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Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Desert Surprise

Mom and I took a trip last weekend to the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden to see the annual "Spring Blooms at the Garden" event. We have been getting a fair amount of rain, (for Phoenix) this winter, so we thought we'd catch a nice display of wildflowers. As you've read in my previous posts, Mom is still recovering from not one, but two traumatic head injuries. She's getting better all the time, but so far has not shown much interest in outdoor walking excursions like these. This time though, the lure of desert wildflowers, a perfect sunny day after cold, blustery ones, and a promise not to walk too hard or long was just the right combo to get her out of the house and into the desert.

The wildflowers were certainly nice—though the roadsides in Phoenix right now are nearly as colorful—but the big surprise was the Butterfly Pavilion! Steve and I have been to one of these in Victoria, BC Canada, but I didn't expect to see one here. Like the Hummingbird enclosure at the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, the enclosure puts you amongst a captured crowd of the star specimens.

It was magical: at first while standing in line, Mom didn't seem particularly interested—especially when a young toddler in front of us decided it was time to lose his top and throw a tantrum (I'm sure unexpected heat and midday exhaustion played a role). But, we didn't get 3 feet past the entrance before Mom was absolutely enthralled! I loved watching her get more and more into it as we observed and pointed out all the different species. She even remembered the names of some of them from a little "butterfly bingo" card we'd studied before we entered. This was the type of study exercise she has to do at home every day, but it hardly felt like study here!

She had brought along a camera, and the moment a large yellow swallowtail landed on my hand and wouldn't leave, she whipped it out and started shooting. She said he was all dressed up in his Tux and asking me out on a date.

The beautiful little pieces of color were all over us, and not at all afraid. We observed them flying in haphazard bunches, fluttering alone, drinking at the pond, sucking nectar from fruits in dishes, and sunbathing on a rock. One especially ragged little guy was labeled "rode hard and put away wet" by Mom. What a giggle we had.

We stayed inside longer than either of us expected, truly enjoying the feeling that we were witness to a kind of "fairy dance." They were, of course, absolutely silent, fluttering like fall leaves everywhere. Even the tantrum thrower quieted down as the magic of the place became apparent. Everyone seemed to feel the same way, expressing great surprise at the calming effect the butterfly exhibit had on them.

Afterwards, a very nice lady suggested we two pose behind the "butterfly board" for a silly picture. What a nice way to spend my Sunday with Mom. I hope she remembers it.

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What do you want to do when you grow up?

When Steve and I were vacationing in Bisbee, AZ a couple of months ago, we ran into an interesting shopkeeper. He owned an American Indian arts gallery in the canyon, and his store had been a Bisbee fixture for a very long time. As we were talking, he revealed that the store would soon be closing up after more than 25 years, or at least, that he would no longer be the proprietor. In shock, we asked how he could give up something he loved and had found so fulfilling for so long?! He said with a special twinkle in his eye, "Well you know, I'm going to be 80--this has been fun, but I need to finally decide what I want to do when I grow up."

This young-seeming gentle man, had traveled the West, knew many, many artisans and dealers in his field, understood his trade intimately, and found the business of dealing in Indian art admittedly FUN. Yet, he still felt as though he "hadn't yet grown up." I had to stop and think...what defines a "grown-up?" Did he feel this way because the work he did was what he loved doing and that it didn't seem like work? Did he feel he hadn't made a mark on society, hadn't left enough of a legacy, or that his life hadn't been tough enough to be taken seriously? I doubt that very much.

I think he was just ready for the next phase...he didn't say what he thought that would be exactly, but I know in my heart it wasn't going to be sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch watching the world go by!

As one of the Baby Boomer generation, I want to be like him...I want to keep doing what I love to do, for people I care about, with the joy and excitement that comes from knowing that every day I'm going to be helping others as well as myself to not just survive, but to flourish. I want to remember and learn from what he said: "I need to finally decide what I want to do when I grow up."

I've talked to lot's of Boomers my age who ask the same thing. When am I officially a grown-up? Is it when I graduate from school? Is it when I get my first paycheck and don't spend it all in one place? Is it when I finally plant myself and buy a house? Is it when I find a partner and make a family? When I go through my first real-life crisis and make it out intact? Or maybe when I start my own company, become someone else's boss? Is it when I go off to fight or accomplish something bigger than myself to help others? Could it be when my kids have their own offspring? Or, is it when I finally become my own parents' caregiver?

I used to wonder all the time, when was I was going to "feel" grown-up. When was I going to "act" grown-up? Well, maybe I don't want to be grown-up, afterall. Maybe wondering, wandering and wanting to find what's over the next hill is what our generation is all about. I know we're not the "Greatest" generation, and I know we're not exactly the mysteriously lost GenX-ers. But we Boomers are the biggest generation by far. Look at all the marketing aimed at us; with rock music commercials, and pants made to fit wider bottoms, and the growth of the wine and foodie industries! We've never quite settled with just being who we are right now, how things are right now...we want to be 'something' when we grow up. Being grown-up doesn't mean we are suddenly more serious, or make more of an impact in the world, or have less fun while doing it. It's just another phase with which to enjoy, to share, to make a difference in the world around us.

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I do know it's not going to be the last chapter in this story. Grown-ups aren't the bad guys, as we thought when we were teenagers. But they don't have to be boring, stick-in-the-muds, either. As long as we stay young-at-heart and keep searching, we're on the right track.

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