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Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

Kurt Caswell's Plea for Walking

by Kurt Caswell on

My new book, Getting to Grey Owl: Journeys on Four Continents, is a collection of travel essays that celebrate a wandering life. While I love being at home, travel is one of my central tenets. When I was a boy, my father’s work with the U.S. Forest Service took our family from one place to another every few years, and I came to depend on and love this rhythm, and to love the excitement, risk, and novelty of the next new place. For me, this translates into a life devoted to travel, and to writing the stories of my travels. 

We live in a different world now. When I was growing up, the earth’s population was about 4.5 billion, and the U.S. population was about 225 million. Today the earth’s population is over 7.3 billion, and the population of the United States is at 320 million. Every day some 80,000 commercial planes transport people around the world. That’s every day. And carbon levels in our atmosphere have risen 36 percent since 1958, faster than at any other time in the earth’s history. As a result, our planet is warming, sea levels are rising, and species are going extinct at an unprecedented rate. We live in a time of extinction, a time when our climate scientists, looking a few decades down the road, can see the collapse of ecosystems that will drive the collapse of human civilization. 

I don’t mean to spoil anyone’s fun, but I can’t help asking if airplane travel in the name of adventure or vacation is the right thing to do. I wonder if it is even an ethical thing to do. In “Getting to Grey Owl’s Cabin,” the title essay of my book, I calculate the carbon cost of making a journey from my house in Texas to the cabin in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, where Grey Owl lived and is now buried. I ask whether the carbon cost is worth it. It’s self-defeating to devalue journeys we’ve made, but perhaps such questions can help us evaluate the need and purpose of future journeys. 

As a species, we are and have always been explorers. Our ancestors traveled out of Africa and took up residence in almost every place on earth. We have even begun to make real plans to colonize other planets, starting with Mars. I do not wish to deny us what we are, nor to deny myself what I am, but it feels right to face the environmental cost of travel. Jetting around the world or driving hundreds of miles for a weekend vacation is not sustainable on a planet with so many billions of people. We need alternatives. 

I’d like to make a plea for walking, for simple travel on foot. It’s cheap, it’s easy (most people can do it), and the carbon cost is almost zero. If it rains, use an umbrella; if it’s warm outside, wear a hat. Walking betters our health too. An interesting new study shows that walking, especially walking in nature, offers psychological and emotional benefits, and, of course, physical benefits too. 

Why not explore your area? If you live in a town or a city, take a weekend walk from your home to an inn for an overnight. What you save in fuel or airfare you can spend on the room and good local food and drink. If you live in the country, walk to a friend’s house and stay over. The great American nineteenth-century saunterer, Henry David Thoreau, mostly made walks near his cabin on Walden Pond and sometimes into town to visit friends. You might also make walks of utility—to the market, the movies, the gym. We could do a great deal, of course, to reorganize our cities around people instead of cars; that would help a lot. 

If you wish to make grander journeys, walking can get you there. Two of the greatest traveler poets—Wordsworth and Coleridge—mostly sojourned on foot into the countryside near their homes in England’s Lake District. As a young man, Wordsworth tramped all over Europe. Paul Salopek is currently retracing the migration route of early humans from Ethiopia to the southern tip of South America. And Istvan and Ferenc Ivanics, brothers from Hungarian, were midway through a walk around the world when I met them a few years ago in Spain. When I pressed Istvan about why they were walking, he said, “Well, it is rich in details.” 

Before you book passage on yet another airplane, consider going for a walk. Perhaps the greatest adventures of our near future will necessarily be on foot, sojourns that will open us to the richness of our places, improve our health, and improve the health of our neighbors.

Meet the Intern: Sarah Davis

by Sarah Davis on

Summer for college students means a break from coursework, but it can also be an opportunity to gain valuable experience in the working world. 

I’m Sarah Davis, a marketing intern at TU Press, and this summer I hope to learn more about marketing and book promotion while enjoying the variety of books published by the press. I spent the first two summers of college at home in Houston working various jobs, but this summer—before my senior year at Trinity—I wanted to live in San Antonio and advance my marketing skills. TU Press presented the perfect opportunity.

It took me a while, namely my first two years, to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my communications and anthropology majors. Communications brought me to reporting on campus news for the student newspaper, the Trinitonian, and working at the student television station, TigerTV, where I discovered a passion for writing and creating content. 

Studying anthropology, on the other hand, sparked a deep interest in other cultures and reading about the experiences other people have while traveling and researching abroad. I am also learning the Spanish language, and many of my courses focus on Texas and the Southwest. TU Press aims to publish books focused on this region, and this turns out to be a great way for me to continue my studies outside the classroom. 

The school year, filled with classes and student activities, never leaves enough time for recreational reading. When I learned about the press’s mission to publish books for the general reader, I knew it would be a great place to indulge in summer reading. Many of the press’s books are about travel and self-discovery, which appeals to my interest in travel.

When I’m not at work you can find me watching and learning about movies, scanning news sites, and exploring San Antonio. My love for Trinity led me to the press—yet another thing that makes this school the perfect place for me. I can’t wait to see what’s in store this summer.

Bringing Paper to a Technology Fight

by Miranda Reinhardt on

The beginning of summer means the start of thousands of internships for thousands of anxious new interns. All around the world young adults are scrambling to find jobs where they can use their college experience to pave the way to their future career. For me, Trinity University Press is the place. My name is Miranda Reinhardt, and I have joined the TU Press team for the summer!

As an incoming junior, I find it refreshing to know that “Would you like an order of chips and salsa with that?” will not be coming out of my mouth a hundred times a day. Instead I look forward not only to moving out of my parent’s house, but also to learning about the business and art of book publishing.

Outside of work, school, and preparation for my future, I surround myself with technology daily. Being a part of this generation, apparently with the name “Millennials," it is hard not to be an active member of the technological movement. When I obtained my first e-reader, I was ecstatic to be able to carry multiple books on a single device, although I quickly missed the familiar rush of excitement over holding a new book in my hands. Ebooks open a new realm of possibilities for book lovers, but a screen with an image of the book cover cannot compare to the real thing—though the sensation is growing on me. Technology: I hate it and love it at the same time. It's changed the way we do things in our daily lives, whether it's how we communicate, shop, or, in this case, read.

 I grew up with two brothers who love to game, and technology has been a big part of my life from early on. Gaming and watching television seemed natural, and as I get older I see how these activities have influenced who I am. Without my brothers I would not be the person I am today. So, yes, in my free time you might find me watching cooking competitions like MasterChef while simultaneously playing two games—with my roommate admiring my ability to multitask. The future is unknown, but I aspire to eventually work in marketing and public relations for a large gaming company. 

Technology is not my only interest. From kindergarten through the end of my freshman year of college, I played basketball and was extremely active. The sport gave me a chance to meet interesting people from all over the country. By the end of my time playing, I had been on eight different teams and played in almost fifteen different states. It is an experience I will never forget.

This internship at TU Press is an exciting opportunity that I hope will further my development in the working world and help me grow as a person. Here's to a great summer!

Donate to Trinity University Press for the Big Give SA

by Rachel Cooley on

24 hours of community giving. One incredible chance to shape San Antonio’s future.

If you live S.A., then give S.A. 

This year, Trinity University Press is proud to ​participate in The Big Give SA, a 24-hour online giving event in support of local nonprofits doing good work to make San Antonio awesome. The big day is next week ​on May 5th and we hope you will be a part of it with us.  

Trinity University Press publishes ​important, internationally recognized, award-winning books intended for curious readers who are committed to lifelong learning in a variety of subjects. We are proud to do our part to bring San Antonio to the world, and the world to San Antonio. We hope you agree that we are an important part of the cultural scene in our city! From the San Antonio Book Festival to Fiesta, we’re an integral part of San Antonio and we’re proud to share our city with the world in books about our River Walk, artists, and food.  

​We can’t do it alone! We need readers and supporters like you. Book sales alone can’t support what we do, and many of the books we make available worldwide simply might not get published without your support.  

Please consider supporting your friendly neighborhood book publishers for this amazing one day event! You can even fill out this form now, pledging to give on May 5th. 

With the Big Give, it just takes a few seconds to make a difference in your community! Whether you support us or other nonprofit groups doing important work in San Antonio, we hope you will join us in making The Big Give SA one of the best in the country. Every gift helps more than you know, no matter how small or large.  

Please make sure to share this message with your friends and family. Let’s tell everyone about this awesome day for nonprofits!

Words Without Walls: Writing from Alternative Spaces

by Eliza Perez on

Writing done in alternative spaces — be it a prison, a rehab center, or a shelter— can help people recover or work through whatever is happening in their lives. Writing gives people the opportunity to be vulnerable and open themselves up to new ways of thinking. Words Without Walls is a creative writing partnership between graduate students in Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and Allegheny County Jail, the State Correctional Institution of Pittsburgh, and Sojourner House (a drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children). From two of the programs founders comes the book, Words without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration, a collection of more than seventy-five poems, essays, stories, and scripts by contemporary writers – serving as inspiration for other writers and mentors in these alternative spaces.

By sharing these stories, co-editors Sheryl St. Germain and Sarah Shotland are contributing to some greater truth that makes writers a part of something bigger than themselves. 

The following is an excerpt of the poem, “Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, a Trinity University graduate who has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Lannan Fellow, as well as the reciepient of numerous awards for her writing which include the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, four Pushcart Prizes, and many more. 


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.