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In a two-hour appointment with my attorney this week, I finalized my trust. As we reviewed the codicil, tears welled and spilled over. Um… you know me, I’m clinical and controlled. I was surprised, even embarrassed by the display; apologizing as I requested a tissue.
I know, I know; I’m a little behind the power curve here. My contemporaries completed this onerous task years ago. But you know, sans kids - who really cares about my stuff anyway? While I enjoy it; its just schtuph! Give it away - throw it away. The cold, hard facts are, having failed in my biologic duty to extend the genetic thread, memories of me will pass in a generation. So it goes.
However, in the years following my divorce, I’ve actually amassed an estate worthy of dispersement. Begs the question how much more I might have, had I not squandered 20+ years in a marriage but… I digress down a tunnel with no cheese. And since I have no direct descendants, no lawful heirs and am flying to Europe not once but twice this year… it was time.
…My sister, my niece and nephews; their inheritance flows to their children should they pre-decease me - and the Yosemite Conservancy.
|@ his 96th BD Party|
My Uncle Bill threw down the gauntlet and set the example. He was a tiny, quiet and unassuming man, and he set a high bar. In the weeks preceding his death, he called each of his family members to express his love. “I never told you that I love you, how much I love you and that you have been the best family.” A single man without children, when he died on Super Bowl Sunday in 2011 at 96 years, he left a generous inheritance to each of his 58 siblings, nieces, nephews, greats and great-greats too. (To read of my amazing Uncle Bill, scroll to my blog entry of March 2011.) His gift was magnanimous, unexpected, and generative for me in looking beyond my first and second degree relatives, turning an eye toward the greater good.
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot. ~Joni Mitchell
|T Roosevelt and J Muir @ Glacier Pt, Yosemite|
Why Yosemite? Because its breathtaking beauty inspires and invites and encourages and beckons and allows and delivers and coaxes and wants and calls and gives and deserves. If we allow, these wild places tap within us that which is real and primal and free. In Yosemite I quickly remember myself and the true nature of my life. Bless Teddy Roosevelt for his love of the wilds and crafting their protection “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people” as inscribed on the entrance gate at Yellowstone.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the President to protect America’s wildlands and historical sites as national monuments. It has been used by sixteen Presidents from Roosevelt to Obama. Only three Presidents did not use the Act, they were (no surprises here) Nixon, Regan, HW Bush. You might be surprised to learn that Bush 43 did utilize the Act in the last weeks of his administration to establish three marine monuments that protect some 125 million acres of habitat, history, and beauty in America’s Pacific territorial waters.
The Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll marine national monuments are a treasure of coral reefs, whales, sea turtles, dozens of bird species, hundreds of varieties of fish, the deepest spot one can go without burrowing into the planetary crush, and weird thermal formations that support the toughest life forms on Earth.
"W" penned the the largest endowment since the Act’s inception. Congress too has the power to declare national monuments, and has done so 40 times. Congress has also redesignated 32 national monuments as national parks.
More recently, we are discovering these places of enormous and enduring value are not so big and while preserved, they are like island unto themselves. They do little to protect the migration corridors of the animals who inhabit their surrounds and are encroached on all sides by people and pollution. Yet, it never fails that every time a President protects a wilderness, there rises a great outcry from corporations and people poised to fillet it wide for exploitation.
President Roosevelt's words, though uttered 100 years ago, remain relevant and true. "It is high time to realize that our responsibility to the coming millions is like that of parents to their children, and that in wasting our resources we are wronging our descendants."
|Uncle Sonny in 2013|
On the eve of his birthday, it is fitting to remember my Uncle Sonny. We had a conversation over pig's feet (as we were wont to do), in the last year of his life. In many ways, I was closer to him than my own father - and I adored him. “I’m looking for ways to build wealth for my family," he said. "I have plenty of money but I’m looking to build a legacy of wealth that renews itself and lasts well beyond my lifetime.” I was struck by his generosity and long look toward the future. His words continue to inspire me.
And so, with a stroke of my own pen, I, like Teddy Roosevelt and most US Presidents that followed, add to the sacred lands and rich endowment entrusted for all Americans. I join the LeConte Society, that cadre designating Yosemite Conservancy in their estate. While it is not so great a gift, Yosemite will share equally in my estate - as a rightful heir.
Those who know me, know my love for our National Parks. In my retirement and before I retreat to my home in the middle of the sea, I intend to visit the half upon which my eyes have yet to gaze. I am missing large swaths of the midwest and northeast. Having lived in Alaska, I’ve covered much of that ground. Lucky me!
I recently hosted a group of single, childless friends to remember a single, childless and fallen companion. We shared remembrances, discussed aging alone, community connection and involvement, and creating a life that supports healthy aging. Without the common defaults of spouse, kids and grandkids, I see healthy aging as a deliberate and created act. Visiting National Parks is part of my healthy aging strategy. Adopting a National Park catapults me into something much larger than my small, everyday walkabout.
Within National Parks is room - glorious room - room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve. ~ Enos Mills, naturalist and force behind the Rocky Mtn NP
What are your healthy aging strategies? I’d love to hear.
ps ~ contact me for an excellent and economic trust attorney.