Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Life is full of surprises!

Enjoy life’s challenges and unexpected events, trust your instincts, maintain your sense of security and be thankful for your confidence and the beauty of all that life has in store for you.

“I must get a blog entry done today,” I told myself this morning.
“But, Carol, it's been pretty normal here so far – nothing big and amazing to write about,” I answered myself. (Yes, I often do have conversations with myself.)

So, I decided to walk to the shower before doing anything else. On my way back, I noticed that a camper had arrived – I walked closer to say good morning. Surprise! The campers are Sharon and Jim Price and their cat Lucky! We first met when I was a volunteer at McDowell Mountain Regional Park near Phoenix. I enjoyed lunch and dinner with them; it was non-stop talking. NOW I had something interesting and amazing to write about! Tomorrow they continue on towards their winter park assignment. 
Sharon and Jim Price
Camp by a lake...camp in the forest...but by a bunch of rocks???
Rocks would never would be my first choice! But here I am at City of Rocks State Park in southern New Mexico as a fill-in volunteer and loving it.

In high school and college I avoided geology classes, preferring science classes that studied living creatures - biology and such. To me a rock is just a rock – basically boring and nothing special. Now I learned that these huge boulders here are rare and pretty special. And because I am volunteering in the visitor center, I'm learning about them. Here's what the website has to say:

The rocks here and thus the name of the park were “Formed of volcanic ash 30+ million years ago and sculpted by wind and water into rows of monolithic blocks. The rock formations are so unique that they are only known to exist in six other places in the world.” And more info from the website tells me “This area also was home to Mimbres Indians that roamed here until 1200 A.D. ...Arrowheads and pottery shards are evidence of their culture...Spanish Conquistadors also spent time in the area, carving crosses into the rocks.” 

While I reluctantly learn about the geology of the area – as always I'm enjoying the animal, bird and insect creatures here. My window bird feeder was up two days before the birds discovered it. First brave – and hungry – birds were the House Finches. Then the Canyon Towhee and Curve-bill Thrasher came by, but so far have not discovered how to get into the seeds! They've been on top of it, looked up at it from the ground and looked it while clinging to the yucca plant nearby. Other birds I've seen from my campsite include quail, mountain chickadee, ravens and assorted sparrows. I've yet to see a rattlesnake, but know they are here.

My volunteer shifts in the visitor center are Tues, Wed, Thurs, and Fri from 9:30 to 4:30 with an hour off for lunch. Guests are varied and many are interesting. One day we had 120 sixth graders from a school in Las Cruces (about a two-hour bus ride away). Ranger Gabe took half of the students into the boulders and left half in the small visitor center. Kids were “wired” and most were not interested in the displays and it was far too large of a group to really learn anything.

Being a “people person” I sure enjoy visiting with the variety of guests that come by; many of them for the first time. I'm glad to have the opportunity to volunteer here.

Jeremiah is parked in one of the few electric/water sites and a short walk to the visitor center. I'll be here until shortly before Thanksgiving. At that time I'll drive back to Arizona; The traditional Thanksgiving dinner will be at brother Ed's and many family members come to enjoy the feast. After that I'll probably spend at least a week at home before returning to New Mexico and more camping.

Give a call if you want to chat; or send an email. I have pretty good Internet service and the phone also works.

That's it for another week or so. Here's a thought to ponder:
"Optimism is infectious and inspiring, but a lot of people don't want to deal with optimism because they have to work hard to achieve it. Pessimism is easy: just sit around and mope.”

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Whee! Volunteering at “Spirit of the Winds”

Always on the lookout for volunteer opportunities, I contacted the coordinator of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This 9-day event is the biggest and best gathering of hot-air balloons anywhere in the world. Huge numbers of balloons and pilots from all over the world are here.

As a 'people person', the chance to be a greeter appealed to me. And being a 'morning person', I asked for morning shifts. And that's what I got – my greeter shift was from 5 to 8 a.m. And if I wanted a nearby parking place, that meant arriving before 4 a.m! And of course, that meant getting up real early!

This is a huge annual event that relies on volunteers – and they treat them super. The Volunteer Hospitality tent serves free meals and snacks each day along with free parking, as well as a long-sleeve t-shirt, cap, pin, 2015 balloon calendar, and several special volunteer-only parties.

It's a happy place. Thousands of people from everywhere come through the entry gates grinning from ear to ear – some arriving as early as 4 a.m! Many visitors said this event was on their 'bucket list' and were thrilled to finally be here. We also have people who come every year. Visitors can walk right onto the grass launch field – up close and personal as the balloons inflate and ascend.

Besides the 'normal-shape balloons' there are many 'special shapes' such as Airabelle the flying cow from the local Creamland Dairy. The balloonists rely on lots of volunteers as crew – helping lay out the balloon, assist with the inflation, and then ride with the 'chase vehicle' to be on hand when and wherever the balloon lands.

It was a super time for me and I look forward to volunteering again next year. The theme is 'Where Dreams Take Flight'. Dates are Oct. 3 to 11, 2015. Put this event on your bucket list!

What's next for me?
City of Rocks State Park in southern New Mexico, from Oct. 22 to Nov. 25. Then to Arizona for the traditional Anderson family Thanksgiving celebration.

Concerning 'bucket lists' – numerous unimportant, dumb things steal our minutes and siphon the significance out of our hours. Either we can fuss and whine about not having enough time to do things we really want to do, or we can take the time we've got left and spend it wisely. What's on your Bucket List?