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Tucson, Arizona has been my home for the past 22 years. My paternal grandfather was an Arizona snowbird way back in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He continued this practice of making his summer home in Mentone, Indiana and his winter home in Casa Grande, Arizona from then through shortly before his death as an octogenarian in the early-mid 1970s. I grew up in the middle of No-wheres-ville, Indiana on a small farm smack dab in the middle of "rented" out farm land that had no farm familes one them and thus no neighbor kids with whom to play. I was saved from an early death by boredom by reading and re-reading the copies of Arizona Highways (and National Geographic) for which a subscription was always sent by Grandpa as a Christmas Gift. I learned to love the magnificent and mind-boggling variation of people and places that was Arizona. By the time I was a teenager, I knew as much about Arizona as I did about the state in which I actually lived.
In spite of my appreciation of Arizona's beauty and diversity, I never thought much about moving to Arizona, or even visiting it until I was well into adulthood. My big trip as a young adult was a graduation gift to myself, a trip to Spain for a month during the summer after I graduated from college. But when my father passed away in 1986 I thought I should encourage my mother to accept her new life and status by traveling with her on Amtrak from Chicago to Los Angeles to visit her brother who lived in north of L.A. We stopped for a few days in Arizona, getting off in Flagstaff along the way, to visit my father's youngest sister who lived in near Prescott. I loved the scenery, and felt very comfortable visiting places I felt like I already knew, but I still didn't think about living in Arizona.
Then an old friend who had just returned to the U.S. after a stint as a post-doc in Zurich, Switzerland, got a position as an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson and invited me out for a visit. That was 23 years ago, and, as they say, "the rest is history." I fell in love both in and with the place. It is magical. Really. People have been using the Tucson Basin for a home at least part of the year for over 10,000 years. Permanent human settlements in the Old Pueblo go back at least 4,000 years.
My husband and I married in the open air in Lemmon Meadow on Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountain Range. Pink Flamingo lawn ornaments marked the trail through the forest to the wedding site. That day in June when it was 84 degrees F. where we were hitched at nine thousand and something feet in altitude, it was 117 degrees F down the mountain that day in the Tucson basin, that checks in at a mere 2300 ft. above sea level.
I have had a child here. I was stung by a scorpion when I was 4 months pregnant. I went on a gruesome Vindetta against any and all black widows with large shoe (for smashing), broom (for knocking down spiders out of webs) and a flashlight (for spotting the poisonous arachnids under the eaves without causing them to scurry away) every night after we move into the first only home we've owned here in the Old Pueblo until every last one of them was dead.
I was a Girl Scout leader and a Sunday School Teacher here. I headed a section that worked to protect and secure and to allow access to the treasures of antiquity in the Arizona State Museum for several years in the mid-1990s. The future of Tucson is amazing.
I helped my neighbor, my daughter's surrogate grandmother, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 105, get groceries and run errands after could no longer walk to the nearby stores as she had done every week since that day in 1928 when her husband carried her, his bride, accross the threshold to the home he had built for her and in which they both lived out the remainder of their days. I loved her, her stories and language out of another era. She talked about how handsome her husband was and how "frisky" they made each other feel. Her ancestors are honored in statuary in downtown Tucson. Her husbands family owned part of Sabino Canyon. Her family history became my native Tucsonan child's stories of her town. She and my mother who loved to visit us and Tucson became good friends.
There were rough times, sure. Pubic education which my husband and I both fiercely support was not an easy path to walk with our daughter who attended a "rough" middle school. My votes have been manipulated in voter fraud if you believe the very solid case that a friend exposed after he found discarded election paperwork outside a precinct almost 10 years ago. I became very politically aware and active here. I became even more progressive than I was when I was young because Tucson is such a wonderful and enlightened Mecca in the vast and barren conservative landscape that covers so much of this state.
After January 8th of this year when my huband walked into my study, in shock with tears in his eyes, and said "Gabby has been shot," well my heart ached and I knew I had to do something. I knew so many of the people who were shot that day; and thankfully and still say, in the present tense, that I continue to know most of them. My husband, a friend and I walked the few blocks to the hospital Gabby is my Congressperson in the House of Representatives. I've presented petitions in her office in Tucson and in D.C., many times. We don't often agree, but dammit she is my duly elected representative. Gabe had just begun working with my husband on bringing more green chemical companies to Tucson before he was killed. I worked with Jim who was in campus fire safety at the time when I was at the Arizona State Museum. Ron is a very good friend of a very good friend and we spent time together up in Oak Creek and Sedona at the Verde Valley Music Festival that was annually put on by Jackson Browne in the 1990s. And then there is Suzi. I figured out that Suzi was Ashleigh even before it was announced on BlogHer.com. I am a darn good internet sleuth. I began reading her before she was able to post again. I commented. I felt her desire and determination to do something for our community. She already had. It was up to her readers to do something; her hands were more than full with healing body, mind, and soul. We wanted the same thing she did, to show that people can come together and good can come out of even the most horrific events. This is doubly true for charmed places like Tucson that capture people's hearts forever even when other spendors in the state only captured their attention for a few days at most during a visit. Tucson is special.
I decided to repurpose my Casita Gaia blog as a community-centered blog, website and company focused on the amazing and wonderful progressive (in so many ways) town I have called home longer than I've called any other place home in my life. I went to the BlogHer|bet Conference to find out how to do this. I'm still working on the big plan for it, but I have the blog started and am carefully designing the website so as to fit my down the road plan for things to come on the site. One of these things is for Casita Gaia to host a cyber-neighborhood event for Tucson's Birthday. I hosted a virtual world event for it a couple years ago, but could not sustain it. But a cyber-neighborhood gathering, just like all the other neighborhood gatherings that take place at scores of spots all over Tucson during the month of August, a written celebration, a blogging celebration, a celebration of all that is the gentle and enlightened communtiy, the biggest small town in America, well, that was something I could host and do to give back to the community to encourage the civility and friendly relationships that are Tucson.
So I am hosting a blog carnival from today through the end of August and I hope you can come enjoy the celebration on other's blogs and share a story on your blog about Tucson, why you love Tucson, why you think it is a nifty place, or why you want to visit if you have not made it here as yet.
I am getting to know Suzi/Ashleigh in real life now and was so delighted when she agreed to participate in what I have come to call the Birthday Blog-o-rama. In fact her post yesterday is the first post I've linked to on the Casita Gaia site. This past month was to have been spent doing promo for this event, as well as attending BlogHer '11, according to the original plan, but, mid-July my son-in-law was terribly injured in a boating accident and ended up deciding that he had no choice but to have the totally non-functional foot amputated; my husband decided to take a sabbatical; my 21 year old daughter dumped her 100 lb. puppy off for us to puppy sit- for a month. Life happens. So I have extended the original date to 11 days of cyber celebration starting now! Please join us.
Once you grab your blog bling badge, like the badge near the top of this post, and post a piece of your own, be sure to let me know, so I can link to it from Casita Gaia, and so I can bundle all the links for the official Tucson Birthday site. The detailed "how-to" info is all in the post on my site.
We are a small group so far, but we are growing larger and this will be a piece of cake, literally and virtually, next year when we do it again, and the year after that when we do it again....