What began as a visit to seldom-seen family in Austin quickly transformed into the most inspiring experience of my life. In Southern California, we don’t have this so called “nature”—not like they do in Texas. If it exists, it has successfully persisted in hiding from me for the past seventeen years.
My family—being my parents and I—stayed at a bed and breakfast called Marks Overlook Lodge for a week, in a Texas themed cabin, situated on a gigantic piece of private property. Driving through the gate into the resort was like driving through a gate into a dreamland.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
A single, one-way road wound through the trees, past the cacti, past the low, browned grasses. My dad was the first one to see the single doe that stood just past the gate, slender legs still, head erect and slim body stone-like, watching us with liquid onyx eyes. Scruffy coyotes and lost cats being the only wildlife to wander the suburbs of California, we were even more amazed when, rolling slowly down a hill into a stretch of meadow, a whole herd of deer stood to greet us.
Past the meadow and the cabins was a slope of verdant green dotted with trees hung with birdfeeders like Christmas trees covered in ornaments. A river snaked lazily at the base of the bank, full of fish and, to my childish delight, turtles.
While in Austin we decided to take a trip to San Antonio. On our way to the city a detour took us from the freeway to a place called Natural Bridge Caverns, an underground palace of beautifully lit rock formations with grand names like the “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Castle of the White Giants”. The ceiling in one room rose higher above our heads than any Gothic cathedral; in the presence of those structures I felt like I was in the throne room of a king.
Those caverns especially impressed me. An aspiring writer, I was enthralled by the magnificence of the caves, the power and beauty and timelessness of the formations; they inspired a thousand new stories inside my head. I could see endless adventures beneath the earth in those chambers. That awe-inspiring majesty utterly lacking in Californian cities, I was wholly enchanted by the Natural Bridge Caverns.
The Caverns the epitome of natural wonders, San Antonio wove the resplendence of Earth’s gray waters with humanity’s mastery of architecture, new and old, to create a mosaic of both symmetrical and untamed beauty. Crowded and infernally hot as it was, it was not a place that I will soon forget, if not for the beauty of nature, then for the history, both bitter and sweet; the Alamo was as entrancing in its sublime sacredness as the old Spanish-accented buildings were in their silent stories.
To reiterate, as clearly as I can: we do not have “nature” in the suburbs of Southern California. We have towering sky scrapers and vast, mysterious intersections, rolling miles of lush black asphalt and the saccharine singing of car horns in rush hour on the 5 freeway. The Pacific Ocean is our only natural wonder, and its spell is broken quite quickly once you’ve dipped your toes in the glacial water and spent an hour on the beach with a thousand other angry, roasted people. So when, on our last night, I saw fireflies for the first time, I felt more wonder for those few tiny bugs that I ever had for any vibrant, golden, light-spangled cityscape at midnight. Texas to me was more than just a vacation; it was a treasure.
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