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I am celebrating my town’s birthday along with thousands of other
people in Tucson, Arizona. It is a month long birthday party. The
cyber party starts today and runs through the end of the month.
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.
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.
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
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.
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….