I was raised on the banks of a small lake and a meandering stream in a maple and pine forest of upstate New York. What a place for an idyllic childhood! Picking the sweetest strawberries in the summer morning. Comparing myself to the tree that was planted when I was born, amazed how it towered over me by the time I was 6. Watching quietly, patiently, the black and yellow larvae of Monarch butterflies eating milkweed leaves and then trying the bitter, sticky milk myself.
But I left. I came to Tucson to find something. And there is nothing like arriving in Tucson on a hot summer’s night after a cross-country trip. Nothing says home more than stepping off that plane or out of that car and feeling the impossible warmth, the enveloping caress of Tucson. Nothing feels like home more than the Sonoran Desert within which it lies. Tucson smells like rain and earth, blue open sky, burritos and coffee, and I love it. It feels like everyone here gets it, we live here together because we get how important it is to wake up and look at the snow tipped Catalinas in the winter. We get how lucky we are to live in a place with rich cultural diversity. We get how cool it is that we are blue in a red state. Our place. My place.
But now, the fear and sadness that unites my place is thick and visceral and makes my heart pound. Should I send my son to school today? Can I go grocery shopping? How do I answer when he asks me “How do you know he will be locked up forever?” “How do you know she will be ok?” I want to leave my place. It has been inexplicably hurt.
Then I know. I can’t. Because I found my place when I came here, and to leave it now would be to abandon all it has given me over twenty years. Stay. Nurture it. Love it. Love each other. Thank-you Tucson, for reminding me that life is so very precious.