Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sunday School Thoughts

Our Gospel Doctrine teacher opened the lesson talking about his "Newt Gingrich" tie so I was zoned out from the beginning. Not a good start, and I had reviewed the lesson. But as he continued on the tie I just couldn't help myself and I started daydreaming. (It helps to daydream with windows in the room)

I looked out and saw the saguaro on a hill. I imagine those cactus engaged is some great discussions. Their conversation of their alien milieu is almost decipherable from our vantage point with a little daydreaming. You can almost see different ones saying different things:

"Oh, thank heavens."
"Here, give me a hug."
"I surrender!"
"You should really turn down that path."
"Give me a high-five."

They carry on in their succulent ways, I'm sure making fun of us humans the entire time.

"So why do we turn our tents to the temple?" asked our teacher.

I was back in the lesson. But then he talked about his subscription to an archeology magazine-and the arguments therein about biblical times- and my eyes drifted back to the windows.

Outside I could see so many nice cars. I think our Protege and Vibe might be the cheapest ones in the lot. And the fact that they are missing handles, hubcaps, and mirrors solidifies my argument. We do live in so much abundance. But we all have so many worries. I pondered why. And if we could quantify them, would they be more than our ancestors over the centuries? I think so. I think we worry because we have no hands in the dirt. We don't plant that seed that grows into a tomato that gets picked, washed, and placed on our omelet. We've turned all those jobs over to others. And not just food, but water, electricity, security, funds, all of it, outsourced from our home office and field into the hands of others. We have so much, but we have no control. And we worry, worry, worry. That's how I see it during Sunday School, anyway.

"Young people are so smart with computers. I'm old, I don't get it," pipes an older sister.

Evidently the discussion drifted to genealogy and challenges therein. But I sat thinking about her comment, and relating it to my previous train of thought. Really, are we young gunners so smart. I wonder how we would survive if dropped in 1940, 1950, 1960, or even 1970. Would we know how to handle the draft? Would we understand the concept of calling a travel agent to purchase plane tickets? Would we be able to write cursive and make our words mean something powerful and important in an application? Would we know how to grab the public bus downtown? Would we really know how to change our own oil? Would we know how to live without so many freezer foods? Would we be smart enough to go on a hike with an old-fashioned compass? Would we know how to read a map? Better yet, would we know how to fold up that map when finished reading (okay, if you can do this consistently I would vote for you as President of the United States of America). Would we know how to make a collect call? Would we know how to handle a nuclear threat? Would we know how to work a full day without looking at our watch but looking at the job? And would we know how to have a pen pal? Would we know how to go on a date and what to do on a date without so multimedia options? And don't know if we young ones are so very smart, I know I'm not.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Firefight at the Old Folk's Home

Monday morning came peacefully. I could hear the birds, only, breaking silence. It was cool, with a wispy cloud screen overhead. Such serenity really can only be found on El Rancho. And that's where I was for the day, spending time with Grandma while Susan accompanied Grandpa into Tucson for his heart procedure.

With a backpack full of books and twenty dollars on the kitchen table from Grandpa for lunch in town, Grandma and I were set. But you can always get more books, so in the morning Grandma wanted to visit the public library. She held my arm and introduced me to all the librarians. One lady gave Grandma a letter she left in her previously returned book. Then this lady showed us to Grandma's favorite aisle of books. We browsed, me silently and Grandma out-loud, naming each and every author and title on that aisle.

After she selected four books we left, setting off the scanner, which is okay because everyone knows Grandma never has her card but she's good for the books.

Then we went for some basic groceries. Grandma held my hand, claiming it needed "warming" as we strolled the aisles. We grabbed milk, yogurt, and fruit. And we were having a great time. I kept wondering why I don't come out to spend more time with Grandma. She makes me feel like a million bucks, all the time. And she's always smiling. And she has great stories, like the time she was called as Relief Society President, "When I hated relief society."

After the grocery store we went to the drive-thru at Wendy's. I was beginning to concern myself with the fact we spent the morning walking around town and Grandma was not drinking. So we loaded up on liquids and headed home. I knew also I needed to keep Grandma near a bathroom. Intake and output, probably the two most important geriatric priorities of the day, in my mind.

Back at the Ranch we spread out lunch on the table. I had to remind Grandma to eat and drink and she got a little impatient with me so I asked if I could take the trash out and burn it. Grandma endorsed the idea enthusiastically, so I left for five minutes to take the trash out behind the wood pile, throw it in the metal trash bin, and set it aflame. This is always my favorite chore at Grandma's house.

After five minutes of watching the flames I went back inside, and there was no Grandma at the table. But there was a half-eaten sandwich and an empty glass of water. Success! I found Grandma in the back bedroom talking to her cats. I asked if she wanted to finish lunch with me and we returned to the kitchen. I had just sat down when I smelled smoke. I jumped up, rushed to the kitchen window, and saw flames creeping down to Grandpa's garage, where he had two cars parked and two dune buggy's, as well as enough gas to blow us to Tucson.

I think I said something like, "Oh, crap. Oh no," with my voice wavering. In a split-second decision I decided not to tell Grandma and I ran outside with my cup of water from lunch. I ran to the flames approaching the garage and felt an overwhelming depression as I saw three more lines of flames, one heading into the woodpile, another across the barbed wire and south of the property, and a third heading east into the wash. I could NOT believe this was happening to me. My mind was racing and I could not think, so I looked in the garage and found the most plastic and flammable tarp you can imagine and raced back to line #1 (garage line) to flap it out. You can guess what happened to the tarp. So I started using my feet, but my scrubs started to catch aflame, so I ran back to the house, thinking maybe I should call the fire department. But that far out, who would come? And are they a volunteer crew? Pro Bono might not be bueno today.

I saw the house hose. It was five feet long, a good hundred-fifty too short. But in one of many tender mercies of the day, there were two buckets right by the door. I cranked the faucet and filled both buckets and ran back to the fires. I had to prioritize. I was about to lose a huge mesquite and wood pile. I was also about to lose ground on everything south and east. But I knew I had to finish line #1 (garage). And I did. Thankfully, the garage, and dune buggy survived by two feet. I ran back to the house and saw Grandma walking out with her slow, shuffling walk.

"Oh my," she said in surprise at all the smoke in her yard. I wasn't sure how she was going to react. Luckily, she looked down and saw the hose running so she grabbed it and started watering the flowers by the door. I ran up to Grandma and placed my buckets on the ground in front of her.

"Okay Grandma, everything's okay, the trash fire got out of control but I've got it under control." That was a complete lie. But I needed to keep Grandma in control.

"Oh, okay," was her response.

"Grandma, you fill the buckets up, I'll run and take care of the fire, and come back for you to fill them up again, okay?"

This was our plan. I ran back to the spreading lines and began to gain some control. I eventually put out the mesquite tree and line near the wood pile, which I came within five inches of losing. Every time I ran back to Grandma, she was there waiting with hose. She filled buckets and watered flowers while I fought the fire.

The third line on the south was difficult because I had to negotiate a barbed wire fence. At this point I was wondering when the neighbors were going to arrive. That's a testament to their confidence in Grandpa and his controlled burns I guess, because they never came. I eventually put out the third line and fourth line which was spreading down into the wash.

And there was Grandma, faithfully filling buckets in 90 degree weather, wearing sweats, a sweater, and a wool cap. I made a mental note to make sure she drink a few cups of water when this was all over. I eventually filled up a wagon with water and gave Grandma a big hug, thanking her for saving the day. I was close to losing control but Grandma saved precious time having the hose ready. After I made sure the four lines were out I went back to Grandma and told her to get some rest inside.

"No, I'll just sit right here and wait. By the way, this will be our little secret."

I felt like crying, but didn't want to be the first firefighter in the world to do that, especially on my first one, so I gave Grandma another hug. She stood up and we stood staring at the smoke and ashes, side-by-side. I put my arm around her, sharing the moment of victory and wiped the sweat off my forehead and the tears out of my eyes. But I think the tears were more for having an AWESOME grandma than for avoiding near tragedy.

I spent the next hour spot-checking, putting out flames that would pop out of a yucca or piece of wood on the ground. The wind picked up, reminding me that while Grandma saved the day, it was divine assistance that made the difference.

Funny how family has been talking about getting the grandparents off the ranch and into a safer, more comfortable living environment. I guess it's not time yet.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What John Wesley Powell Felt Like?

I cannot imagine walking real estate not previously traversed by norte americano humano sapiano, but to feel, to really feel what it would be like to do so seems exciting. My imagination leapt outside it's weedy and rusty playground and fired me up Monday morning.

Anna and I went for a hike in the Tortolito mountains. The trails, recently opened, cross through a minor mountain range north of Tucson. The range, lower in elevation and a little distant from the more popular Catalinas, is probably overlooked by locals and visitors. But thanks to Marriott, the modern day bank-roller for studs like John Powell, we could ride the coattails of the rich right into some high desert that was more virgin than I'd ever seen. Because his kingdom built a Ritz-Carlton right at the foot of the mountains and supplied funds for trail--really good trail--building.

The range also houses a perennial stream, a stream that runs ALL YEAR LONG. You're more likely to get eaten by a shark than jump over a perennial stream out here in the desert.

In the mountains, wildlife is there. The plant variety is enormous-- not to mention the quantity--and the trash is none. With 65 degree weather, a slight breeze as a companion, and no clouds, we forged through the Aspen Loop trail. The area was home to ranging Hohokam Indians from 500 AD through 1300 AD. I would've stooped in search of arrowheads but I didn't want to hold up Anna. My goal in life is to get Anna to like arrowheads. The last time I mentioned them she said she didn't need any bottled water :)

So, we hiked. And my imagination was going. And I felt like I would want to be a modern-day Powell, laying out new maps for a growing and blessed nation. I just don't think I could do it with one arm...