Nancy and I are settling into a wonderful routine of enjoying the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Not far from our house is a lovely botanical garden – several acres of desert flora exquisitely cared for by volunteers from the Green Valley Gardeners. Dozens of varieties of cacti, large and small, are in bloom right now and the hummingbirds, cardinals, wrens, quail, and many other kinds are enjoying the abundance. Tables and chairs are scattered through the shady nooks provided by Palo Verde trees, Mesquite trees, and Desert Laurels.
Through the edge of the garden passes a section of the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail – a fifteen mile section of an historic trail that once connected Mexico with the San Francisco Bay area. Nancy and I love to eat breakfast in the park and then wander along this trail in the early morning coolness. A section of the trail skirts some large estate-like homes, obviously owned by “people with money.” These properties are primarily open desert with the houses set far back behind fences and gates. I have been fascinated by the overt display of the bi-polar nature of my culture that I observe as I walk.
Sometimes the property that abuts the trail is clearly marked as, “MINE!” The message clearly being, “I am separate from you and you are a threat to me so, Stay Out!” I feel a growing, hard-to-describe, sadness for my society as I pass. On the other hand, some of these estates communicate a totally different message, one that says, “I have this property. I am grateful for its beauty and I want you to share it. Please enjoy.” Dog watering stations and shaded seating areas for rest adorn the property edges instead of “Keep Out” signs.
One property in particular always causes me to expand my breath with gratitude. The owner has filled the entire boundary by the trail with lovely buildings designed for trail walkers to use to rest and enjoy. One of these buildings is the, “de Anza Wind Phone.” The property owners built it as a place to remember, grieve, connect, and heal. Look at the lovely little building and read the plaque below. Inside is a simple chair and an old antique phone.
There are basically two ways of “owning property.” The most common one, the one that fuels our society, is the, “This is mine, not yours. It is for my use only. Stay away. Get your own.” The other, less common one is the, “I have purchased the obligation to steward this property for a short time. I want to use it for the greatest, widest, and most compassionate possible benefit to my world. Please enjoy.” Given the boundary-less reality of the natural world and the transient nature of life, which approach feels appropriate? Which feels completely insane?