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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

For all those who care to take a look, or better yet step right into it, nature is on full display come April time. The lions of March have uttered their final roar, and the sirens of spring are getting fully warmed up. The spring season brings some of the great rites of nature across our grand state.

White bass are making their runs up the Colorado, the Trinity and the Neches. Crappies have moved up from the depths to spawn in lake shallows. Warblers, vireos, tanagers and myriad other songbirds have completed their trip back home across the perilous Gulf waters. Pompous gobblers, prairie-chickens and vermilion flycatchers are in full spring regalia, strutting, drumming and flittering prominently in pastures and meadows, doing all they can to attract the attention of a partner of the opposite sex. Bluebonnets and other showy native wildflowers are beginning to blanket the roadsides, and dogwoods are doing their thing over in the East Texas woods.

The season is unmistakable. The bees are humming, the birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming. Spring has finally sprung. And if ever there was a reminder that life is better outside, this is it.

I had the pleasure recently of working with a former university professor of mine, Stephen Kellert from Yale. A biologist by background, Dr. Kellert has made his mark in the social and evolutionary sciences, documenting the wide range of emotional, mental, psychological, physical and spiritual connections people have with nature.

It’s pretty cerebral stuff, and I certainly don’t pretend to understand all of it, but I do get that what he does is vitally important for all of us who care about connecting people, particularly children, with nature. In 1980, he completed the seminal comprehensive study of Americans and their diverse attitudes toward wildlife and the outdoors. These days, he keeps himself busy with the probing of the complex dimensions of biophilia, a word whose origins mean literally “love of life or living systems.”

He told me a statistic recently that ought to make every single person reading the pages of this magazine sit up, take notice and take action. Americans of all ages in all places now spend on average more than 90 percent of their time indoors. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, what with the realities of where most people live these days, as well as the demands of school and work and all the electronic gadgetry that we have to amuse ourselves.

I can’t help but think about those poor souls and all they are missing. If you have any doubts, reread the second paragraph in this essay, or better yet turn to “The Best of Texas, Naturally,” the piece authored by my colleague Louie Bond, the editor of this fine magazine. In it, she details the favorite haunts and habitats of a group of people who ought to know something about such things — our colleagues at TPWD!

At your Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the nature of our business is nature. And thankfully, what a rich and bountiful nature it is we have to steward and enjoy right here in our home ground. So, I hope this month, and every one hereafter, you’ll devote a good bit more than 10 percent of your time to doing something in the great outdoors.

Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you more than ever.

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