We have watched our parents die and now we are them. We start thinking about death differently, not in a morbid way, but as a visible event that (eventually) happens to us all. For most of us, it is within our power to have a good life and a good death, insurance companies notwithstanding. Not only does this mean taking responsibility for our choices, it means recognizing that we do have choices in the first place.
Getting older is actually fun, much more so than I thought it would be. So far in life, we have been busy doing things: taking care of family and homes, earning a living, getting from there to here. Now, as proto-geezers, we have some leisure to slow down and contemplate the dynamic spectacle of life. How we get along with each other and how we don’t. What does it mean to win?
At the bird feeders, even when there is plenty for all, there is still squabbling.
Some birds will expend all their energy driving off competitors, missing out on their own seeds. Who has not witnessed the ferocity of hummingbirds in the skirmish for nectar? I suspect this behavior goes beyond food, to matters of turf and status, behavior that is hard-wired, regardless of supply and demand. Is there some species-strengthening value to this aggression? Or does the species suffer when both parties go hungry?
Suddenly, in a whoosh of feathered flight, the area is bereft of birds. I look around and see a northern harrier gliding low, ever alert for the stray sparrow not well-enough hidden. Differences between these small birds disappear when faced with the larger threat of a hungry raptor.
Are birds really so different from people?
Another perk of being a proto-geezer is our rich junk-drawer of experience. We have information to use as a point of reference — we can compare the old and the new. We can predict, to an extent, how things will play out. We know about consequences. This is where our choices come in.
We are privileged to live in a place where the air and the water are still clean. Our nights are still dark and we can still find a quiet canyon when we need one. Recent travels have shown me the increasing scarcity of such treasures. These riches of nature certainly don’t come free, nor can they be taken for granted; they could disappear quickly and irrevocably if they are not valued.
They are, however, prime elements in my choice of a habitat, so I have to ask: what is the price tag on my prize? In terms of dollars, other places seem to be more prosperous than Moab. New cars, new toys of all sorts, one has to wonder where all this money is flowing from. Urbanites enjoy so many conveniences: mass transportation, high-paying jobs, stores, entertainment, communication options and non-stop stimulation. It’s all there but it comes at a price.
Of course these folks don’t desire pollution, 24/7 noise, crime, and traffic. They simply have different priorities and have chosen differently. They pay other people to wait on line for them and to organize their closet — things nobody around here would consider shelling out for. They’re afraid of their tap water, never see the Milky Way, and factor in hours each day for travel.
Travel gives us the gift of a shift. Leaving our comfort zone is valuable; it allows us to see that we are a small part of a much wider world. If we didn’t wander out periodically, we’d run the risk of becoming frozen in place. Travel also teaches us that we have much to be grateful for. Without such comparisons, we would never know how special a place we have here. We may be a tiny piece of the big picture but we have chosen to be here, inconveniences and all.
We do pay a high price to live in Grand County, and that greener grass never stops tempting us. Some big-city hipster cafes now proudly proclaim “No Wi-Fi — connect with each other.” Meanwhile, back in Castle Valley, we frequently lose our Wi-Fi at the whim of Frontier Communications. Imagine that: we are so far behind that we’re actually ahead of the curve now.
I don’t hate cities — some are quite wonderful — but I am glad they are there and I am here. I like it when towns find ways to nourish their identity rather than morphing into giant blended blobs.
In Moab we get to be part of a community that can chose to honor its values and its natural history. As for our future, here’s my take: we small birds may not see eye-to-eye on everyday issues but the bigger threat of over-development could and should unite us lest we lose our fabulous seeds.
It’s our choice.