasn’t aware of the issues littering could cause, or in a more broad sense, human interaction, but I just was more apathetic; I had spent my college career trying to eliminate global issues that affected humans, such as human trafficking, instead of seeing the issues as intertwined.

All in all I enjoyed my time spent away from the library and instead in nature. This assignment was not only a good distraction from the other classwork I had to accomplish, but noticeably increased my mood with each trip. By enjoying nature, I can begin to feel a connection to it and also a responsibility to its preservation.

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac 

I have spent several months being enticed by natures beauty and now will continue my relationship with the environment and challenge to find more value in the great outdoors.

While my experience was joyful and inspiring, the whole class as a whole probably drew other conclusions than I.

word cloud

By the looks of this word cloud, a visual that conveys the popularity of certain words/themes visually, a lot of people wrote about nature; I can’t say I’m surprised considering the assignment was to observe nature, but I’m glad to be reassured that my classmates and I all are able to follow directions. It also seems that “creek” and “water” were popular words as well, which makes sense because last month we experienced quite a bit of rainfall, which is generally a foreign concept to us Austinites since we are spoiled with over 300 days of sunshine on average. What I find odd is that the word “dry” is missing from this word cloud, or if it is present, it is too small for me to see. In October I wrote about the bone-dry creek beds of the Barton Creek Greenbelt and am surprised to see that no one else did… or perhaps they employed a different word. Texas is currently experiencing a drought, which also led me to predict that “dry” would be one of the biggest words.

My classmates and I can agree on the beauty of nature though, as evident in the word cloud. I would find it hard to believe that anyone could marvel at the rugged terrain of the Greenbelt and not be impressed by the forces and inherent beauty of nature. It is amazing to think that the environment we enjoy today, took hundreds of thousands of years to shape.

“Month” also debuted quite a lot, but I assume that is due to the class sharing a similar writing style. I apologize Dr. Wasserman for all the times you had to read a sentence that started as, “This Month I….” All jokes aside, the other words that caught my attention were: “thinking,” “life,” “see,” and “rabbit.”

I found it impossible to be in nature and not constantly return to the thought of where my place was in this world and the environment, and I would not be surprised if other people experienced the same thought-provoking inner monologue. Despite the similarities of our experiences though, we all saw things differently due to our sight being affected by our thoughts; could we have perceived colors differently? Were someones eyes better at locating a line of fire ants making their way home, or someones more suited to locating deer who generally are camouflaged? Our experiences and our emotions define how we perceive the world around us and also affect what we see; no one is going to have the same experience in nature, which is what makes it beautiful. However, our mutual new found affinity for the great outdoors can help motivate us as individuals, or a class, to protect the environment and preserve it for future generations.



P.S. Rabbit is on this list basically because I am envious of whoever spotted one of the cuddly creatures.



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