Places We Love in the DWTX

We are caretakers of a diverse and fragile home. The Diocese of West Texas varies from the highly productive but vulnerable South Texas Plains to the rugged limestone cliffs and spring fed rivers of the Edwards Plateau, and the rich wetlands and estuaries of the Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes.


Click the region name to see a short video by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Your Stories of Our Home

This section contains stories in text, photos, videos, and music -- your way to express your love for our home. To ask about submitting a story, email ccdwtx@gmail.com.

Use these stories to express your love for your particular places. Also use your stories and others as springboards for talking and sharing experiences, thoughts, and concerns -- to participate in community. It is within community that we fully develop our humanity.


San Marcos River, by Jerry Touchstone Kimmel

The San Marcos, a River School

This article offers links to relevant parts of a tremendous online book titled Texas Aquatic Science.

I'm educated as a river scientist and taught about rivers for decades in the Geography Department at Texas State. For me, a river is an incredible learning laboratory. I wrote a book about the San Marcos River, titled The San Marcos: A River's Story, to help people learn about their region as it is defined by the river's watershed.

The San Marcos, like most of our rivers in the DWTX, is fed by springs that flow from aquifers deep within limestone rock. The aquifers are fed by runoff from rainstorms. The water is cool and clear as it begins its journey to the Gulf. Along that journey the river receives surface runoff that brings sediment and nutrients into the river. The nutrients and sediment nourish the bays that produce so much of our seafood and sport fishing. These bays are called estuaries. The river probably also picks up pollutants from city sewage plants and other sources. We must be careful that our pollution is treated properly, so we do not poison the river and its estuary.

But what does a river have to teach us? How can a river be a school? A river's main lesson for us is that everything is connected. Obviously, the water that flows out of the aquifer and journeys to the estuary connects the two ends of the river. Water flows from the aquifer because rain fell on the watershed and that rainwater actually came from the Gulf, Pacific, or Atlantic, in what we call the hydrologic (water) cycle.

A river can also be a connecting theme for many other types of learning. Take history, for example. The San Marcos Springs have been a site for humans to live for at least 12,000 years and maybe even 19,000. A few miles downstream was the site of a short-lived Spanish settlement in 1808, named San Marcos de Neve, because it snowed on St. Mark's Day. The town of San Marcos was first established in 1850 as a grist mill near the springs and several other towns were established downstream, using the water for irrigation and hydropower.

Think of other things a river can teach us. For example, flowing water has great strength which can turn turbines and produce usable power -- or wash away our roads and houses in a flood. That's mechanical and civil engineering. The water in a river is extremely valuable, which gets into economics, law, and political science. Rivers are also beautiful and attractive, so art, music, recreation, and spirituality spring from our rivers.

The National Science Foundation once had a slogan of "Life long, life wide, and life deep learning." There is hardly any better way to pursue that kind of learning than on your own river.

Jim Kimmel: geographer, teacher, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual seeker.


Texas State University. Image source

Our Towns and Cities

It's common when we think of "Creation care" to assume it means nature, but excludes human places. But we humans are part of Creation also. So our towns, cities, farms, ranches, factories, and oil fields are as important as our natural parks. In fact, they are more important considering our overall relationship with "Earth, our island home." They are more important because they have a greater effect on the life support systems that make life on Earth possible. And besides, they are the places where we spend most of our time.

What does it mean to include these "human" places in our concept of creation? It means that we build and maintain them with care and with consciousness of how they relate to all other parts of Creation. It means that we honor them and take care of them. It means to recognize that they are long-lasting parts of our lives.

A few years ago, while visiting the University of Oxford in England, I was awed by the fact that the university is a thousand years old. Think about its name. It was located at a place on the River Thames that could be crossed by ox carts -- the ox ford. Ox carts were the pickup trucks of a thousand years ago.

After returning to San Marcos, where I taught at Texas State, I began to recognize that it's quite possible there will still be a university here a thousand years from now. That thought is sobering to me. It tells me that the existence and quality of this place depends on the care we take of it now -- not just the university and river, but the entire community.

One of the benefits of Creation Care is quality of life.

Jim Kimmel: geographer, teacher, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual seeker.


The limestone labyrinth in our front yard, by Jerry Touchstone Kimmel

Thoughts of a Suburban Lot

We bought this suburban lot 25 years ago, built a limestone home on it in a small city on the edge of the Hill Country in Texas. It was one of few lots left in a community built in the 1960s and 70s. It is a normal width on a cul-de-sac in a local neighborhood, but the surprise was its depth, an acre and a quarter! Wooded it is, with Live Oaks, a few over 200 years old, Cedar Elms, Gum, Blue Woods, Hackberries, occasional Juniper, Texas Mountain Laurels, Texas Persimmons and more, sloping to an ephemeral creek that runs only with Texas rains.

Before we could begin building, I had to know if this was a need or just a want. I could only live here if it truly was a need. As you see, we built, and it is a home I designed, simple and comfortable with a wide front porch and deck all across the back added by my dear hubby. And yes, these 25 years have shown how much of a need it is. I sit under your cathedral of arching trees and write, and words flow. We enjoy the delight of friends and family on the deck under 200-year-old Miss Lila Oak, named for the dear lady we bought the lot from. I pick and eat persimmons straight from the trees, warm from morning’s sun. Jim and I sit rocking in chairs on the front porch, watching the sun sink in the West and talk and talk and talk, each other’s spiritual directors, cheerleaders, and best friends. I “Forest Bathe” under your spreading canopy, rejuvenating my soul in nature’s abundance. I wander your paths, cheered by fall and spring flowers planted by our exuberant birds. I walk the spiral stone labyrinth built by my dear son-in-law, on which neighbor children skip and deer lie in sprinkled sun and let cares release into surrounding greenness.

Saint Hildegard of Bingen felt we humans were such a major part of the “Greening” of the earth and that our connections to the greenness is vital and necessary. I am fortunate and extremely grateful for our little space of green. But all spaces of green, as simple as a small tree beside a city sidewalk, or a small vegetable or flower garden next to a tiny home, connect us to the Infinite that surrounds us with every breath. Holding these spaces, whether as large as a National Park or as small as a bush, as sacred is a part of a larger journey within this human one. No, it is not just a want, it is definitely a need.

Jerry Touchstone Kimmel: Artist, Poet, Spiritual Director, Teacher, Wife, Mother, Earth Wanderer.