A great deal has happened since my last blog entry. It has been far too long since I have written. I will do my best to summarize the first half of this year. After filling in the gaps, I will give a sneak peak of what I have coming up next. I am very excited about my new project and what the future holds.
First, let me fill in a few details of what I have been up to. In an attempt to set a positive tone for the new year, I started it off with a First Day Hike in Bastrop State Park. Texas Parks and Wildlife teamed up with Bastrop’s local animal shelter and brought dogs and volunteers together. I was paired up with Pinky, a Pit Bull mix with more energy than he knew what to do with! We had a blast and I am really looking forward to another opportunity like this again.
I have completed the spring semester, bringing me ever closer to graduation with my Bachelor’s degree. I honestly can not believe that I am this close. One more summer session, then Fall semester and I should graduate! There were many times that I truly believed that I would never finish. It has been quite a battle for me.
I have several friends from high school that knew even then exactly what they wanted to do with their lives. They took all the appropriate steps and have reached their goals. I am in awe of them and their accomplishments. As close as I am to graduating, I still do not know exactly what I want to do or where I am going to end up. There must be such peace in knowing. At this point in my life, however, I just have to embrace the unknowing. As maddening as it is sometimes, everyday is kind of a surprise.
The last thing I want to talk about before I get on to the new project is an amazing program here in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas A&M University’s Agrilife Extension help to run an organization called Texas Master Naturalist. Their mission is “To develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities for the State of Texas.”
When I heard about the program and what they were trying to do, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I signed up with the Good Water chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist and have just recently graduated from their initial coursework requirements. The course work is about 40 hours of lectures and field trips. I learned so much about central Texas wildlife, soil, plant life, geology, and weather. I am now a full fledged member! Now I have to complete my advanced training hours and put in 40 hours of volunteer work to stay a member.
I started my advanced training with a course on stream monitoring. I will get assigned a section of a creek or river and will go out and take water samples. After testing the water, the data gets recored and is entered into the Stream Team database. The information is gathered from all over the state and is used to help ensure that the waterways of Texas stay clean and safe for use by wildlife and for us humans!
The Master Naturalist organization is amazing! I really wish there was a nationwide organization with similar goals. The amount of good that could be done by having a nationwide corps of volunteers would be staggering.
Finally, I’d like to talk briefly about my new project. It is quite a departure from what I have been working on before. This past semester I took a class on pop culture from a Texas State University professor named Dr. Romero. To be quite honest, I took the class because I needed it for my minor, it sounded moderately interesting, and I thought it would be easy. I never expected it to be one of the best classes I have taken in college. Because of her insight and passion for the material, I was completely enthralled. I even took notes! I never take notes!
Wanting to delve more into some of the topic we were discussing in class, I approached Dr. Romero with an idea. I asked her if she would be interested in working with me on a media project investigating some aspect of sociology more deeply. She was very excited by the idea! We started having some informal meetings to discuss exactly how this project might take shape. To my utter delight, we are going to be able to turn the project into an independent study class that will go toward my Sociology minor!
I know that this a quite a departure from the hiking and the natural world. Do not worry, I still plan on hiking, volunteering, and taking pictures out in nature. However, I recently heard a wonderful philosopher by the name of Satish Kumar speak. He put an idea in my head that I have been unable to get rid of. He says that in order for humans to maintain balance we need to focus on three things: soil, soul, and society.
It was such a brilliantly simple idea but I had never thought of it in those terms before. Take care of the soil, the Earth, the natural world. I have been working on that. Take care of the soul. I am always working on that! The one area I really felt deficient on was society. I really have not done all I can to understand and ensure that our society is healthy. That is where this new project comes in.
Over the next two months, I will be doing research and conducting interviews. At the end of the class, I will put together a short documentary with what I have found. I will be blogging about the whole process here on Voice of the Trail. I can not tell you how much I have enjoyed the feedback that I have received so far and I look forward to hearing everyones thoughts. I have intentionally kept the subject secret because I enjoy a little suspense and mystery. I hope you do too! My next blog post should be much more enlightening as far as a specific topic is concerned. I hope that those of you following my journey so far will continue with me on the next leg of the trail.