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If I were to assign a grade to my performance as a Leadership Los Alamos student, it might be a C. I have cut class twice and snuck out of class early. Plus my attitude has been slightly less than stellar. In fact, the night before the last session I engaged in a mental tantrum. I whined to myself that I had too much to do, the session started too early, it was going to be held in a location too far away.
It didn’t do any good. The fact remained an agreement had been struck – I had consented to report on this year’s program for the newspaper, come hell or high water. Besides, as I have learned countless times before, sometimes making decisions should not be based on what you want, but what is right.
So I ceased my mental foot stomping, set the alarm for 6 a.m. and pulled down the large Leadership Los Alamos binder from the closet.
I am so glad that I did.
If I ever considered the ideal classroom, it might be the Valles Caldera. I’ve seen the national preserve from the car window as the vehicle whizzed by the huge expanse of green fields that gave way to a carpet of conifers. Once I even studied the night’s sky through telescopes on the preserve land but I never knew that much about Valles.
I didn’t realize that it actually has a dormant volcano – not one that became extinct along with dinosaurs. I was aware that the preserve was privately owned, but I didn’t know that the government purchased the land for a steal. I was also uninformed of how much work occurs at the Valles – from studying the elk to keeping the forests healthy.
Additionally, it was always perfectly clear that the Valles is beautiful, but there is something about standing in a patch of towering coniferous trees and inhaling that spicy outdoor scent – a mixture of wood and pine needles smells that wafts through the mountain air. The experience makes you appreciate the land more and pushes you to want to support it.
Furthermore, as I was driving out of the Valles Caldera, I saw a group of elk gallop across the dirt road. It was a sight to see these immense, muscular creatures move at the speed of the wind. Their dark coats gleamed in the afternoon light.
It was special to me in another way as well. Wildlife has always been elusive to me. I remember the time my parents attempted to point out a herd of elk grazing on the Caldera from our car on the road. I squinted my eyes and stared hard at the view in front of me while my parents called out “There! To the left of that group of trees! Over there!” I never saw a thing.
Seeing those elk recalled another memory. Years and years ago, while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, my father stopped on the trail and pulled out his binoculars to take a look at the valley ahead of him. He proudly proclaimed what he witnessed to my mother in a single word – “Elk.” “Elk,” he repeated to her as she took the binoculars to see for herself. But my mother did not see a herd of elk when she scanned the landscape. She saw that rocks were really there.
It made me smile last Friday; the memory of my father being so sure he had spotted these majestic creatures. I hadn’t thought about that story in a while. I realized it was the right decision to ignore all my grumblings and attend the class. I learned new things and rekindled memories. It was certainly an A plus day.