Paul and Kitty have known Micky Snir on the Internet for several years, mainly as a result of a common interest in life-extension, but it was not until his April 2003 post to MoreLife Yahoo that he became extremely interesting to us - he was seeking to understand how certain concepts of the MoreLife Interpersonal section could be used in certain aspects of his relationship with his wife. This was when the Self-Sovereign Individual Project was only in its earliest development stage and was not yet ready for website unveiling. Micky has been an active thinking commenter and questioner of Paul's Self-SIP writings over the past year, providing Paul with some excellent feed-back and examples. Part of this was with the real-life picture Micky gave MoreLife Yahoo readers as he described how he utilized some of the concepts from the Natural Social Contract into a family incident last Fall - "The Pissing Incident".
Before Paul and Kitty left Toronto for the winter's Arizona stay, we had invited Micky and his family to visit us for as many as 10 days at a time of their choosing during February or March. A contractural agreement of understanding of hosts and guests was created and fine tuned with additional input from another friend, Jackemeyer (just plain "Jack"), also a contributing commenter on SelfSIP writings at MoreLife Yahoo who lived in the Phoenix area and had made several short visits to our home since last summer, when he moved from Indiana. Micky's visit would enable us to have our first actual "Freeman Society" meeting, and we were all looking forward to it.
For a week before the Snirs' arrival, Arizona - and all of the southwest - was inundated with rains, and the forecast for almost all of their 5 day stay was for rain also. Coming from Washington state, where sun is only prevalent in the summer months, it was understandable that Micky's wife Achiad (Adi for short) and at least the older children (Yaam - 10, Rom - 8, and Ofek - 5) would want to see sunshine in the Arizona desert. Kitty was concerned that they would be sadly disappointed and hoped that the plans for an outing to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum for Tuesday 2/22 would at least not have to be cancelled.
The Snirs arrived at our house from the airport in Phoenix with their rental van near 11:00pm on Sunday night 2/20/05. Jack had arrived a couple hours earlier and after introductions were made, Kitty showed Adi and the two older kids all the arrangements in our finished basement, which was entirely theirs during the stay. Settling the two younger ones was a bit more difficult since Ofek and youngest Shoshan (3 years) had fallen asleep on the hour drive to the house and were a bit fussy in the strange surroundings. Even so, Jack, Paul, Micky and Adi (with Ofek and Shoshan present or requiring attention downstairs) and Kitty got in a couple of hours of conversation before agreeing that we all could use some sleep. The next morning when Kitty arose about 9:30am the kids were quietly in the living room (where Jack had slept on the floor - his favorite spot in front of the fireplace) Yaam sitting reading, Rom looking out the mostly sunny window, and Jack beginning to show them his talent of balloon twisting - a sure attention getter for kids, and some adults too :>) Even the two youngest were feeling more comfortable when they came upstairs on their own shortly afterwards and were mesmerized by Jack. Immediate search for food was not, Kitty learned the practice by these children; in a host's house they were expected to occupy themselves until their mother arose to organize breakfast. Actually they were more interested in going outside when Adi arose. This first day was spent just getting to know each other and for Adi and the kids to become familiar with the immediate surroundings. A trip into town in the early afternoon by Paul, Kitty, Adi (Shoshan too) all in the van with Micky driving was done so that Adi and Micky could obtain foodstuffs for their family - with a brief tour of Casa Grande of course.
When Micky, Adi, Shoshan, Paul and Kitty arrived back from shopping in town, we saw that Jack and the 3 oldest had had a fine time balloon blowing and twisting. Micky (those are his hands in photo) gets a demo from Rom.
Kitty didn't make any further use of her camera on Monday which before the excursion into town consisted of a tour for Adi and the kids of the front yard with its various plants, quite different from those in the Seattle, Washington area, but with many similarities to some in Israel from where the family originally moved some 4 years ago. The sky was partly cloudy but the distant mountains to the southeast and southwest were perfectly visible in the clear air - Adi remarked how much of what she saw reminded her of Israel.
After the shopping trip, there was a dinner of super spaghetti - a chock full chicken and vegetable sauce over spaghetti squash, a new item to the family. Conversations were virtually non-stop and moved to the living room, where the kids either listened or played quietly on the floor, occasionally asking a question of their father in Hebrew when they didn't understand an English word or phrase being used. It was another late night of discussions between Jack, Micky, Paul, Adi and Kitty but sufficiently early so that the outing to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) could get started by mid-morning. Although the weather forecast was for showers, Kitty doubted, based on Monday's good outcome, that precipitation would be a major factor.
We actually got our caravan of 2 vehicles on its way about 10:30am and arrived at ASDM west of Tucson a little over an hour later - Paul accompanied Micky with Jack and the 3 oldest in the van and followed Kitty who drove our car with Adi and Shoshan. Although it had been several years since Kitty had been to the Desert Museum, she still remembered the "back way" which passed through the Saguaro National Park West giving everyone lots of scenery to enjoy.
In the ASDM parking lot, everybody piled out of the vehicles and Kitty hoped that the clouds wouldn't drop but maybe a sprinkle or two.
Before going through the front gates, the kids had to take a look at a major lizard display.
After Jack, Micky, Adi and the kids viewed the live snakes in their indoor displays - during which time Paul and Kitty noted the plants outside that were the same as in their yard - "the cave" was the next stop. The kids, including Adi with Shoshan and Paul and Kitty took the narrow and twisting route built to give the extra "feel" for "spelunking" (cave exploring).
Immediately outside the exit of the cave was a mining car and lots of small rocks that visitors were invited to go through comparing them to some much larger ones and others identified in a display of ones found in working mines in the surrounding Arizona areas.
A little further along was an area explaining fossils and included a "discover fossils" area for younger visitors. Yaam brushes away sand and dirt to see what she can see.
The mountain lion habitat is a favorite of all visitors to ASDM - its similarity to the actual local surroundings where it is native makes it so.
Direct gaze by the mountain lion - symbol of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum itself - is returned by at least Micky, Rom and Adi.
The mountain lion is definitely an animal of regal bearing even when not free to roam the desert at will.
The desert museum has numerous places to just sit and enjoy the view - and the company, as Jack and Yaam did for a few minutes.
A whitetail deer can be seen over Adi's shoulder and under Shoshan's chin.
The grey wolf, partially visible through the near plant growth, has the attention of Rom and Adi.
Actually Rom got a better view of the wolf than Kitty did with her camera. And what did the wolf "think" of those creatures on the other side of the fine strong wire between him (?her) and the brown fence?
The prairie dog habitat is another big favorite since these little critters are almost always active during the day - except when it's a real cold period. Food had just recently been put out and the occupants of this prairie dog "town" were making a meal of it. The holes and tunnels they build are considerably larger than those created by the many ground squirrels in our yard. And the squeaking sounds they make are at a lower pitch and more frequent and varied than those of ground squirrels we've observed.
Paul explains to Ofek why reaching out to the prairie dogs - as he had been doing - is not a good idea, and also requested by ASDM not to be done. Just looking keeps both prairie dogs and visitors safe.
Cat Canyon contains wild cats from the region - this one asleep in the rock nook may have been the bobcat. (Kitty didn't take notes when she photographed and is going by memory; she'd seen one near her home when on the way to work early one morning about 10 years previously. The ocelot was active but she didn't get a photo of it. It might have been the jaguarundi, but that's unlikely.)
Adi reads about the javelina at their large habitat while Shoshan gets a "lift" and a break from the long walk.
Shoshan catches a little "shut eye" on this very pleasant day - made more so by the breaks in the direct sunshine and cool temperature. Adi after reading up on javelinas located several in the large habitat.
Adi has located and pointed out one of the coyotes in their large habitat, sunning himself on a distant rock.
The panoramic view also got everyone's attention.
With Yaam and Rom, Kitty strolled through the Cactus Gardens but didn't make use of her camera. The three of them were too busy noting the many different kinds, some of which Kitty and Paul have on their property.
Rom, like most other visitors, is fascinated by the antics of the river otters. Free-flowing water is only visible in Kitty and Paul's area after heavy rains, but can be seen more often in other parts of the Arizona-Sonoran desert, so we're told.
Everyone was pretty hungry as we reached the Ironwood Terrace Restaurant. We made it in just "under the wire" of their 3:00 closure and enjoyed a tasty and much needed meal. At this point in the day, Paul and Kitty mentioned to Micky and Adi that we would gain more from our time together if the conversations between their family members (except understandably for 3 year old Shoshan) were in English rather than Hebrew. Micky and Adi hadn't realized that much was being lost to us and immediately began to use English exclusively and to remind the children, if they forgot, to use English. (The day before, Micky had learned from Paul, Kitty and Jack that 5 year-old Ofek understood and spoke more English than he, his father, had thought. Despite the fact that the children are home schooled in Hebrew - with Yaam only this year attending a formal English-speaking school - and that the family had been speaking mainly Hebrew, Ofek had picked up quite a bit of the local language.)
With everyone tanked up again, we were renewed and ready to take on the aviaries and gardens.
We backtracked a bit to the main walk-in aviary
Adi and Shoshan enjoy the view and song from the colorful yellow bird just above them.
The aviary is filled with heavy growth - a home free of predators for bird occupants that are representative of the native population in this desert area. There were numerous ones that we see on our property but here we were able to get much closer since the birds seemed quite used to the human visitors.
One or more birds had everyone's attention here, but Kitty couldn't find any when examining this photo.
Birds fly freely, scamper around the ground (across walkways and behind walls), make nests and raise young all within view of human visitors.
Kitty's favorite area of the ASDM was - and still is - the prepared gardens. Micky and Adi voiced surprise many times that the desert of Arizona had so many beautiful plants, some of which had similar counterparts in Israel. Similarities between "old world" and "new world" cacti is actually part of at least one display elsewhere in the ASDM - an area that Kitty doesn't think was specifically pointed out to Micky and Adi. There's an enormous amount to see at ASDM and part of one day just isn't enough.
Kitty considers herself lucky to have caught this hummingbird perched very close by on a very low branch in the Hummingbird Aviary, where 7 different native species live. These little birds were rarely still and even their hoverings were short.
Most other attempts (admittedly not an enormous number) to photograph these little birds at ASDM resulted in distant shots of questionable content or Monet-like paintings (vibrations at telescopic range).
Here's the "best" of Kitty's Monet-like hummingbird photos - taken at considerable distance without tripod and resulting in the vibration. Interesting effect but not if one wants to see what a hummingbird really looks like ;>)
The roundish mass at the center is a hummingbird nest. There was a bird in it at the time, but it's not possible to make her/him out in the photo itself. (There are some better photos of hummingbirds that Kitty took in our own yard.)
A last quick look at plants as we left ASDM shortly after 5pm, its regular closing time. It was a long full day, but Shoshan had renewed herself at lunch and remained on her feet till the drive back.
Finding the cars wasn't a problem - Kitty had the location memorized, and the parking lot was pretty much empty besides.
Making sure all the stragglers don't have any trouble following.
Vehicles straight ahead. The drive back didn't go quite as planned - Kitty was in the lead but didn't make sure that Micky was right behind her when leaving the parking lot. He hadn't remembered that she said to turn right instead of going back the same way and so the two cars got separated and didn't get back together again till both were back at Kitty and Paul's house. Adi (and Shoshan) got a view of part of Tucson itself but the rest of the family will have to wait till another visit to Arizona.
The remainder of the visit follows.....