Sometimes we have to finish writing the ending of one story before we can begin writing the beginning of a new one.
A year ago today, I was at the hospital to pick up Hook after a three-week, post surgery stay. Absolutely nothing since that time has turned out the way I’d expected, and mostly that’s a bad thing. But can I just say that there has been at least one unexpected bright spot that came via the creation of the Dr. Allan Hook Wild Basin Endowment.
Had Hook’s health not become terminal, we would have taken our sabbatical in Australia then returned back to Austin to build a house we’d been talking about for the past year. Instead, the door to surviving in this life closed for Hook but before it did, we opened a new door that could be used for generations of learning about the sustainability of nature.
Why the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is Important by Allan Hook
I have a promise to keep that came from one of the last lucid discussions Allan and I had regarding why the 227 acre track known as the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve meant so much to him. It has taken me more than three months before I felt able to share this with you. Here it is from Thursday, August 29th 2013, 5:57pm:
Q. Why is the Wild Basin important to you?
I was fortunate growing up because I lived next to a nature preserve. I could go out and play in it. Most kids didn’t have something like this.
This [Wild Basin] endowment provides an opportunity for people who haven’t had experience with the outdoors to try and tie that research question with the background of nature, integrated into its functional meaning of how we relate to nature. It’s meant to get kids off their butts, off their computers — to look at what’s outside.
There are a million interesting things going on. You just have to open your eyes and see what interests you whether its photo journalism or biology of the animal or teaching methodology or creating stories in nature. There’s so much wonderment in nature because it’s complex and vast and we understand so little of it.
If you want to see what’s entailed in maintaining the [Wild Basin] property from invasive species and the trail maintenance and proper land management use, go see it. Much of what they do at the basin is communicating with the local people surrounding the preserve and remaining a clearing house to the wider community.
Q. What did you hope would happen because of the endowment?
I thought it could float more students to get creative research experience; to open their eyes to brighter horizons that natural history provides. This endowment will help us to facilitate studies to better understand some of the interactions happening between organisms at the basin.
I want the endowment to continue to grow so we can reach out to more students so we as a community can get more experience – not just St. Edward’s students, but globally – so we can share what we’ve learned with other such entities in Austin and around the world.
Q. What is it about nature that you love so much?
Why I love nature is because I get peace of mind and understanding, challenges to understanding, interesting people – how interesting people? Because nature tends to attract inquisitive people and this is where ideas are shared and you think of things you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Sort of like a nature think tank that grows from every interaction of every person who contributes to it.
Q. What is it that you hope people will do about the endowment?
I’m asking you to consider contributing to it, too. With your contribution, we can build this into a world class facility that includes Balcones Canyonlands Preserves 30,000 acres.
“Read it back to me,” Hook said and I did, louder than normal to keep his attention. After several seconds without any reply, I thought maybe he’d fallen asleep.
“Do what you do best, Baby,” he whispered. “Grow the endowment.”
I clicked to save the document I’d been typing in and put the laptop aside, standing up to lean over the hospital bed so I could kiss his cheek. This time, he really was asleep. Four days later he died.
My husband was not a social media guy, but he and I both knew there would come a day when I would make my plea on his behalf using this blog and any other social outlets I could get my hands on.
If you’ve already donated — a huge thank you and please stop reading now. Hook would not have wanted me to try to empty your purse or your wallet. You’ve helped us to raise ~ $35,000 so far which has been added to Hook’s and my initial $125,000 which launched the endowment in May 2013.
If you’re considering a donation to help me move that $35,000 to $50,000 before the end of 2013 (the goal), then check out these giving levels Hook crafted based on species found at the Wild Basin Preserve in Austin, Texas:
- Black & Yellow Mud Dauber: For $100 dollars or more, an individual will be represented by the ubiquitous and mischievous black and yellow mud dauber, Sceliphron caementarium.
- Sand Wasp: For $1,000 or more, one is represented by the lovely and industrious sand wasp, Glenostictia pictifrons.
- Tarantula Hawk: For the honor of donating $5,000 or more, one is represented by the spectacular and fearless tarantula hawk, Pepsis thisbe.
Of course, these levels are suggestions only but don’t you just love Hook’s descriptions? In his inquisitive world, we should all be enamored with wasps … bugs of any kind, really.
Your contribution to the Hook Endowment at any level would be welcomed. If every person who reads this blog who hasn’t already donated contributed $5 online, we’d exceed the goal Hook and I set when we originally started talking about “What if?” What if we created an endowment? What if it was for more than just St. Edward’s students? What if it was for more than just science students? What if we could entice international students to conduct creative research at Wild Basin?
I’m not exaggerating when I write that planning the endowment and dreaming about it became some of the last truly happy moments Hook had in this world.
In our last months together, Hook and I would end some of our evenings making plans for the fund. At first, we talked in ambiguous terms, neither of us wanting to admit to the other what we hoped we could raise. But one night, as we sat side-by-side on the sofa, I finally asked, “So when you say, ‘a big amount’ or ‘a huge amount,’ what are you thinking?”
Hook’s hesitation before he answered led me to think that the too-high figure in my head probably wasn’t realistic. He turned towards me ever so slightly and said in his matter-of-fact voice, “A million dollars.”
“Me, too!” I said as I clapped my hands in excitement, “That’s exactly what I was thinking!”
This is what I will take with me into 2014 as I begin to carve out a new narrative for myself. Part of my prologue will of course include the Hook Endowment, but the rest of my story is yet to be written.
Until then, please be part of Hook’s epilogue for 2013 by making an online donation to his legacy if you haven’t already:
- Online donation: http://bit.ly/1KR8YDv
(Choose OTHER for donation then type in HOOK ENDOWMENT)
- Mail in donation: St. Edward’s University, 3001 South Congress, Austin, TX 78704, U.S.A. re: “Hook Endowment”
For those unable to contribute because of budget constraints, please consider contributing in one of these ways:
- LIKE the Wild Basin Facebook page
- PROMOTE the availability of Hook Wild Basin fellowships (Open to all students and all universities in or outside of the United States of America.)
- VISIT the Wild Basin in west Austin (Or the next time you’re in Austin, Texas, make it a planned stop.)