QUAIL MUTTERINGS #37. The Importance of Giving Back (October 16, 2015)
Life is short so make it count. Don’t be a sponge on society. Pull your weight. Be all that you can be. OR. Just hang loose. Relax. Be happy. Chill out, man. What is one to actually do? Nose to the grindstone or just sit back and watch life go by? Of course, it’s a little of both. After all, isn’t life all about balance – both in and out of the dance studio? Sorry, but most of my life has centered around the dance studio so I couldn’t help but bring that into play. And what about the whole “giving back” thing, when we’re so swamped with earning a living and raising families?
I’ve been lucky. My work/career has included ‘giving’ extra time and attention to students and parents. All teachers, both during and out of class, provide their time and counsel. No question. The ‘volunteering’ is simply built into the job as well as the “time off.” A teenage student needs advice on keeping up with a demanding academic schedule while making class and rehearsals. And perhaps a job on top of that. A parent is frustrated with her child’s rebelliousness at home and wonders how they’re managing in class. But it can be a win/win for the instructor since besides providing a service it also feels good and is rewarding to be helpful to others.
At this point, in the last half of my sixth decade, after raising three children but still working more than one job, I sense the need to give back more. But it has to feel like the right thing somehow. Something important and satisfying to my soul. So when I was asked to be a docent for Ramona Grasslands, I said yes. I’ve been a San Diego County Parks and Recreation volunteer patrol for over a decade and have already been vetted for the position. We’ll be leading people into an unopened segment of the Grasslands in groups for hikers, bicyclists or trail riders depending on the Saturday. We’ll need to study the County’s management plan and brush up on our knowledge of local vegetation, wildlife and geology. Great! Just what I have time for. I’d planned on taking a French class this fall, but I guess that will go on hold. I’ll try to fit in my study of the Grasslands when I can and hope for the best.
On September 26th we did a training hike to learn the route and to gather information about the area. The journey is three miles in and three miles out. A total of six miles traversed in the middle of the day, in close to hundred degree heat. We did it though, returning in our sopping wet county issued shirts.
As our group walked through the shade of ancient oak trees, the bulls in the pasture eye-balled us suspiciously. We were careful to give them a wide berth. Cattle have been grazing on this property for over a century The old Gildred homestead boasts a solitary chimney rising up out of an old slab. Supposedly, the house had burned down from a Thanksgiving kitchen fire. At least that was what one of the rangers had heard. Acorn grinding holes speckle the nearby granite boulders. Someone pointed out the cactus. Apparently, they are commonly found near these native work sites. The old survey road continues west where I noticed a vein of granite along an east/west lying ridge. I wondered if those boulders had quartz embedded in them, like we have in our canyon. Up on a hill to the south, a flat area with pushed out dirt is visible. They used to mine molybdenite there at the Bours Deposit. It was shut down in 1918. Further along, also to the south, across a dry gorge, sheer cliffs rise upward. We’re told this creek will echo loudly if we get an El Nino this year. Another docent pointed out an old eagle’s nest near the top of this rock face.
Our community of Ramona is so fortunate to live in such a rich, natural environment. We all owe it to future generations to preserve this legacy. Besides being wild and beautiful, nature is essential for all of our survival. This is a more than worthwhile cause. It is absolutely necessary. We need to get our kids, neighbors and families outside to play and learn in the dirt. Real dirt. Not just what’s hauled in for playgrounds.
I’m looking forward to October 31st when I’ll lead my first hike back into this northwest segment of the Ramona Grasslands. I understand that anyone interested in coming along can sign up on the San Diego County Parks and Recreation website. This ‘giving back’ feels partly the other way around to me. I get to come out here and take a walk in nature with others who want to do the same. Yes indeed. It’s a win/win for all of us. Doing something important and sharing with each other. For our own lives, and for life in general, isn’t it all really about the balance of nature?
Chi Varnado is a contributing writer for The San Diego Reader. Her memoir, A CANYON TRILOGY: Life Before, During and After the Cedar Fire and her children’s book, The Tale of Broken Tail are available on www.amazon.com. Chi directs the Ramona Dance Centre. Her collection of essays, Quail Mutterings, can be found on www.chivarnado.com.