At the end of 2019, I wanted to write a book about practicing mindfulness in nature. I wanted to describe what it was like to let go of the background noise and pay attention fully to the present moment, while exploring the woods, the desert, and other places in Texas. I also wanted to include information about the place and its plants and animals, just enough to bring the stories to life.
Texas A&M University Press was on board with the idea, as was my best pal, photographer and partner in natural history exploration, Meghan Cassidy. We got started at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2020, and then the pandemic arrived. That slowed us but did not stop us last year, and this year we have done lots of traveling, masked and socially distanced as needed. Only a few more trips to go (but do we really want those trips to end?).
There have been lots of memorable experiences – alligators at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, listening in on the chatter of hundreds of sandhill cranes at Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge, and becoming lost in reflections in quiet water slipping through the forest in the Big Thicket.
The first part of the book will lay the groundwork. How does time spent in nature benefit us, physically and otherwise? What is mindfulness, really, and how does it work? What are all these places in Texas, from the High Plains to the Piney Woods? And how do you prepare for an outing like this?
The second part contains the photographs and stories from all over Texas. Meghan’s photos always bring home the landscapes as well as the close-up studies of little wonders. I always look forward to sitting down with her to go through photos (although it is hard to limit ourselves to just a few for each section). There are panoramic views of habitats, with subtle colors and textures. There are also macro shots with wonderful detail.
We hope you will watch for this book and read it when it comes out. With its detailed photos, the guidance for practicing mindfulness, and natural history of the places we visit, it will be unlike any of the other books on exploring Texas’ nature.