When Fathers Day is Difficult

This post seems late since Father’s Day was earlier on Sunday. Rather, Father’s Day is difficult for me and I waited until after the holiday to write about it. How many holidays that expect certain emotions or actions are difficult for you? There’s a lot to pick from; Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Thanksgiving, and many more as this Internet List shows.

Memories are sweeter now, afterward

Looking back is easier today, the pain of loss and grief less pungent. Rather, sweet memories pour over me; the smell of his tobacco smoke, the tickle of his beard when he hugged me, the white salt stains on his work shirt from a day farming in the Florida summer heat, his ability to make me laugh. One prank he pulled especially comes to mind. Whenever I came home to Polk County, I liked to visit Bok Tower Gardens. Dad loved it too. My husband and I were talking as we left our car in the parking lot and Dad and Mom were ahead of us. My inner compass followed Dad without thinking.

When I looked up and realized we weren’t where I expected, I said, “Dad, where did you lead us?”

He grinned  and lifted one eyebrow while winking the other eye. I knew I’d been duped again. We were a perfect match. He loved to play practical jokes and I never saw them coming.

Keeping his memory alive

Therefore, I return here, to Bok Tower Gardens often, choosing to volunteer both as an interpretive guide during the cooler months and an historic home docent all year. The many people I meet from all over the globe also remind me how much I’m like my father. He never knew a stranger.

May your memories be as sweet and dear to you as mine are to me.

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Closing a Chapter in My Life

The past 10 days, I’ve flown from Florida to Denver, driven 200 miles to my mother’s home with my sister and son, filtered through mountains of paperwork, pulling out the memories my mother saved, tossed 20 tall kitchen garbage bags, filled 30 boxes of things I couldn’t part with, carefully added a few pieces of furniture and ironwork my late father handcrafted, and now I’m driving a 16’ moving truck (with my 37-year-old son as wingman) the 2,400 miles back to the county where I was born and my husband, 90-year-old mother, and dogs are waiting for me.

Loading Up
Loading Up

Visiting a Sacred Place

The last thing we did before my sister flew back to Orlando was to walk up to the clearing among the rocks where Mom and I spread my father’s ashes in 2015. Just last year I could still see remnants in the dry desert soil. Now it seemed the landscape had changed the past twelve months, but I found my intersecting landmarks; a dead piñon pine and the outcropping where my husband and I exchanged our marriage vows exactly three years ago. A sagebrush had doubled in size just outside the small circle rimmed with rocks, placed with love and care. Each of us scooped up a few spoonfuls of sand to take home, placing them in emptied spice containers from the kitchen cabinet. I thought, “The remnants of the spice or herb will add an exotic hint when we open them later.”

May 2016 Wedding Location
May 2016 Wedding Location

Leaving is Hard for Everyone

Neighbors helped us load our belongings in the rented moving truck, handshakes and hugs completed the task. One special friend remained behind, visiting in the living room where she had listened to my Mother’s stories about Florida and the many backpacking and later RV trips she and my Dad had taken over the 65 years they were together. The friend and I held each other tight, soothing our sobs with mutual back rubs. We dried our tears on our sleeves and as I held the screen door, she said, “Text me every morning and night you are on the road. And give Sue a big hug from me!”

Golden Neighbors
Golden Neighbors

One Last Look

With the truck packed, we could have jumped in and started our journey. We were drawn to the high rock behind the house, dubbed La Garita Rock by the locals.

Larry said, “Let’s make one more trip up there, Mom.”

La Garita - Lookout Rock
La Garita – Lookout Rock

I found an old cane to steady myself as I carefully placed my hiking boots amongst the prickly pear and hedgehog cactus with their bright orange-red blossoms opening in the waning light. Working slowly toward the summit, we turned and surveyed the view. The northern section of the San Luis Valley laid out before us, the Great Sand Dunes clearly seen 60 miles to the east at the base of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Just below us to the left stood the house my parents lived in during their retirement of 30 years. Moving toward the right I saw the historic church just outside the gate to my parent’s property, Capilla San Juan Bautista. The new red metal roof in sharp contrast to the white stucco on the thick adobe walls. Just beyond, the metal gate of the Carnero Creek Cemetery with scores of white crosses within.

The place will pass from the Anderson’s to the next family, but the memories and friends we’ve made will always live in our hearts. I know I’ll return soon…

Hunters – Single Greatest Asset for Preserving Wild America?

I can see your eyes roll, a gasp come out your open mouth, or “No way,” escape your lips. But it’s true. I’ve seen it. I’m living it this week at my husband’s hunting camp in middle Georgia and during a visit to a nearby wildlife management area (WMA).

How Do Hunters Preserve the Wild?

Quite simply, hunters are a large group of mostly men, who spend a lot of money to hunt close to home, in nearby states, or thousands of miles away from their homes. They pay for hunting leases, hunting licenses, hunting outfitters and guides or buy large tracts of virgin land for the sole purpose of maintaining acreage to hunt deer, elk, bear, mountain goats, caribou, bison, moose, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn. Then there are the birds; turkey, quail, dove, ducks, geese… the list goes on and on. And those hunting license fees are earmarked for parks and other state lands we all can enjoy.

The desire to have wild game available to hunt drives hunters to spend big bucks to keep wild areas wild. They fork over thousands for annual hunting leases from farmers who grow slash pine as one of their crops. Slash pine stands provide cover for deer and turkey, while the edges between crop fields allow hardwood to flourish, their acorns and fruits littering the ground. And unfortunately for the farmer, deer graze in their crop fields. I don’t know who loves soybeans more, deer or hunters.

Does Harvesting Wildlife Benefit the Herd?

You better believe it does. Any wildlife management program requires a method to thin the herd. When the number of animals become too large, sick or less robust males have the opportunity to breed, diminishing the overall health of the herd.

A Real Life Example of Hunters Preserving Wild Lands

One person that comes to mind is a botanist, Patrick Lynch, who was working on his Masters Degree in Athens, Georgia. Here is my interview with him:

Dawn: Hi, Patrick. Thank you for sharing your experiences with land preservation and the role of hunters in Georgia.

Patrick: You’re welcome. It changed the way I viewed hunters by 180 degrees. I’ve never worked directly with hunters in the field, but what I can say from experience is that astute hunters understand the necessity of preserving and maintaining a variety of habitat for wildlife and not just game. This includes both actively managed lands and more pristine, natural environments, which often harbor rare and/or endangered plant species. So while hunters and conservationists approach land preservation from different perspectives, our ultimate objective is more or less the same.

Dawn: Could you give us an example?

Patrick: Several colleagues and I spent years conducting research in an area of central Georgia containing a suite of unique and imperiled floristic associations and numerous rare and endangered plant species. Despite years of pleading, we, and several other interested parties, could not convince the state to purchase the property. It was not until the hunting lobby began to actively promote its preservation that the state finally saw the wisdom of permanently acquiring this property. Now there were some pretty heavy handed politics involved in the purchase as well, but without hunters advocating for preservation, this property would likely be a housing development, and all of the unique flora and fauna, some of which occurs nowhere else in Georgia, would be permanently lost.

Dawn: That’s an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

Patrick: I’m happy to.

Who Else Benefits from Hunting?

Anyone interested in the environment prefers the preservation of wild lands. There are a number of ways this happens; local or federal agencies procure or maintain lands for the public good, private non-profits buy wild lands or create land trusts that save agricultural lands from future development. All these require money from individuals in the form of taxes, lottery funding, or charitable contributions.

Hunters don’t ask for your money. Yes, they are self-motivated, but they are saving these lands nonetheless. Next time you catch yourself judging that person decked out in camouflage, reflect on Patrick Lynch’s story and consider the hunters who make this world a bit better for all of us.