The variety of landscapes contained within the state of Texas is unparalleled. You’d be forgiven if, on a long road trip, you fell asleep in the Chihuahuan desert of West Texas, awoke upon passing Hamilton Pool in the Hill Country, and thought you were observing a heavenly mirage.
Sam Houston put it best when he said, “Texas is the finest portion of the globe that has blessed my vision.”
The natural beauty of Texas manifests in prairie, forests, pristine lakes—even the profound Chisos Mountains in West Texas. The mere existence of these landscapes calms the psyche of those of us confined to city living. But arid and challenging spaces where simply surviving is an accomplishment soothe the psyche as well; the Texan identity is perhaps most closely aligned with the stubborn self-sufficiency required to thrive despite inhospitable elements intent on bringing about one’s demise. Indeed, this challenge is fuel to the Texan.
My own state of mind depends deeply on my relationship with the land. I can tell when too many days have passed since getting my boots dirty (and others are acutely aware of this before I begin to notice). Even a short visit is beneficial, for the human spirit is not renewed in air-conditioning.
Walking the uneven ground, the soft light filtering through the greenery, one’s senses begin to sharpen. An unfamiliar noise, a strange scent. The mind focuses. The fragrance of the trees and the air are different here. The sensation of flowers, tree bark, and the dusty path are a welcome celebration. The sounds of wildlife are at once dramatic and calming.
The strength of Texans is undeniably tied to the health of the state itself. That we come from a place of such natural variance and determination grounds us and reminds us of our responsibility as stewards. Valuing preservation and conservation provides guidance for how we engage with one other in society. The benefits of conservation ripple far beyond the enjoyment of an outing.
Each year I venture into the remote areas of this great state, taking the supplies required and driving far away from the light and noise of dense populations. Then I hike further still. Embracing solitude. Being unplugged. Avoiding convenient distractions. Here my soul can begin to breathe.
Venturing into the wild of Texas is truly returning home.