Over the past 24 hours, I've found myself wondering for the first time, seriously, if the time hasn't come to climb out from under my flat hat and finish up in a sprint as Betty Soskin, Private Citizen?
I'm really not sure yet, that this is the proper course, but at least there are stirrings ... and, no, I've no intention of slowing down or retiring (at least not before I've taken those tango lessons and learned to play the cello).
My identity is more and more determined by an expanding public image but maybe the "juice" still emanates from my private self?
In thinking about how to handle the CYCLE gardening project -- all of the answers that rise to the top fall outside the perimeters of my ranger role. For instance, were I not with the park service it would be easy to have someone measure off the empty and garden-ready space to see just how many raised beds it could accommodate; have someone with more expertise than I to tell us how much each would cost, then initiate a campaign that would invite the public to "purchase" individual beds. Funds raised would provide the lumber for each, and -- if such a campaign were successful, we'd be off and running before we've lost the kids. How's that for an idea? It might even be possible to run such a campaign online ... needs more thought, though.
However, it's "under the flat hat" that I have six months of commitments to fulfill -- so maybe over the past 7 years the power that now fuels my work and reputation (beyond what came with me into my position from my private self) would disappear in a "poof!" once I discarded the uniform. It's so hard too gauge that. "Celebrity" can be deceptive; an ego trap.
On the other hand, maybe I can have it all. Maybe in some way those projects which seem relatively unrelated to my interpretive role with the NPS can be made to fit under some arcane classification; maybe I'm simply needing to give more time to making the connections.
I'm convinced that somewhere in here there is an explanation to just why it is that the National Park Service is having such difficulty attracting visitation from the ranks of "People of Color." The recent Oprah & Gail nationally televised visit to Yosemite was an attempt to chip away at that persistent problem. Maybe those connections must be made -- not by black celebrities from luxuriously outfitted campers -- but through relating back home in communities where the under-served and under-privileged might be introduced into the park system through home-based community-created programs as a beginning point; and by rangers of color under flat hats.
Maybe as long as I'm one of those rare beings, there is a need for me to remain in place with the full force of this great federal agency providing the wind at my back.
Maybe I've thought this through enough over the past few minutes (my fingers/brain connection usually can be counted on to deliver), and retirement can be delayed -- at least until I've found an answer to this gardening project. To Lily Mae and Lena, and to those young people -- currently, I am the federal government's response to their dilemma, I just can't fathom just how that is.
Maybe that's reason enough to carry on, at least until I locate that tango instructor.
Now if I can only figure out how to get someone else to design that fund-raising campaign while I continue to be the governmental response to those who need one.
Photo: top was taken at the Home Front Festival in 2010 at Shipyard 3 in Richmond.
bottom -- 1972 Democratic Convention at Miami Beach, Florida where I was a McGovern delegate. This may have been where "private citizen" Betty was successfully launched.