I was born in Mexico City to parents who migrated from a small town in Tlaxcala in search of better opportunities. The majority of my family stayed there, for which I’m very thankful. Every summer we went back to visit them, providing memories I treasure as some of the happiest from my childhood. I still remember the views, the sweet-smelling breeze and the peaceful silence particular to the small town in Tlaxcala. I felt unrestricted, safe and carefree; no schoolwork, no concrete sidewalks. The horrendous rush hour roar was replaced by a peaceful hum, only broken by the occasional squealing of farm animals or ringing church bells.
Fast-forward 30 years and almost 1,000 miles away; I am in Austin, Texas. No longer a child, I have children of my own. This past fall I was fortunate to intern at the Wildflower Center as part of my degree program at The University of Texas at Austin. It was during this time that it hit me: Nature speaks universally. I was working on a story that took me on a walk to the Texas Arboretum trail for the first time. I found the swings under the shade of the “Cathedral,” a group of stately oaks convening majestically along the path. I couldn’t resist the urge to get on and swing like a child. My mind flew me back to the small village where I used to run free. My body was swinging here at the Center in Austin, but I was transported far away.
Being in tune with nature makes the human experience complete. It does not matter that I did not speak a word of English when I was a young child, or that I catch myself thinking in “Spanglish” often nowadays. I have become a bicultural mishmash. My journey has not affected how I, the human, feel when I’m surrounded by nature. As a child, I called the breeze brisa, and I would take small jumps to get onto a swing. But the tender touch of the spring blooms and the earthy scent of rain rejuvenating the broken ground still affect me today. They chase away the tension of urban life; they make travel through time possible; they fill me with understanding; and they change, for the better, my perception of life. It does not matter whether I call myself American or Mexican, Muslim or Christian. We are a product of nature, and being in touch with this notion makes us better inhabitants of this Earth.
I strive to share this with my children, to expose them to the sounds and smells of nature so they can get on a swing 30 years from now and have something to smile about. Here in Austin we are fortunate. We don’t have to travel far to find a patch of nature where we can get back in touch with our roots and where we can find the inspiration to provide a legacy for others.
Daniel López interned at the Wildflower Center in fall 2014 and says it was a “transformative experience.”