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​Do you have time? Ramblings from Zion National Park’s Community Volunteer Ambassador (CVA)

October 24, 2018 |Time. Towards the end of high school, I realized how special time is, and how little we have of it---in life, in each day’s to-do lists, in quality time with one another. Starting then and continuing today, I struggle to balance my time in order to maximize it. With the privilege of living at Zion, I’ve wanted to maximize my time here by canyoneering inside the awe-inspiring slot canyons, rock climb the huge slabs of Navajo sandstone, and push myself physically by training for a marathon; getting to be swallowed by the canyon for each run and fully immerse myself in the rocks and seasons of the canyon. People. I’ve quickly learned that the community at Zion is one of the best aspects about living here. I want to devote enough time to form sincere relationships because the people who I get to surround myself with have stories worth being told, skills worth being shared, and a joy and enthusiasm for life that is contagious. Self. I quickly realized that while living in this place of outdoor and social opportunity, I need a space to listen and to learn intrinsically. Others. I need time for others; those “others” being family and friends outside of Zion, as well as co-workers and visitors of Zion National Park. It is important to think of others.

It is impossible to fit all of our wants into a single day or week. We must prioritize, pick and choose. When I flounder with my sense of time as Zion’s CVA, I look toward two groups of people for inspiration: The volunteers of Zion National Park and the visitors of Zion National Park.

The Volunteers. Zion is extremely fortunate to be the ‘Home’ for many volunteers who choose to share their time with us week after week, year after year in the triple digit summer temperature, to the much cooler winter temperatures. They show up ready to pull Russian thistle and propagate seeds; are stewards of our park by roving the trails; are vigilant eyes for our overpopulated, understaffed park; and patiently check visitor’s annual park passes next to the fee booths. When I catch myself getting too caught up on time, I imagine myself in one of our volunteer’s shoes and imagine the directions they are also being pulled: Time to see their kids, time to visit their grandkids, time to not only volunteer at Zion National Park, but also one, two, or three other state or national parks or BLM areas in vicinity of their home. Their time is stretched like a rubber band, but they make a conscious decision to be present for and with the staff and visitors at Zion National Park. They not only show up, but show up with enthusiasm and a drive to be stewards of their National Park, because it is all of ours. Some of our volunteers drive one hour + to share this exceptionally important and highly valued intangible word with us – time. I look to our VIPS; yes, all volunteers in parks are definitely very important people! I see a volunteer proudly wearing their badge and drop down hours bar showing 250, 500, or even 1,000 hours and I think “Wow that is a lot of hours!” I am proud of them and also inspired to be like them, to freely share the most important gift they have.

Visitors. Zion has 4.5+ million visitors every year and wowzers that is A LOT! It is one particular group of visitors that I choose to write about in this reflection and that is of the visitors who attend ranger-led talks. As a Community Volunteer Ambassador who is under the umbrella of “Interpretation,” I was given the option to research and develop a patio talk. I said yes, and chose the topic of Art, titled “Art Across the Ages @ Zion National Park” The talk visits three time periods ranging from Ancestral Puebloans’ rock art, the artists from the 1900s era whose first renderings of western land helped to protect and establish them as a National Park, and current day Art-In-the-Parks. This is a topic that I believe in and am passionate for. I get nervous before each of my talks, but it is the visitors who consistently make me realize that the time I have spent anticipating the public speaking and the research and time taken in creating the presentation was very much worth it. It is for the visitors that are genuinely interested in a “Ranger led talk” that humbles me into thoughtful reflection of what it is all about to live and work in a National Park. It is partly for me and my interests (to learn to canyoneer, get to live in a beautiful place, and connect with other rangers), but a larger part is for the people who are discovering their National Parks for their first time, or those enthusiasts who have made it their bucket list goal to visit all of our National Parks. Working here is for the visitors who listen with rapture to the factoids and ‘tid bits’ the rangers have about the history, geology, or even transient lifestyle of a “typical” park employee. (I put typical in quotes because in all honesty, there is no such thing as consistency in the life paths of any single park employee!) I have learned a great deal in the last seven and a half months living and working as Zion’s Community Volunteer Ambassador, but the one that I want to circle back around to is that of time. Visitors make my time preparing for and giving my patio talk appreciated and in turn, I realize that they are likewise choosing to share their precious time at Zion with me, having chosen to attend my 25 minute ranger-led talk.

There is not enough time to do everything every day, but if my time impacts someone or something positively, it is very much worth it. 

Written by Mackenzie Pavlik, 2018 CVA Member at Zion National Park