What an opportunity, I thought. It had just been explained to us that we, the White Team of the Disaster Response Team, would spend the next two weeks planting trees throughout Bastrop county. One may think that planting trees would be commonplace in a conservation corps. Surely when one thinks of conservation it is easy to visualize parents and children idealistically clamping down soil to secure a new sapling into the ground. But after half of our was devoted to the use of chainsaws and herbicide, I realized that opportunities to put living things into the ground were hard to come by and became grateful we had gotten one so early in the year.
Uncertainty encompassed our first morning. We knew our assignment was to plant trees, but did not know exactly where or how. Really, we didn’t even know who we were. Teams had been assigned the previous Friday and though we may have exchanged words in passing during orientation, we knew frighteningly little about the seven other people that we’d spend the next ten months with. Though this uncertainty could have been a catalyst for hesitation, we got to work quickly on that brisk Monday morning and set off for this mysterious place called Bastrop with time to spare.
The warm reception of our project partners helped melt the ice. We were working with Tree Folks–a non profit organization headquartered in Austin that provides education, collaboration, and reforestation. They have been planting in Bastrop County in 2011 since the area was ravaged by the largest wildfire in Texas history. To add insult to injury, the county has also endured major flooding every year since then.
Out of this destruction, however, hope is literally budding out of the ground. It comes in the form of central Texas native Loblolly Pine- and it grows by the thousands. In ten short days we were able to plant over 5,000 lime green-leafed saplings at our various work sites. Sites that, we were told, we planted through at a faster than expected rate. Yes, we did not know each other well; yes, on some levels we were all very different people–these observations were undeniable. But equally as obvious was the fact that we would not let these superficial differences stop us. As the work hours turned to work days, those differences seemed to fade. The uncertainty of the first morning was being supplanted by a budding sense of community and familiarity. Some of us had our trademark morning snacks, others our favorite books to read on the way to the job site, others engaged in fascinating conversations that percolated the morning drive. We are new at our jobs, we are new in our teams, but in both the soil of Bastrop and in the hearts and minds of the 2016 White Team, beautiful things are taking root
By: Liam M.