Springtime + Old West Austin

‘All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar.’ -Helen Haye

The City of Austin and its surroundings of Travis County and Central Texas were blanketed in an apocalyptic-style thunderstorm that nearly washed us away Monday night. Nearly 4.5 inches of rain fell in about 1-2 hours, as if bottomless buckets of rain were literally being dumped from the sky.  This thunderstorm, and its incessant display of lightning’s best doom and gloom, was probably the worst we have ever experienced. While mopping up our living room floor in the middle of the night (be it known that apocalyptic rains do not discriminate and will flood your house at 2am), we learned that this storm covered approximately 1,000 miles – from Northern Mexico to St. Louis, MO. The weather report insisted on playing video of the Texas State Capitol and chattering about how awful and frightening the lightning was there…which, to us was not the most appreciated, seeing as though we live just down the street! Handily, Grant channeled his inner MacGuyver and managed to quell the flooding with some cleverly wound butcher’s twine and an old towel hoisted about our door.

When we awoke this morning, after a long night spent calming the phobias of children and cat, the city was fresh and the sun plentiful.  Those violent rains ushered in a most fragrant and gentle spring, the kind you only read about in books depicting halcyon days in the southern United States.  The air hangs with the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle, urging you to breathe deeply and take it all in. Seeing as though we finally had a day off to enjoy, we decided to venture to Old West Austin.  

Living downtown as we do, Old West Austin is only a few blocks west of us.  Old West Austin is filled with heritage and historic houses, buildings of great architectural interest, and sprawling gardens, some manicured, some untame. Most of all, when exploring Old West Austin, you are reminded that Austin is indeed Hill Country. Every street is like an individual hill with its own summit, and the sidewalks are filled with stairs rising up and down to meet the steep inclines. Grant and the children do remarkably on these hike-walks, but with me entering my sixth month of pregnancy now, I need to take it a bit slower and pay attention to my footing.

After you’ve hiked up the hill – more stairs!
Something very appealing about this old house

What strikes us about Austin lately, and I suppose Texas in general, is how unfamiliar we are with the flora and fauna. While we can recognise and identify the various irises, roses, daisies and other flowering plants, there are so many with which we are unfamiliar; there are many species of birds we have never seen before and insects that are large, alien and oftentimes – scary. When they say that everything is bigger in Texas, it applies on so many levels!  

Here are some bits of visual interest from our day:

Cactii, budding leaves and prickly pears
Majestic sidewalk horse and flowering vines

A lifetime supply of rosemary, free for the taking

Think of all the tequilla you can make from that giant agave!

Palm frond bushes
Quite possibly the largest rhododendron – ever!
Highlighting our path – literary lovers

I also thought I would share some candids that Grant took of me with the children this afternoon.  I am never one who enjoys having her photograph taken, in fact I am usually the one behind the camera. However, when I am pregnant, I allow Grant to be as free with the photo-taking as possible.  A+F are so in love with the baby in my belly, and their adoration is captured here so beautifully.

I recently read about a woman who, like me, always preferred to be behind the camera. With two young children of her own, she realised that there weren’t many photographs of her with her children, that somehow her own misgivings about herself held her back.  She encouraged parents everywhere to allow themselves to be photographed with their children, at any moment, in various situations.  In the end, your children don’t care about how your hair looks or if your clothes are wrinkled, whether you are having a bloated day or whether you feel like posing or not. They only care about seeing their parents captured on film alongside them, telling their story – and creating memories that last a lifetime. How simply liberating.


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