Texas Parks and Wildlife

New Year New Choices

Episode Transcript

Major support for this podcast comes from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation: Conserving Our Wild Things and Wild Places for Over 25 Years.

[Cassandra Neve] And, you know, the most outdoors stuff that I do now is go to my local park and walk my dogs. I’m definitely not as adventurous as I used to be.”
[Christopher Neve] Most of the anxieties come from not knowing what to expect.

[Amy Sugeno] Sometimes the anxieties are about not having the skills. What if I go down the trail and get lost?
[Jennifer Bristol] I always tell people: put nature on the calendar, like everything else that you do. The beginning of the year is a great time to do that.

It’s a New Year, which means it’s time for new choices. The choices you make throughout life become the experiences you have… and the stories that you share.

And when nature has a starring role in those stories…you know: humans in wild places, doing wild things… people pay attention.

That’s because, in the end, we are of nature, and it is in us. Those stories resonate.

What choices are you making in this New Year …choices that include time spent with Mother Nature… choices that will continue to shape the stories of your life?

From Texas Parks and Wildlife…this is Under the Texas Sky …a podcast about nature…and people… and the connection they share…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

[Cassandra & Christopher Neve] Well, hi. I’m Cassandra Neve. And I live in Austin, Texas and I’m an AP Human Geography teacher at Hendrickson High School. Hi, I’m Christopher Neve, and I also live in Austin, Texas and I am a paramedic.

Cassandra, 26 and Christopher, 23 are siblings. They grew up like a lot of us—enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. They were even in scouting…

[Cassandra] And, my mom was always the “crazy” troop leader that was crazy in a good way. You know, she pushed us. I wouldn’t have had, you know, all the things growing up, had she not been a part of the organization.

Full disclosure: I know their mother Jen Neve through a mutual friend, but didn’t actually meet Cassandra and Christopher until they agreed to take part in the podcast. I learned that Neve family vacations usually meant state park camping trips and exploring natural wonders. Today…not so much.

[Cassandra] After going to college and, you know, finding a job and attempting to be an adult, you tend to just focus on that: work and school—if you’re going to school—and sleep. And then doing it all over again. And, you know, the most outdoors stuff that I do now is go to my local park and walk my dogs. I’m definitely not as adventurous as I used to be.

[Chris] With my paramedic school, it’s been a lot of school and then homework outside of school to go back to school, plus all my internships on ambulances. It got really hard to do anything but be in my room hiding, or sleeping or studying.

That’s about to change. Cassandra and Christopher have heard the call of the wild and are committing in this New Year to reclaim their place in the outdoors. And they’re doing it together.

[Cassandra] I think we push each other. Definitely having somebody who’s going to keep you accountable, and make it exciting to go outside and learn new things with—I think that’s what I’m most excited about.

[Christopher] Yeah, I…I agree. It…it’s always been very…we’ve always been pretty close. Now that we’re… not living in the same house together we’ve grown closer. Uh…and it’s also the accountability thing where I can’t back out if she’s doing it, and she can’t back out if I’m doing it.

Well, being an older sister of brothers, myself, I was dubious about whether the “pushing” Cassandra mentioned would be done in a positive way.

[Cassandra] {Laughs} In a negative way, too, which maybe you guys will get to hear that as well… but…um…

[Christopher] We definitely get on each other’s nerves. A lot.

[Cassandra] You know…sibling love. That’s how it is. And we do push each other. My strengths are not his strengths. And his strengths are definitely not my strengths.

Cassandra says one of her super powers is walking for miles without needing a break.

[Cassandra] But you tell me to climb up something…and then we’re going to have a problem. Christopher…

[Christopher] That incline. That incline is what gets her.

Meanwhile, Christopher’s never met an incline, tree or rock he wasn’t ready to climb.

[Christopher] I…I’ve always been climbing for as long as I can remember…trees, rocks… My sister takes pictures of me in trees, because I’ll just climb a tree anyway, and then she’ll say, “Well, don’t move,” and then I’m stuck on the side while she takes a picture of me.

[Cassandra] We’re about three years apart. And being the older sister, I have memories that he doesn’t even remember. And those memories are, you know, mom dropping us off at the neighbor’s house … because she’s talking to the neighbor. Mom had to run home for a second. And, mind you—this is the house next door. And, our neighbor said: “It’s okay. We’ll…we’ll watch the kids.” And mom said, “No. You don’t understand. Cassandra’s fine. Christopher’s not.” She said: “No, no, no... It’s fine. I have kids. It’ll be fine.” So mom ran home. By the time she came back, Christopher was wet from the bottom down, because he had climbed onto the sink and turned on all of the water, and was splashing around in it—before the neighbor had even realized.

[Christopher] And I want to reiterate: our house is maybe fifty feet apart. So, she …maybe walked a hundred feet in total there and back, and I had somehow managed to get onto a sink…into a sink…turn it on and start swimming … apparently.

Despite his early fascination with water…

[Christopher] Usually me and water is an accidental thing. We were on a Boy Scout trip to… the…I think…Corpus Christi Aquarium. And I was just walking on like an edge of an outdoor aquarium and I slipped and fell into it. That was eventful.

[Cecilia] {to Cassandra} What about you and water?

[Cassandra] Uh…. I guess…as you get older…you know…you’re fearless when you’re young…and you jump into the middle of the ocean. And now that I’m older all I think about is all the things in the middle of the ocean with you and all the things in the lake with you. So…I love water. Being near it. Not necessarily in it.

[Cecilia] You brought up something I wanted to ask you all about. What are some or any anxieties that you might have about returning to the wild?

[Christopher] Oh, man. That’s a good question. Uh…I have a lot of anxiety.

[Cassandra] Yeah…I think out of the two of us, I internalize my anxiety a little bit better. Looking back at being fearless when I was outdoors…it’s all because my mom was there. And she was being fearless first. Looking back at our stories and our memories, I’m just thinking: ‘What the actual heck happened? Who…who in their right mind let us go do these things?’ Those anxieties come back now that you’re an adult and you know all the consequences of what you are doing. I mean—spelunking. I went spelunking with my mom… and a girl got her head stuck in the cave. And, um, you know…. Here’s me just: ‘Oh awesome. We’re in a cave.’ And my mom, the adult, holding it together, trying to get this girl’s head unstuck. And, you know, those consequences don’t come to you when you are a kid.

Kids are fearless…that’s because they live in the present moment, not in the “what ifs” of a future as yet unrealized.

[Christopher] Most of the anxieties come from not knowing what to expect. But hopefully getting back outdoors will get us more on the: you know it’s okay not to have a plan. It’s okay to just say hey I’m going to go to the park this day and then kind of see what happens. You know, just bring water and maybe a snack and then you’ll be fine…for a while.

That’s the spirit, Christopher…

Cassandra and Christopher Neve are going to keep audio diaries of their outdoor activities throughout the year. I’ll share those with you on our website UnderTheTexasSky.org, and on future podcasts.

I’m also hooking them up with some of my outdoor loving friends who will take this Dynamic Duo under their collective wings and introduce them to activities and skills that will help them to get the most out of their time Under the Texas Sky.

Speaking of which: this is Under the Texas Sky from Texas Parks and Wildlife…

I’m your audio Sherpa…Cecilia Nasti.

Support from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation allows us to bring you stories from Under the Texas Sky. In fact, since 1991, the Foundation has raised more than $170 million to conserve the lands, waters and wildlife of our state. You can help by becoming a member. Find out how at WeWillNotBeTamed.org

Sister and brother, Cassandra and Christopher Neve, have resolved to spend more time outdoors in this New Year…that’s despite their busy schedules as a high school teacher and paramedic, respectively.

If you’ve been following along…you heard them mention how they’re both anxious when it comes to reconnecting with the outdoors.

That’s not as unusual as you might think. In fact, Amy Sugeno of Austin says, it’s common. She’s a former Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist turned licensed clinical social worker and clinical Eco-Therapist.

[Amy Sugeno] Yeah, so an eco-therapist can be a licensed mental health professional. But it’s about bringing in the healing, therapeutic aspects of nature for growth and insight. That sort of thing.

[Cecilia] I’ve got a couple of young people that I’m working with for this show. And they have a lot of anxiety about reentering the out of doors. Because, when they were young, their mom led them, and was their guide outside. And they were fearless because their mom was fearless. But now, they’re a little fearful of re-embracing nature. Is that a common thing for young adults, I mean, who maybe once upon a time were outside… and now they’re adults and it doesn’t happen anymore?

[Amy] I think it can be a common thing. Especially in their case, it sounds like their mom did get them outdoors a lot in their youth; but sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes the anxieties are about not having the skills. What if I go down the trail and get lost? Or I get caught in a thunderstorm will I know what to do? Is it dangerous to be out, like that? So, it’s kind of a skill based thing. Sometimes, I think especially for women, there can be a real worry about, ‘If I was to go off solo hiking or something, could somebody hurt me?’ So, there’s lots of different reasons that people have anxieties about being outdoors.

[Cecilia] What are some baby steps that people can take to start quelling the anxiety while they move forward through the natural world?

[Amy] Some of the ways that people can tackle these anxieties—there are groups. And so, uh, groups like Audubon Society, or a lot of the state parks, of course, have different walks and hikes. There are also groups where you can learn skills. Like map and compass skills. Or whatever the fear might be. Or, if you’re concerned about wild animals, there’s the Texas Master Naturalist’s program that can help you learn about some of the animals out there.

[Cecilia] One thing that Cassandra said to me, she said that once she was very fearless. And she would jump in the ocean and jump in lakes. But now, all she can think about is what else is in there.

[Amy] I mean, one thought that comes to mind, is that in the psychotherapy world, there’s a kind of therapy called “exposure therapy”. And so that starts very gradually. And so, you’re taking little steps towards the actual thing you’re really scared of, though. Say like with the lake. A thought is like maybe just going to the lake with no intention of touching the water at all. But just sitting next to the lake for a while. And able to be comfortable sitting next to the lake. And maybe doing that several times until, ‘Okay, I’m ready now to put my feet into the lake. And the next time I’m going to stand in the lake up to my calves. And so, usually what happens, is that with each step, the person is like: ‘Oh, well that was fine. And so finally, gradually, you’re able to get into the lake, and then usually once you overcome that real fear, then it becomes quite a bit easier.

Don’t let fear stand between you and the outdoors. Amy Segueno will periodically answer questions on the podcast from listeners who contact her via our website. Find details at UnderTheTexasSky.org. Click on the Get Involved link to, well…get involved.

Let’s say you’re ready to spend more time outdoors like Cassandra and Christopher Neve whom you heard earlier in the podcast. Yet, also like these siblings, you’re not quite sure where to begin. If that’s the case, let me introduce you to one of my colleagues.

[Jennifer Bristol] Hi, my name is Jennifer Brsitol, and I’m the coordinator for Texas Children in Nature at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

[Cecilia] It’s a brand new year, and we’ve got a couple of young people we’re going to be following throughout the year as they reconnect with the out of doors. But they need some help with that. What’s a good way to ease back in…

[Jen] I always tell people: put nature on the calendar, like everything else that you do. We’re so busy. The beginning of the year is a great time to do that; you’re making resolutions about your health and your wellness. So, put it on the calendar, and start the year off right. Texas Children in Nature also has the Outdoor Activity of the Month. So, if you’re looking for something to do, and you’re not really sure what to do, then you can look at the OAM and find not only ideas about the different action you can take, but where to go and find things to do. And we list for the entire state different options that are great for everything—from camping to picnicking, to learning how to use a stand-up paddle board. We want people to get outdoors, and there‘s so many great and different ways to enjoy that. So, we want to engage the entire family, and encourage them, to make those lasting memories together in the outdoors.

[Cecilia] What about those people who are just in-between family? They haven’t gotten to where they are creating a family. They’re still young, and out there, and exploring. But, they know that there’re things out there, they just don’t know what’s out there.

[Jen] Sure. And Nature Rocks…NatureRocksTexas.org…which is our website can also help with that. We want to make the healthy choice the easy choice. And, so, Nature Rocks does a wonderful job by listing not only the state parks, which we always hope people go to, but it has the national parks, our local parks, nature centers, and then all of the nature based activities that all of our wonderful partners offer as well. So, there’s a whole system out there to support any age that is wanting to get into the outdoors.

[Cecilia] What are some of the other opportunities and resources out there for people of any age?

[Jen] Sure, so Texas Parks and Wildlife has amazing opportunities. Especially for, you know, the twenty-somethings, and the thirty-somethings to volunteer and get involved. So, volunteering and giving back is a wonderful way to also get outdoors, meet like-minded people—especially if you’re new to a community, but you know you want to get outside, and you’re not really sure where to go. Some of those volunteer opportunities—especially that Texas Parks and Wildlife offers—but also a lot of our partner organizations around the state offer those as well. To get involved at a nature center. To do a park cleanup. To get out on the trails and do trail maintenance… or just enjoy the trails. And there’s one thing I like talking about trails…Most of the time, people think about hiking, but there’s also horseback riding, and paddling, and birdwatching and wildlife watching. Texas Parks and Wildlife has wonderful maps with all the different Wildlife Viewing areas on them.

[Cecilia] A good starting place would either be the Texas Children in Nature website, Nature Rocks Texas, or the Parks and Wildlife website; that ought to get you everywhere.

[Jen] That will get you everywhere outdoors in Texas. Yes!

I have a list of some of the outdoor resources Jennifer Bristol mentioned, including links to wildlife viewing maps, that will help you to plan your outdoor adventures in the New Year…find them at UnderTheTexasSky.org.

Finally, I want to hear from you. At the end of every show is a short segment I’m calling Shout Out to the Wild. This is your piece of the podcast. It will feature your thoughts about the Texas outdoors…its wild places and its wild things…and your connection to it all. Find details about how to become part of our Pod Squad at UnderTheTexasSky.org. Tim Williams did.

[Tim Williams] Hi, this is Tim Williams from Austin, Texas. Last May I went camping at Palmetto State Park and decided to go ahead and buy my one year park pass. Seventy-five dollars. Which gets you free admission to all the state parks for you and everyone in your car. Fifty percent off your second night of camping. It’s really been a great deal. So, after Palmetto, I traveled to Blanco State Park and Buescher State Park—which is connected to Bastrop State Park. And then I decided, ‘Okay. I’m going to spend the next year and go on a state park tour.’ And so my wife and I went to South Llano River State Park, uh, we went to Balmorhea State Park. And our favorite is Davis Mountains State Park and historic Indian Lodge, where we stayed for three nights. Our Texas State Parks—really a great deal. And so is the Texas State Parks Pass.

Hand to heart, my friends—we did not coach Tim on what to say. That’s the power of the outdoors… and our Texas State Parks—places so inspiring, people like Tim Williams of Austin become passionate promoters without any prompting.

And so we come to the end of our first podcast. Under the Texas Sky is a production of Texas Parks and Wildlife, and is available for streaming or download at UndertheTexasSky.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

We record the podcast at The Block House in Austin, Texas. Joel Block does our sound design.

I’m your producer and host, Cecilia Nasti—and I do everything else—including reminding you that life’s better outside when you’re Under the Texas Sky.

Major support for this podcast comes from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation: Conserving Our Wild Things and Wild Places for Over 25 Years.

Join us again next time for Under the Texas Sky.