Reflections Across Houston

Just over four weeks ago, the AmeriCorps NCCC teams based in Denver, CO headed out for their first round of Spike (projects that ranged from environmental to urban development, disaster relief to conservation work) across the lower mid-west.  In just a few days, we will all converge, once again, onto the peaceful campus that is a home base for us all.  We will share stories and experiences before many of us depart for the holidays. 

For the group of us that have become Sun 7, we will be departing from Houston in the morning.  For the past month, we have called the Houston Parks and Recreation Conference Center Home.  We have become a family, brought together by the forces of those in higher management, that conquered the challenges that were brought before us with lifted spirits and iron will power. 

After our first day on the medians, we learned the skills of spreading mulch.  From shoveling to raking to the proper use of the wheelbarrow, we excelled at them all. 

We learned.  We came together.  We left our mark on Houston.  And at the same time, Houston left its mark on us. 

Our time together has changed us.  We are no longer eleven strangers living together in one room, sleeping on cots that squeak and listening to one anothers chorus of snores.  We have grown, discovered who we were ment to become. 

The following images are reflections of our experience here in Houston.  The good, the bad and the (not-so) ugly.  They reflect our experiences and remind us of who we are.

 This image, captured at one of Houston’s Historic Graveyards that we worked at one weekend for ISP (Independent Service Project), is a simple necklace left on a tombstone, a gift to one who passed away long ago.  Moments and images like this are simple, yet they carry so much more.  Our work may have seemed like nothing mattered, but like this gift, we gave something back to Houston.  And in the same moment, Houston gave us back something that we cannot repay, the experiences that shaped us in the past month. 

Simple as it seems, we don’t notice these small things in life until we look back and realize how far we have come.  I cannot speak for each and every member of this team (nor the other 300+ young adults that are serving out of Denver), but each of us learned something about life these past four weeks.  We served, giving something to the communities that we are in and, in return, learned the life lessons that guide us home. 

 Above, our team leader cooked for us a wonderful Thanksgiving meal.  One of the simple acts that proved how blessed we are to have Meg as our Team Leader.  Her presence was enough to bring joy to any situation and a firm guiding hand to lead us with a constant smile.  Though soft-spoken, she has earned the respect of us all. 

 Later that night (Thanksgiving) we headed downtown to the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.  To best describe it would be the brain-child of a Thanksgiving Feast, Christmas Party, 4th of July celebrations and a Carnival, all in one.  Despite the drizzle that turned into rain, they still lit up the sky (and 24 Christmas Trees lining the streets) with hundreds of fire works, shot off from behind and the tops of buildings. 

 We also got the opportunity to explore the Aquarium.  While we have all seen bigger and better, we all enjoyed ourselves, dispite not seeing any sharks or dolphins.  We all enjoyed the oppertunity to touch the small sting-rays and other aquatic animals in the shallow pools.  It was fun watching my fellow team members become kids once again, enjoying themselves immensely. 

 Despite our many weeks on the medians, along with all the complaints and grumbles that came with them, we got the opportunity to celebrate the removal of non-native invasive species from Keith Weiss Park, just north of the main part of the city.  Above, Emily celebrated her conquest of a small tree that she personally removed.  Small victories like the one above brought us together and pushed us forwards.  Some of the guys even celebrated axing down some of the larger trees, even though there was a chainsaw available. 

 We even found an old shopping cart to lug all of our tools around in while we traversed the park.  Even though it made us look like homeless bums with an abundance of tools, we each enjoyed the opportunity to push the rickety old cart. 

 One one of the weekends, we traveled down to Brazos Bend State Park, where we encountered a number of smaller gators.  While none of them were especially impressive in size, it was a fun oppertunity to see the wildlife and capture some images of these magnificant creatures. 

 I also took a couple of pictures of the native birds, in honor of our Unit Leader, Vaughn, who told us about the park in the first place.  If it wasn’t for his encouragement, we never would have known the park was there in the first place.  At the moment, the park is in the process of applying for a team to work with them in some of the upcoming rounds (3rd or 4th, not exactly sure). 

 Despite working really hard, I found time to be artsy.  Above is some of the teams water bottles and Nalgenes, each of them made unique and individualized by stickers and attachments like ribbons and string.  After taking this image, I wrote a small page about each persons identity and how that is reflected on the surface of their individual Nalgenes.  It will be submitted to the Denver Campus NCCC Newsletter, The Altitude. 

 As we headed out to the medians, our constant companions, on loan from Houston Parks and Recreation, were four rickety wheelbarrows which slowly deteriorated.  By the end of the month, only one of them had an inflated tire and all of them were leaning to one side or another.  Some of them were better off than others, but we made it through the month, covering about ten acres of land with mulch (according to our sponsor and Team Leader). 

 Just this past weekend, I took the morning to myself (as everyone else still slept) and headed down the railroad tracks just outside our compound.  I made my way towards some graffiti covered box cars.  I’ve always enjoyed this illegal form of art, but have not participated, unless photographing it is considered participating. 

The different colors of paint, overlapped with precision across the metal sides of the containers reflected the diversity of this crazy place called Houston.  Like the clash of cultures and the stark differences of communities separated by meer blocks or streets, the graffiti was a beautiful macabre facade that stands out for all to see. 

 Along the road that paralleled the railroads stands an old abandoned car wash that I partially explored.  (note: I didn’t explore all of it due to the fact that I didn’t want to disturb a homeless man who was sleeping in the back)  One of the windows (above) caught my attention as it was reflecting everything around it, like a mirror that only partially showed all what was behind.  Like each and every experience that we encountered in the past month, we reflect each others emotions, while the reality of the stories fill in behind our spoken words. 

 On my back to the compound, I came across several dead animals (some fresh, but mostly older remains) but none of them caught my eye like the scattered bones that were littered across the railroad tracks.  A small dog or canine by the looks of it. the jaw bone, ribs, vertebrae and legs were scattered over 25 feet down the tracks (the skull could not be found).  Despite the scene of death, I found it disturbingly beautiful. 

Even though we are leaving this place, a death to some extent, we are looking forward to the adventure that lies in wait.  Next round (project / Spike) will have it’s own challenges as we face sharing a community with another team, taxes, and, for me, missing the first week and a half to train along side Sun 3, the Fire Management Team (as I am an alternate).   Though part of me is excited, I am not ready to leave this disfunctional family we have become here on Sun 7, even if it is only for a week and a half. 

All the packing is done.  The vehicles are ready (for the most part).  And we are prepared for the return journey back to Denver and the couple of weeks we have off for the Holidays. 

God Bless and PEACE

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1 Comment »

  1. johnny Said:

    i like it


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