I’ve found myself in bed around mid-day most days lately. I work from home, and at some point I get up from my desk and can’t think of anything better to do than to lay down. There are multiple benefits of a quick rest or cat-nap, but these bed sessions have been turning into wallow sessions.
My primary complaint? Texas is a huge state and only 1.5% of it is federally owned. The rest is private, largely owned by railroads. As a result, access to nature in Austin is most readily found in our beautiful greenbelt and small parks and refuges.
But, on nice evenings and weekends, those are heavily packed with coolers, flotation devices, 6-packs of Lonestar, cigarette smoke, lots of yelling, and backpack speakers blasting everything from metal to reggae to Matchbox-20.
The other option is heading a bit further to a State Park, where one can thankfully still have a lovely day-trip or camping experience on a weekday (which is just hard for me to do, like everyone else), but often need to call 2-3 months in advance to book a weekend night, and even then you’re surrounded by generators and floodlights, and likely some raucous neighbors.
And that pretty much makes up the outdoor possibilities in my region (really within about a 4 hour drive); unless I know someone with land, or am willing to risk trespassing for some great remote swimming holes.
So, often, I feel stuck indoors. Or just out on my porch.
As someone who grew up in Utah, this is liable to get me down. To get anyone down who loves the outdoors and doesn't get to travel frequently.
I went to the greenbelt on a Saturday afternoon. As much as I hate to admit this, I went a bit begrudgingly. I was sure that it was going to be, well, a shit-show. But I was sure as hell not going to spend another day avoiding reality by working overtime, climbing indoors, or going to see a movie.
The destination was one of the most popular areas, only slightly removed near a good climbing wall. I set up my hammock and committed to accepting my surroundings as they were.
To my surprise I could only faintly hear the booming of someone’s distant “mood” music, and occasionally smiled at some passersby from my hammock. Really, I enjoyed myself a lot. I got a few good climbs in between reading my book, drawing, and staring at the clouds.
I felt so encouraged that I tried my luck again this morning at another popular spot.
I get up earlier than most humans, but moseyed to the greenbelt about 4 hours later, around 10AM, on a whim to meet a friend. I expected the place to already feel like an outdoor dance club as it often does on weekends, but was pleasantly surprised when a crowd of around 30 people kept their noise down to kids playing, dogs barking, normal conversational volumes, and exuberant rope swing calls- none of which bother me in the least.
And boy, I had the best time.
I swam vigorously in circles with one of those unremovable smiles, pointing at sunfish and turkey vultures, delighting in canyon wren calls, and the way the sun rays look through the incredibly blue water that courses through the juniper woods here. I sat on a rock and watched the dragonflies mate.
The Take Away
I have a tendency to get caught in a spiral of perpetual dissatisfaction. It's one of my least endearing qualities.
Complaints rooted in real problems, sure, but ones that get planted in the foreground of my mind and overshadow all the other, balancing aspects of reality.
I’m not making a real career out of being an artist and illustrator yet. Sometimes I let that overshadow how far I’ve come.
My body is beginning to show signs of aging, struggling, and in some areas failing. But I can’t for a second take for granted all the functionality I enjoy every moment of every day.
Texas has basically no public land. But Austin has laughably easy access to paradisiacal strolling and swimming spots, with no predators and perfectly cool-but-not-cold, clear, blue-green water. I especially am fortunate to have one of the last affordable apartments about 1 mile from the entrance to the greenbelt.
This started out as an article about complaining, but as I’m finishing it I can see it’s actually about gratitude. That in and of itself kind of proves the point, doesn’t it?
Hey y'all, in case you missed it, I wrote an article for She Explores on the subject of solitude and land conservation. Check it out! I'm a regular contributor there now so be on the lookout for more articles from me over there, as well as just generally great content.