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Surviving Huge Challenges

Determined cottonwood tree

When we are faced with huge challenges, life may seem overwhelming. They feel like insurmountable obstacles: moving away from home, losing a friend or loved one, selling a house and moving into a new one, being fired, adjusting to a new job, struggling through an illness. The list goes on and on.


What I've noticed about such challenges is that each one takes monumental effort on my part. I have to dig deep inside myself and find new ways to cope, or I must polish long-unused skills to survive. When it's all done, I'm exhausted.


No matter what the difficulty, once we make it through and give ourselves time to rest and recover, we wonder how we managed to survive. We remember that neighbors, friends, or even strangers lent a hand at particularly grueling moments. We used tools to help us survive the next minute, hour, or day. We might have learned to use those tools from earlier challenges. We might have discovered how to use them out of sheer necessity and the overwhelming urge to survive. No matter how those tools developed, they are in our toolbox now, and they can be refined for all kinds of other tasks. They help us to navigate life a little more easily.


I thought about that when I was walking on a pathway beside the Animas River in Berg Park. It's a beautiful area of trails, brick walkways and benches that runs through Farmington, New Mexico, the city where I live.


I came upon a cemented area protecting two large metal culverts that let water flow under a walkway and into the Animas River. Nothing grows on that cemented area – except for one very determined little cottonwood tree. It had found a crack in the cement big enough for its roots to reach nutrient-rich soil.


What courage it must have taken for that tree to find a way to flourish! There are much friendlier areas where it could have rooted. Some of those places are just a few feet away, but for some reason it chose that spot.


When I look at the picture I took of that young tree, it reminds me that I too can make it through tough times. Life eventually will get easier, more relaxed, even fun. If I make a list of all the difficulties I have faced in one column and all the good times I've experienced in another column, there are many more good times than difficulties. Thank goodness!

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When Forest Fires Blaze, How Can We Help?

Devastating forest fires are sweeping parts of New Mexico where I live, and I've wondered what I can do to help. Other states are impacted too.


I'm not a fire fighter. The smoke would make it hard for me to breathe, and I can't carry heavy equipment or dig fire lines. Yet, I am in awe of fire fighters who put their lives on the line to save everything threatened by wildfires. Those fires are often harder to fight because of gusty spring winds and drought conditions.


Firefighters have been fighting huge fires for many weeks that continue to gobble up trees and everything in their wake, including people's homes and businesses. Several national forests in my state are barring visitors because of extreme fire danger.


National news has made the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire east of Santa Fe a familiar name. As of this morning, the fire had burned over 303,000 acres and was 34 percent contained. But hot, dry, windy conditions today made the fire even more difficult to battle.


More than 2,100 fire personnel are engaged in battling the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon flames. To date, it is the largest fire in New Mexico's history.


Many of us watch the news, read the newspapers, and wonder what we can do to help. As I think about what I can do, I realize I can't fight the fire myself. But I can be very aware of fire danger, especially in drought conditions. That means not starting campfires anywhere. If one is absolutely needed, completely extinguish it so it has no chance of flaring up later.


If I see enterprising children and adults having lemonade stands or other events to raise money for fire fighters, I can buy their lemonade and donate money to help them meet their goal. I can adopt a local fire station or volunteer fire department, find out what the firefighters need, and contribute in my small way to help meet that need. I may be able to do only one of those things, but every effort helps.


So many trees are destroyed in a fire. I can donate money to help organizations that promote planting trees. I may only be able to donate $10 or $15, but every donation helps. And it lets that organization know its efforts are valued.


There are so many ways we can assist fire fighters without fighting the fire ourselves. And there are so many ways we can help in the effort to plant more trees to replace some of the ones destroyed by fires. As you look around to see what else you might do to help, you will come up with other ways of making a positive difference.


Thank goodness for our brave firefighters. And thank goodness for all the caring citizens, like you, who do their best to help out. Together we can make a positive difference.

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Riverside Nature Center Herb Garden

This shumard oak is among many trees, herbs and grasses identified by plaques at the Riverside Nature Center's herb garden in Farmington, New Mexico.
Shumard oak at the Riverside Nature Center's herb garden.

The city of Farmington, New Mexico, has a wonderful herb garden at the Riverside Nature Center. There are lots of herbs, grasses and trees growing there, and all are identified with special plaques. Other cities may have similar resources as well. If you live somewhere else, ask the local Chamber of Commerce or visitors center if your city has something like it.


If you live in or near Farmington and want a peaceful, enjoyable and educational place to take family, friends or visitors, the Riverside Nature Center is a great place to go. And it's free! Turn off Browning Parkway into the municipal complex that contains some city offices, the regional animal shelter and the Riverside Nature Center. Follow the signs to a parking lot near the nature center. Don't be surprised if you see deer or chickens walking near the trail.


At the center, you can ask for a handout of all the herbs growing in the herb garden. There's a xeriscape garden nearby too. The handout even has recipes for making an herb blend and one that combines tomatoes with a variety of herbs. There's a recipe for lavender-lemon cookies and another one for apricot lavender jam. You will see some different kinds of lavender growing in the herb garden.


Plan to spend an hour or more walking among the herbs, grasses and trees that grow in the herb garden. There is a lot to see! Well-marked trails take you on pathways through the garden. If you get tired, there are tables and benches not far away where you can rest.


When some friends and I recently toured the herb garden, we felt so relaxed. Being near all that natural beauty has a way of calming you.


A visit to the herb garden gets even better if you add a visit to the nature center itself. It's in a building with lots of exhibits and even has some interactive things to do. You can select some mementoes of your trip at the gift shop. Sometimes you'll find used books at a very cheap price there. For more information, call the center at 505-599-1422.


If you want to stay a little longer, head over to the nearby regional animal shelter. Ask if you can take one of the dogs for a walk. The shelter relies on volunteers to help them walk the dogs waiting for someone to adopt them. The animal shelter is not far from the Animas River, where there are wonderful walkways built along the river. They meander near the water for a few miles through town.


If you're looking for something to do this month when the weather is still comfortably cool, try the nature center and its surroundings. It's an activity that your whole family can enjoy together.

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