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  • Dean Hart

Childhood Nature Walks with my Great Aunt Sissy

I remember my childhood nature walks very well. I would get up around dawn, quickly dress, and run out onto the porch. There I would find my Great Aunt Sissy with a blanket across her lap, a book in one hand, and a cup of Earl Grey tea in the other. She would feign surprise and wish me a good morning. Then she would get up, and we would begin our walk.

We lived in a trailer house on a small plot of family land that ran up against a creek and some public land that was always rumored to be in the early stages of development without anything really ever happening to it. Our family had used part of the land as both a storage yard and parking lot for the family roofing business. The grass there was dead and flattened, and all the trees had been cut down years ago. But directly behind the house was a sprawling lot that had been largely undisturbed. There were a number of tall oak trees and even a thicket of thorny mesquites. In the spring, patches of bluebonnets, the state flower, would emerge and dot the yard. It was here that I would often walk with my great aunt as she described the different types of critters and bugs we saw. She would tell me about the trees, their types and various trivia. We would walk around early in the morning through the dew-soaked grass to avoid the Texas heat.

I remember those walks so well. They made such a lasting impact on me -- instilling a love of nature and an appreciation for science and learning in general. My Great Aunt Sissy passed away earlier this year. It was the beginning of the pandemic, so I was unable to fly back for any kind of funeral or memorial. I had to deal with my grief alone, and the moments I reflected on the most were those early mornings out in nature. Those memories helped me mourn and appreciate what my great aunt meant to me.


I started as a communications intern here at Tyke Hike back in August. I remember seeing the ad for the position and knowing that I was meant to apply for it. It has been an honor to assist Anne Marie, alongside Katherine, as she works to connect families with nature. The goal is so important, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of the work.


- Dean Hart, Communications Intern, Fall 2020


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