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to think that there are many others, in far different professions and walks of life, who have also benefited from the bayou’s grace and presence. I like to think that the sum, the tapestry, of those benefits is quite a remarkable and durable, wondrous thing, like that of a great city, culture or civilization. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be children in Texas were “wild and powerful in our innocence,” as Paul Christensen writes. I remember passing by “Wolf Corner,” out on the Katy Prairie, each Sunday morning on the way to church, and viewing that week’s tally of coyotes and red wolves which had been trapped and shot and poisoned, then flung over the barbedwire corner fence post: a rogue’s gallery of wildness hanging upside down as if watching us on our way to church, placed there perhaps as illuminated examples of how near lay the errant path of sinhow fiercely narrow that path was, and how wild and ravening the rest of the world beyond still was, to the west, at least, if no longer in all directions. The wind would ruffle the fur of those dead beautiful creatures. They were almost always therethe land seemed to keep giving up an inexhaustible supply of themuntil finally, as I grew older, it was not the wolves and coyotes that disappeared, but the prairie at Wolf Corner itself: though still I did not know rage, nor really even sadness. I knew only hope and imagination, believed only in boundlessness and possibilityand always, it was the image, the fabric, of a wild and uncompromising natureor my perception thereofthat nurtured such seeds in me. I was not always in a wilder nature, while growing up, but I saw it, frequently enough, and knewbelievedit was out there. That other world emanated from the lonely wind-stirred tails and neck-ruffs fluttering there on the fence at Wolf Corner, and from the soothing images of seemingly-endless rolls of the unbroken oak-and-juniper hills that framed the Balcones Escarpment, hills like mythic castle-walls rising above the jeweled city of Austin: a wilder, more heavenly nation lying to the north and west of there, and which barbarians could surely never storm. Here, too, as with Wolf Corner, I was mistaken there was no permanencebut what was important, I submit, and valuable, was not “just” the gift of clean air and water and solace which that ill-fated open space bequeathed to me and every other Texan, but the gift of imagination, too: the simple, priceless lessona lesson that cannot be replicatedthat Here is a place still unlike other places. It was a lesson in enthusiasman enthusiasm for diversitythat was taught to all children, and all adults, growing up within sight and reach and knowledge of a swamp, or a redrock desert, or a Caprock vista, or a high plains prairie; an oak savannah, a juniper mesa, a Gnlf tidal flat, a foggy pinewoods redclay forest, a Big Bend without air pollution. It seemed to me that there was more of Texas, in those days, and that now there is less. The mere act of witnessing involved an embracing of the virtues of gratitude. The wilder land helped make us into better peopleit asked the best of us though being human, we sometimes gaVe it our worst; sometimes intentionally, other times unintentionally. We have let too much of itnearly the last of itslip through our fingers. There is still much to love. There will always be much to love. And in a time of war, are not those of us who hail from this most war-rent of states more in need than ever of finding issues and topics upon which to exercise that most human of talents, love? No other state in the Union possesses the blood history, the heritage of violence and disrepair, from which present-day Texas was born: no other statenot even the modern nation of Israel, as Texas historian T.R. Fehrenbach has pointed out, fought three running wars at once, during the genesis of statehood: the Indian wars, the Civil War, the War against Mexico, with aggressive sorties against us by Great Britain and Spain thrown into the mix for good measure. If nothing else, nature teaches us that where we come from is what and who we are, and from such a history of tearing-apart, it seems to me to be past time, these 168 years later, to roll up our sleeves and begin considering new stories of reassembly. Any culture can tear down or otherwise ransack the treasures that preceded that culture’s arrival. The real talent lies in putting broken things back together. And in the natural world, in Texas, we have an ample list of broken-apart things to choose from as we considerif we considerthe reassembly. With regard to the questions of “What to save?” and “Where to act? Where to begin the reassembly?”I suspect that perhaps the most compelling case to be made might involve that most necessary and precious and limiting of resources, waterfor the most part, that which we have not pumped dry and squandered, we have poisoned or at least tainted but that is a concern of the flesh, and while we still have the brief opportunity to consider such indulgences, I would like to make a case for preserving not just the concerns of our fleshclean air, and clean waterfor those challenges will be coming with ever-increasing fre I sometimes wonder if this issue of the universal loneliness that whispers to all of us in one form or fashion, and visits each of us at one time or another, has often to do with the fact of whether we are willing to accept ourselves as part of the earth, or apart from it. 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .10/22/04