I drove into Tucson at sunset on my daughter Brook’s 25th birthday, Sept. 25, 2002.
“I did it,” I said to myself. “I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I did it.” I had driven cross-country from Southwest Harbor, Maine, left my much-loved community and home for sunshine and adventure at age 56 (mostly sunshine).
What I did next was head to the closest motel off Interstate 10 and go to sleep. But first, I put on a vintage, pink lace nightgown, which friends gave me as a going-away present. Who knew what excitement awaited me in the big city, right?
Guess that’s another story.
What did I discover in the big city?
Tucson, with its population of more than 800,000 people is for me a giant place, coming from an island of under 10,000 hardy year-round inhabitants.
It feels like a small city. No cars surge by on interstates within the city limits.
It’s surrounded by natural beauty, a protective circle of desert and mountains, which I love.
Tucson has a liberal, laid-back bent. I’ve been invited to attend “Drinking Liberally,” where like-minded political fanatics can rant and drink freely. I’ve never gone but it’s nice to know that the group exists.
There are hidden book-lovers in Tucson, more than 100,000 who emerge from their homes every March for the spectacular Tucson Festival of Books, which I also love.
I don’t like hibernating like a desert rat in the heat of summer. Luckily, we’re in Maine coolness for a good part of it, yet even a month or two indoors is too much for me. I could do my hiking at 5 or 6 a.m. Doesn’t appeal to me whine whine…
Education — as I knew it teaching in Maine — is nonexistent here. At least 30 kids per public school classroom. Arizona, shamefully, ranks 5oth in per-pupil spending. Teacher friends must buy their own tissues, pencils and notebooks. (Watch for my Teacher Hero piece on Nanette Longchamp, one incredible educator, in a December Tucson Weekly.)
Equality of education is the backbone of society, and here, it’s mostly been tossed aside leaving fixed black and white views collected on Fox News. That’s also another story.
Tucson loves its local musicians (I often think about dancing more). The arts are not a luxury in Tucson, except in the schools.
As a former journalist, this speaks to me. (Thanks to Deborah Hilary Sussman)
“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.” — William Carlos Williams
Seeing beauty in this fucked-up world, whether I’m in Tucson or Southwest Harbor, is what sustains me.