Monday, April 12, 2021

Return to the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

I returned to volunteer duties at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens this week. In March of 2020, volunteers were put on hiatus during the pandemic. A few months, is what I thought at the time. A few months turned into a year-plus. We're still not out of it but the vaccine and safety measures brought us to a point where we can return to some public activities. 

Touring the Botanic Gardens Conservatory and its grounds are among them. Hours are limited and safety protocols are in place. There is no mandatory mask policy but I wear one as do other staffers and volunteers. All three floors of the Conservatory are open. The Children's Village held its Color Festival yesterday. Based on the Holi Festival in India, it led to a bunch of very colorful families coming over for the tours once they painted themselves with colored chalk. They all looked so happy to be out doing fun things on a sunny spring day. It was a great day for me, too, as I was happy to be back at the Gardens introducing people to its treasures. 

I met a retired couple from Casper out with their adult daughter who now lives in Cheyenne. I met a young man from Massachusetts wearing an Orlando Jai Alai T-shirt and we talked jai alai and permaculture. A group of guitarists and wedding planners came by to practice songs for the upcoming wedding at the Gardens. A group trooped in to hold a baby shower. A middle-aged bearded man in his 40s from Santa Fe walked with a cane and we talked about heart conditions. His sounded a lot worse than mine. He may move to Cheyenne to be closer to family. 

Many young couples visited, some with babies and others looking like they were on their first dates and getting to know one another. I discussed growing giant sunflowers with a woman from Denver. At the close of day, a photographer came in with her model to shoot some scenic photos (the Gardens only allows photography before and after hours). She said she saw some photos taken at the Gardens by another FoCo photog and wanted to shoot the place herself.

I spent time acquainting myself with new procedures. I ate my bag lunch -- no more food items in the Tilted Tulip Gift Shop. I leafed through the binder of CBG memorials which had been assembled by staff during the break. Many trees and flowers dedicated to loved ones. Plaques and pavers and benches, all done as remembrances. 

I thought about my father, a dedicated gardener who learned from his gardener father when growing up in Denver and transferred his skills to a very different Central Florida climate. He enjoyed year-round gardening at home and tending the plants at St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church, the same one I was married in. Dad nurtured tropical plants and battled tropical bugs and diseases. Different challenges from those we face in Wyoming.

The Pandemic of 2020-21 is not over yet. Covid-19 may be with us forever, just like the common cold which is related to the current plague. Gardening provides hope as well as food. When you dig deeper into it, you learn about dirt and bacteria and chemicals and the origins of your plants and flowers. Covid emerged from the natural world to infect and kill millions. I was afraid at the beginning of the pandemic. Now that I've been injected with a vaccine that is based on dogged scientific research, I am less afraid. Messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) provides instructions to our body on how to make a viral protein to trigger an immune response.

At my front-desk station, I checked in more that 240 visitors. The second-largest count of 2021 after that wonderfully warm Saturday before Easter. I will be there every Thursday and Friday afternoon through April. Come by, tour the place, and talk to me about the art of growing things. 

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