Sunday, June 26, 2011

Austin, Texas...Y'all.

If you listened to radio station KLBJ in Austin in the mid-90s, you might recall one of the station's promotional ads.  Pure simple brilliance: call letters and numeric location on the dial, followed by "Austin...Texas...Y'all."  Whether you are a native Texan or a longtime resident-graduated-to-transplant, these simple words can evoke stirring sentiments.  An identity that only a Texan (even a "naturalized" species like myself) can fully understand and that nobody can really explain.  I mean, most natives I know consider themselves Texans first, Americans second.  Adding the "y'all" suffix seems to say, "Yep, we invented that word.  And are DAMN PROUD OF IT, y'all."  You Texans know what I'm talking about.  You who know Texans probably also know what I'm talking about.  And if you do not fall within either category...then I'm fixin' to feel sorry for y'all.

And PS, no self-respecting Texan would use the term "coined".  The right way to say it in Texas is "invented", especially when you're talking to "Yankees" (aka anyone from north of the Red River.)  Amongst ourselves we speak properly, sometimes even with a British accent.  But when conversing with, I mean, Y'ALL...we definitely play into every single stereotype you believe about us.  That's just part of our charm.

Yes I am on a pro-Texas campaign after spending a few days in our state's capitol (which, FYI, is taller than our nation's capitol.)  Finally we paid a long-overdue visit to our friends Dusty and Melanie.  Initially they were clients and eventually became friends with whom we could muse about native plants and restoring Texas and all that sustainable landscaping stuff we blah-blah-blah about.  This visit, we were also able to share with them our vision for living in a more sustainable manner.  We also had the pleasure of getting to know some of their neighbors in one of the finest examples of New Urbanism in Texas.  (Something we know a little about, having lived and worked in the Seaside, Florida, area, the showpiece of the New Urbanism movement.)  Several of their fellow Mueller residents stopped by for one of two informal discussions about our business, mission, services, etc.  Love the place, and we are so grateful for meeting new friends.

The original event that brought us to Austin last week was the Keep Texas Beautiful conference.  One of our other clients-now-friends, Aimee Bissett of Keep Denton Beautiful, invited me to co-present with her about using native plants in community beautification efforts.  This was a perfect partnership, because Aimee speaks from a programming and coordinating perspective -- very useful for affiliates in attendance since most of them serve in these roles.  My part of the presentation addresses the importance of the community projects in our overall mission to restore Texas.  I revealed the processes within the designers' minds -- where we find inspiration, why we select specific plant species and elements, and what motivates us to do what we do.  While Aimee explained step-by-step how to implement and maintain these types of projects, I layed out in some detail why -- the ecological and economical justification -- using native plants instead of traditional landscape plants is always preferred.  I won't get into that here but our mission is guided by a deeply held philosophy that embodies our beliefs regarding Nature, human resources and behaviors, and of course identity.  Other topics, too, but all of this is too heavy for this post.

Anyway, Aimee and I have very different speaking styles but share much in terms of environmental convictions, recreational activities, even superb taste in music.  (hee hee.)  Based on the responses from our audience, I'd say we did a pretty darn good job rousing the troops.  And we really had a tough task, because we followed Chet Garner of PBS' The Daytripper.  He presented his travel exploits in a humorous way while capturing the essence of being a Texan.  As he said, each episode addresses the culture, nature and food of various places around Texas.  Every city or town is toured within a single day trip.  He is entertaining, no doubt, but Chet is also doing a lot for restoring pride in Texas' sometimes overlooked or forgotten gems.  It's a big state with a lot of interesting places and people to see...come for a visit.  Y'all.

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