After a verrrrry long drive from Tucson, we made it to Austin, Texas in the afternoon of Thursday, March 17th (we left Tucson around mid-day on Wednesday). As we got closer to Austin, we were driving through the Hill Country and found all kinds of places to stop off and capture video footage. Beautiful trees, streams, and a variety of animals living on the sprawling ranches…inspiring, eye-catching stuff for us filmmakers.
We were very grateful to arrive at a super comfy guest apartment owned by a friend’s brother, in Austin’s North University neighborhood (so pretty, by the way). We hoped we could just get a small nap in, and then go out to explore the wonders of the South by Southwest Festival that was underway, but it turned out that once our heads hit the pillows we were out cold until the following morning. I guess we needed the rest.
On Friday, we made our way to the gorgeous Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for our arranged meeting, tour, and interview with Senior Director/Botanist Damon Waitt, a very cool guy and major advocate for native plants. Damon toured us around the grounds, pointed out the native blue bonnets in bloom, and shared with us the living legacy of Lady Bird. One of the things we really liked to learn about her is that her emphasis was on the “sense of place” that a native plant can give to you. She believed strongly that when in Texas, you should be able to see the native flora of Texas. It’s a way for us to identify our homes, and know when we’re “not in Kansas anymore”, so to speak. We really could understand that sentiment being from Hawaii, where so much of our flora (and fauna) has been imported, and stands of native landscape have to be sought out to be seen.
While we were at the Lady Bird Center, we were visited by a reporter for the Austin Post, who had heard about us and wanted to do a quick interview for an online news post he was creating for release later in the day. Equipped with a small video camera, he took a video of us, which can be seen on the Austin Post’s website.
The following day was our tree planting on the Great Lawn of Austin’s Zilker Park, sort of
the “Central Park” of Austin. We were joined by Austin City Forester Angela Hanson, who was instrumental in getting our tree planting approved and organized. She met us there with a very large native pecan tree. We thought it was only going to be the three of us at the planting event, until Joe bravely approached a group of large men doing laps around the park in preparation for their Australian Rugby practice. He cajoled all of them to come and help us, and we had a great moment planting the tree. Later, Damon from the Lady Bird Center came by on his motorcycle and helped us spread mulch around the tree.
We shot a gorgeous interview with Angela with large live oaks and the Austin skyline in the background, and she shared some really great information and ideas for our film. She explained that Austin residents are very “tree-conscious” and that the city will ONLY purchase native trees for landscaping and urban forestry. This is our kind of place!
Later that day, we connected with an old friend and were able to catch some music at the festival, which was a great way to finish off our visit to the great city of Austin. As we drove through the city, we couldn’t help but notice how great their tree canopy cover is throughout – and even found a tree-based exhibit called “Knitted Wonderland” at the Blanton Museum of Art. This is a traveling “yarn bombing” exhibit that has popped up in Mexico City (where the artists knitted a cover for a city bus) and in Brooklyn, NY (knitted parking meters). At Blanton, 99 trees in The Blanton’s Faulkner Plaza were given colorful knitted sweaters! Of course, we had to stop through and capture some footage.
From Austin, we are headed to New Orleans, Louisiana…so check up on our next blog post for more info on our adventures in the “Big Easy”.