Cason, April 2015

 This month I went back to Texas Cabin Village for an afternoon adventure. The weather was at a perfect 82 degrees combined with a light breeze. The ranch was so alive with plants, animals, and people. Compared to last month the muddy pathways have dried, which made it easier for us to get around on foot, and wild flowers have bloomed and spread across the ranch making the landscape mosaic. During my short visit I was still able to see cows, rabbits, Mexican Eagles, and horses. The air was fresh like spring time and the water cold but complimented the warm weather. Butterfly’s danced around the trees while Cardinals circled through the sky. We went fishing at one of the many ponds that hold bass, catfish, and tadpoles and even though we weren’t fishing with the intention of keeping the fish it was still a fun and relaxing activity. The weather peaked around 4:00 pm rising to 84 degrees followed by a saturated sunset consisting of oranges, pinks, and purples. Every living organism on the ranch is connected to the sun. The plants use the suns energy to produce nutrients, wildlife uses the suns light to hunt and find materials to build habitats such as birds nest, and campers use the sun to guide their way through the ranch. When the sun falls however, people come together and enjoy each other’s company around a campfire without the use of technology.

I also made a visit to Blunn Creek Nature Preserve this month, which is located across from St. Edward’s University, known for its chill and diverse environment. I stated my adventure walking to the overlook, which is near the eastern edge of the preserve. This overlook is on a hilltop area and looks upon St. Ed’s main building. The second overlook is north of the entrance and looks out to some parts of downtown. It’s hard to believe that the preserve was once home to a volcano millions of years ago, but it’s true-the gravel is it’s proof! The preserve trails are composed of a mixture of sediments compressed volcanic ash; the by-product of the ancient eruption. More recently however is that the preserve use to be a dairy farm in the 1940’s and 50’s, which explains the manmade stream that runs through the preserve. Although Blunn Creek is home to many native Texas plants such as giant oak trees and cacti, it is under attack by foreign species like Chinaberry and Lugustrum trees which are the two main invasive species that are disrupting the preserves ecosystem. Animals include rabbits, squirrels, cardinals and owls. Amphibians and aquatic life occupy the water, but are heavily influenced by human impact. Like the invasive species, trash invades the preserve ranging from soda to beer cans, empty chip bags and water bottles. Initiatives have been made from Austin’s Park department to tackle the invasive plants by going through and cutting down them down so that the natives can have a chance to reestablish their habitat. Student’s for Sustainability, a St. Edward’s club, also contributes to cleaning the preserve by holding volunteer days to chop down the trees and pick up the trash.

The monthly blogs have brought me closer to nature and my everyday environments. By taking time and reflecting in nature, I’m essentially taking time for myself. My stress level decreases when I’m outdoors and continues to stay low throughout the day if I have spent at least an hour outside. When I’m outside in nature I am moved into the present moment, which makes it easier to reflect upon my life, and it gives me a chance to look at myself and my upcoming decisions with a different perspective and mind set. By combining yoga techniques and meditation exercises that I learned from the Mind, Body Awareness class at St. Edward’s, my experiences in nature over the course of this semester have been more enriching and meaningful. For example, in my January blog I visited the 360 overlook and had a meditation session overlooking the lake. When I opened my eyes, I felt as if I was one with my environment, and I left with a new appreciation for the 360 overlook’s plants and wildlife. Words to describe my experience include: beautiful, sun, water, life, nature, preserve, and land. These words were also commonly used by my classmates in their nature blogs to describe their experiences. The blogs opened up a window for creative expression, which I really enjoyed. I liked that we didn’t have to follow a formal writing style, and instead were able to write freely about our experiences. Also, I really enjoyed how the class lectures could be incorporated in to the blogs. For example, the biodiversity chapter helped me reach an understudying on the importance of biodiversity, which helped me relate better to the ecosystems I would enter when it came time to write my blog.

Over the course of this semester I have made changes in my life that were influenced by our lectures, debates, and nature blogs in environmental science. Even though the class stresses the problems we have and will have to face with the environment, I am more than optimistic that change will be made. Working with my peers I have recognized their passion for environmental conservation and sustainability; as the future leaders of our country, I know that we will make the changes we need to in order to continue living on this planet. As Aldo Leopold once said, “Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. It’s time to change our conceived notions that we have a constitutional right to everything. It’s time to focus on a community level, which in return will benefit not only us, but all biodiversity, agriculture production, and our natural resources. The nature blogs if anything, have brought me to believe that there is hope for a sustainable future.

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