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austin nature and science center

August 16, 2011

I’ve written before about the power of the natural world to shape my mood.  I’ve talked about how, when I’m irritable or at odds with myself, when I’m bound up in catastrophic thinking or self-pity, just walking among the trees can shore me up.

Sometimes, though, I’d rather just sip an iced coffee in an air-conditioned mall while my children ride a motorized train.

This is the truth about who I am.  While I know what is good for me (green tea, an early bedtime, meditation) I am sometimes bewitched by the siren song of microwave popcorn, “Teen Mom,” and the pathologically addictive Pinterest.

I don’t feel overwhelming guilt about my guilty pleasures.  I guess I just want my default setting to be connection, not distraction.

These thoughts were running through my head two days ago as I, munching on microwave popcorn, scanned my Facebook page.  A high school friend’s status caught my eye:

“The Austin Nature and Science Center across from Zilker is great… and free!”

Between bites, I quickly Googled “Austin Nature and Science Center,” soon learning that the center opened bright and early Monday morning.   Free, open, and related to this month’s category?  We were in.  Hundred-plus degree weather be damned.

We arrived at the Nature and Science Center right as it opened, finding plenty of free, shaded parking.  My children were undeniably giddy on the tree-lined walk up to the center, reaching out  to touch the bark of various trees, while my friend’s words about the center rung in my ears: “…we spent a lot of time inside looking at the skins, fossils and bones.”  I steeled myself, having never been a skin, fossil, or bone enthusiast. I also reminded myself that my Chasing Maybes project is, by design, about peering through new lenses — bones, skins, and all.

I didn't take many pictures, but this tree was too beautiful to pass up.

We spent most of our time outdoors at the wildlife exhibits, stalking a coyote, a red-tailed hawk, various owls, and a fat rabbit.  My kids attentively watched the hawk dismember and eat a rodent (while I suppressed a gag).  They dug for fossils in the outdoor Dino Pit, thankfully well-shaded, and wound up inside at the Naturalist Workshop.

Indoors, I found the “skins, fossils, and bones” to which my friend had referred not at all repulsive, especially after having seen the red-tailed hawk eat its lunch.  What was most compelling to all of us was the honeybee exhibit, where we watched a tiny, coordinated society go about its business under glass.  We distinguished worker bees from drone bees, temporary members of their world.  We were all riveted.

We left because it was lunch time, but I promised my boys we would be back.  I may have been in an iced coffee-and-motorized-train mood before we arrived, but the Austin Nature and Science Center changed that.  Again and again, the trees and the fresh air and the dirt… they do their work, coordinating a response to my urge for distraction, tugging at my wrist like a three year-old, whispering, “Come on outside.  It’ll be fun.”

Here’s to trees, bees, and guilty pleasures.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

An extra note of thanks to my friend Jennifer for the recommendation — we loved it.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. tierd permalink
    August 16, 2011 9:41 am

    I’m so glad y’all liked it! We went in the middle of the afternoon, which was why we spent more time inside … but the kids loved the outdoor rescued animal exhibits the best. They were just drenched in sweat after about 10 minutes! The honeybees were fascinating, right? We’ll definitely be going back there too! 🙂

  2. tierd permalink
    August 16, 2011 9:44 am

    Also, WELCOME BACK TO TEXAS! I’ve been following you on here but am bad about commenting … I’m going to be better after the kids are back in school!

    I’m also curious because you mentioned it in this post – what is your favorite green tea? I’m a green tea addict and found a great sushi green tea made in Japan that I can order on Amazon – 90 bags for $15 and it’s truly GREEN not brown like many green teas – not a bad deal and it’s my favorite! But I’m always looking for good green tea!

    • August 16, 2011 6:46 pm

      hey jen — thanks so much for the welcome! i have found a couple of brands that i like (the ones with a little extra flavor, like mighty leaf tropical or tazo green ginger, are nice) but i’d love to hear about your japanese find. i’m much more of a coffee drinker, but i’m trying to get in a couple of cups of green tea a day. any recommendations are welcome!

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