“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -MLK Jr.
Another city, another chance to give back! This week we looked for a creative way to get involved in Austin, Texas and found the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. If you're unfamiliar with the environmental legacy left by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, check out this link (spoiler: she's amazing). Before we get into the details of our day in the Wildflower Center, I have to give a big shout out to Patrick and Lindsay, who were fantastic hosts for us in Austin. Thank you for giving us a place to lay our head, suggestions on where to go see in the city, a cute dog to love on, and a wonderful night out. We love you guys!
In a nutshell, the LBJ Wildflower Center is run by the University of Texas and serves as the state arboretum and botanical garden. Their mission statement is Inspiring the conservation of native plants. They fulfill this mission by offering 284 acres of gardens, woodlands, and savannah, a wide variety of education programs geared to people of all ages and interests, and a place for members to enjoy a multitude of plant and animal life all within a 20 minute drive of downtown Austin. This place is COOL.
Our volunteering started at about 8:30. We walked into the administration building to meet with the volunteer coordinator. Everything about this place has been done tastefully, including the design of all the buildings. We were met with friendly faces and endearing Texas accents. We were soon paired up with Maggie, a woman about the same age as us, to help with a few tasks throughout the garden. Maggie was originally from San Antonio and had worked a few seasonal jobs before landing her current gig at the Wildflower Center. We immediately clicked with her, and we knew we were going to have a fun morning!
The entire center was broken into different sections. We primarily spent our time in the Western alpine species garden, which was very fitting since we were on our way to Big Bend National Park the next day! Our tasks included tidying the garden beds, cleaning dead plant matter off of the sidewalks, weeding, and transplanting ground cover plant species. After spending a few days in Austin, this intimate reunion with Mother Nature was greatly appreciated. It didn't hurt that the Texas sun was beaming down brightly, with a friendly warmth that made us totally forget that our tent was stiff with frost just 3 nights earlier.
Part of what made our day so great was our volunteer host Maggie! She was full of energy and definitely felt more like an old friend than someone we had only just met. She loves to dance, play music, and spend time outdoors. Our conversations bounced around between music, traveling trips, religion, books, podcasts, and more. Time flew as we worked our way through our assigned tasks.
Before we knew it, our time was up and we were able to go explore the rest of the facility at our leisure. We ventured through a series of forts commissioned by local architecture firms in Fortlandia and spent some time walking through the various garden beds. If you visit, it's worth stopping in the Visitor Center and watching the 10 minute video that they have on Lady Bird Johnson's impact on the conservation movement in both Texas and throughout the United States during her time as First Lady. She's truly an inspiration for woman and men alike.
Austin was amazing. It has been my favorite city of the trip, and I know the rest of the crew feels similar. Our next adventure awaited us in Big Bend National Park, where we had some big plans to explore different portions of the national park. Stay tuned to hear more about our time there! As always, our time volunteering was good for the spirit and for the soul. Since our time in Austin, we have volunteered again in Flagstaff, AZ for Thanksgiving! That'll be our next update! Until then...
Adventure comes to those who GO!