Thursday, October 30, 2008

A nice balance of activity and leisure

“Time flies when you are having fun” sure speaks for me. I’ve had time for park work, Personal Chef magazine writing and editing, hiking, reading, motorhome chores, and getting acquainted with campers and other volunteers.

As usual, I’m up early – at least an hour before sunrise. It is a special time for me; often I’m out for a pre-dawn walk, enjoying the sounds of the desert critters. It’s also my time to count my blessings and brush away regrets. I like to remind myself of something I read awhile back:

Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so . . . Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the ones who don't. Believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, TAKE IT! If it changes your life, LET IT!

This morning it was just light enough to I see an owl atop a saguaro cactus, softly hooting. I glanced away to make sure I was still on the road as I walked and when I looked up again, the owl was gone. I didn’t hear it leave.

During the day a variety of desert critters visit my campsite – I have water out for them. It is not unusual to see a rabbit and some birds drinking at the same time. I’m also visited by a small squirrel. Birds that come by are quail, dove, cactus wren (Arizona State Bird), house finch, thrasher, flicker, woodpecker, sparrows, and some I have not identified yet. I’ve only seen one coyote, but often hear them at night.

Cat also watches the coming and going of the critters from the window. One bird feeder filled with whole sunflower seeds is suction-cupped to the window. Interestingly, with the darkened windows, the birds can not see in and therefore can’t see Cat. Often Cat will take a swipe at a bird in or on the feeder and the bird is oblivious to this and does not fly away.

Another interesting thing about Cat’s motorhome life is she hardly ever is on the floor. She can jump from sofa to dining area, walks across the kitchen counter (I keep supplied with Clorox wipes) to jump on my bed. I’ve put a leash on her a few times so she could go outside, but after only a minute or two, she goes back into the motorhome.

My mail has finally caught up with me – I’m having it forwarded to the park. What a surprise to get a letter – and a check – from the State of New Mexico. It was a $50 Refundable Income Tax Rebate “State Assistance for Low-Income New Mexicans”! It also notified me that I may qualify for assistance programs including food stamps and USDA food commodities! It sure took me by surprise!

Most days I head out for a morning hike. The trail head to the Clay Mine is nearby – and it connects with several other trails. The park has six trails of varying lengths, and five of them start at the day-use area that is a bit more then 1 mile from my campsite. To get to the five trailheads, I can either walk on the park road, or use the Clay Mine Trail.

Above is a photo of the Clay Mine; the plaque on the locked gate says, “This mine was originally dug in search of gold. The land was later bought by a woman named Leila P. Irish. She believed that even though the mine contained no gold, its high levels of clay sediment could still be profitable. Leila bottled this clay and called it a miracle elixir that was said to cure all ailments. Though this was not true, it did cure one ailment exceedingly well. Dysentery, a disease from drinking bad water was common at this time. She made a fortune off her scheme, a fortune that her descendants still enjoy.”

One of the guided hikes next month is to Clay Mine, and the park supplies hard-hats for those who want to go in the mine. I’m looking forward to that hike.

A few days ago I went on the bird watching hike led by Park Supervisor Amy. What a bird education I got and I was amazed at how many different birds we saw. We watched a curved-bill thrasher as he worked on a nest. It seemed to me the “wrong” time to be nest building since eggs would not be laid until spring. Amy explained that the male thrasher builds a number of nests – perhaps to impress a female of his building skills. The extra nests also serve as decoys to the egg-robbing critters. The most vocal bird is the cactus wren.

One hike took me to a good vantage point to see the progress – or lack of it – on the new visitor center/nature center building. It is the first I’ve seen the outdoor amphitheater. The building is a “green” building – solar, etc. The latest estimate for completion is the first of the year. Here’s the photo I took from the trail.

With the building behind schedule and the new facility the reason I was “hired” as a volunteer, Amy and I met to talk about things I can do in the meantime. She (and all park supervisors) has been tasked to increase the numbers of campers and day-use traffic, so I’ll be working on marketing and customer service projects. We’ll be developing camper packets similar to the ones we did at Pancho Villa State Park. The packets will include a variety of information and hopefully some coupons from Cave Creek merchants.

I’ll also write press releases on the guided park activities to build day use and also to build interest in the progress of the new facilities. My third project will be to develop a Friends of the Park organization. And I’ll still occasionally staff the entrance station. So for the most part, I’ll just set my own work schedule to work on my projects.

I do have a short trip to South Lake Tahoe coming up. I’ll be attending a family memorial service. I just checked the weather forecast and know to expect snow and rain! My brother Ed and I will fly to Reno on Sunday (Nov. 2) and return on Tuesday (Nov. 4). So if you don’t hear from me, you’ll know why.

That’s it for this blog entry. I’ll leave you with this table grace. My friend Annette Hubbell is working on a book of graces, and this one was motivated by something my sister Linda sent:

Heavenly Father,

Please bless this food and those who made it.

And let us take this moment as we sit together

To reflect that life isn't about how to survive the storm,

But how to dance in the rain.