Friday, May 3, 2024

End of the snowbird season

Two days ago we flew home from Tucson, where we’ve spent the last six months, to Seattle, our home airport. We’ll spend the summer in Brier at our family home. This is a twice-a-year ritual for Art and me and our Siberian forest cat, Dutchy.

I’m looking back at the last weeks of our snowbird season with nostalgic and a bit of sadness. Our life in Tucson is busy with activities and friends, mostly in sunny weather. 

This year I was too busy; I had so much going on that I had to drop two discussion groups. One was current events on Wednesday afternoon; the other was Great Decisions (foreign policy topics) on Thursday afternoon. Both of these groups were interesting, but they cover issues too large for me to make a difference. I read emails from the Washington Post and the New York Times and Atlantic each day, plus CNN and NPR online. So I’m pretty well informed. Sometimes I think of solutions to the big issues of the world, but most of them required egoless leadership, which we don’t have much of these day. 

Instead, I played handbells on Mondays, plus once a month at the “nondenominational” church service. I volunteered at the resort clinic on Tuesdays. This year I took two Spanish classes on Wednesday mornings. I’m a volunteer and a Board member of the Inn of Southern Arizona, which serves asylum seekers coming across the border from Mexico. Many of our guests are from Central and South America, but these days they’re also from Haiti and Senegal, Ukraine and Russia, China and India. For those arrivals we have Google Translate. My goal is to be able to speak Spanish to make a connection with some of our guests. Thursdays were open once I dropped Great Decisions. That was my paperwork day. And Fridays a group of friends went to dinner somewhere in Tucson. We left the resort at 4 and were home by 7. Big night on the town!

Back in the Pacific Northwest, I’m hoping to take it easy. To sleep more, read more, relax more. I’m going to try to limit myself to one out-of-the-house activity each day. And how much time I spend online. I’m hoping the summer will be a respite for me.

I guess that’s up to me, though, isn’t it?

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Girls' trip to San Diego

I had some timeshare points needing to be used this year, and The Inn at the Park in San Diego looked like a practical way to spend them. I have three good friends at the Tucson RV park where we spend the winter. Everyone thought four days away sounded like a good idea. I asked at the start of planning who would be willing to share a bed, and who would be okay with a sleeper sofa. Since we're all older, everyone said no to both options! So I reserved a suite for our "together" events and a studio for the extra beds. That worked out very well.

We're all retired. Shelley was a nurse, Pam a marketing professional, JoAnne a small business owner, and me an IT person. We brought our skills of coordination to the planning. All in all, it was easy.

We laughed a lot of the time on the six-hour drive. Almost ran out of gas because we forgot to check the fuel gauge, so we ended up paying $6.97 a gallon in an out-of-the-way place in the middle of the desert. We had three drivers so no one got too tired. 

We found the Inn at the Park with no difficulty. We parked for free in front of the hotel for three days, using Uber to get around the city on our explorations. We got through the timeshare presentation in about 15 minutes. We ate Mexican, Thai and American comfort food, plus the bounty of snacks we'd brought along. 

On our first sightseeing day we took a Hop-on, Hop-off trolley around San Diego. Got off first at Little Italy to enjoy the Wednesday farmers' market there. Thought about getting off at the USS Midway museum along the waterfront, but decided against it because we were getting a little hungry. Crossed the Coronado Bridge.

Got off the trolley at the Coronado Hotel across the long and beautiful Coronado Bridge and had a leisurely lunch.

We walked over two miles for the day. Nice and slow, for the two of us who used canes.

On our second day we explored two museums in Balboa Park. The first was Museum of Us. Pretty interesting place! Here's how the webpage describes it: "Located in Balboa Park, on the unceded ancestral homelands of the Kumeyaay people, the Museum of Us presents exhibitions and programs that address a vast range of histories and cultures, fostering conversation, self-reflection, and interpersonal connections."  

The Mayan exhibit was curated by museum experts and Mayan scholars, with sections on colonialism and its impact on the Mayan culture. The history I learned as a kid has been transformed into the reality of European exploration. That is a good thing.

For over a decade, millions of people from all over the world have been anonymously sharing their secrets with Frank Warren, founder of the community art project, PostSecret. Each postcard submission is a unique work of art handmade by people who needed to share and release their secret into the world. I loved this exhibit.

In a side room, a young girl was writing a secret of her own to contribute to the collection.

A third exhibit was about immigration at the US southern border. A map of Arizona showed where bodies had been recovered, and the toe tags for those bodies hung from the map.

A side museum across the street discussed and displayed stories of cannibalism, which allows observers to consider whether they would be able to participate in such an activity if the circumstances were dire. 

We finished off the day with a Gaslamp District crime walking tour. On this second day of exploration, we walked another two miles. There was a time when it would have seemed like a short distance, but as we get older it's more of an effort, influenced by individual aches and pains.

On our drive home, nearly six hours in intermittent rain, I thought about the value of friendships. Growing up as a military brat, I moved a lot and never had the opportunity to be part of a "group of girls". That's what this trip felt like. We have new things to remember and laugh about. Always a good thing!

Sunday, February 25, 2024

A Matter of Perspective

When I was 23, near the beginning of my first marriage, my husband John got inducted into the Army. After boot camp in South Carolina (when I lived in California) and Officer Candidate School in Georgia (where I went with him and lived in a trailer with another couple) he was transferred to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas). We spent three years there - in the high desert, with its arid climate and wind. From time to time we'd make the two-day drive to California, where our families lived. That trip was mostly through desert. I remember being depressed during that time, and I hated the brown vegetation of the desert. It was like death and dying was all around me.

When I was 53, near the beginning of my second marriage, my husband Art and I were taking a road trip from Washington State, where we live, to somewhere across the desert. I don't even remember what our destination was. But I remember commenting, "I hate the desert. Everything is dead."

And Art said, "No, the desert isn't dead. It's just land held in reserve. All it needs is water." By that time, I hadn't been depressed for years. I heard him. And when I looked out the car window I could imagine spring, when the desert sprouts green after the rains. 

And now that I am 75, I spend half the year in the desert, at our little home in Tucson. I notice the many varieties of native plants which have evolved to survive and thrive in places where the rain falls only rarely.

Last week I went with friends to a local art gallery. I had no plans to buy anything, but I found a photograph I could not resist:

It's called "Blue Spigot".We put it up in the living room of our Tucson place. 

My perspective has changed in the last 50 years. Now, I'm grateful for the desert.