“Thankful for the Desert”
Not DESSERT, but the desert. As we went around the circle and shared what we were thankful for, this answer floored me. Since being in Tucson, I have yet to have found the love and appeal of the desert. I miss grass, trees (that aren’t palm trees), and right now- I am missing the snow. I had an instant connection to the mountains and the nature in Asheville and that has yet to be my experience here. I wonder what people see in a place that looks so stricken of life. My roommates all agree that the desert plants and animals are a sign of resiliency- and of hope. I guess I do see that (and I do love the saguaros). But with resiliency comes pain and it has been hard to recognize the power and beauty amongst so much loss and death.
It was 2 pm on Thursday before I even thought of it being “Thanksgiving”. It was weird not being around family and friends this year and unlike last year, a lot of my coworkers were out of town or traveling so we did not have many offers to “join in” on the holidays. However, a past board member, Julie, invited us as her guests to a small intentional community gathering. She had ties with a community, called “Sitting Tree”, who we later realized had ties with leadership in the YAV program and many YAV alumni had been guests or residents there. We all felt a little weird going but we loaded up the 7-layer-dip and the popcorn balls and decided it was time to experience more of Tucson. It ended up being a lot of fun, we met a lot of people, and honestly, Sitting Tree was a lot like- post YAV living. A small community of people committed to raising their families together and sharing in community meals and hardships. It was nice seeing adults that are “past this gap year thing” still living connected with one another and not letting life “take over”.
Even more than Thursday however, I felt Saturday was my true Thanksgiving. By happenstance, I was asked last week if I would be going to this year’s “Tamalada” with my boss’s family. This morning, I found out that it has been an ongoing tradition since 1996 (twenty-three years/ my age!) that this family gets together the first weekend after Thanksgiving (depending on the football schedule and who is playing) to make Tamales. It was everything I remembered about the holidays in my own house. The women are all clucking and talking and sharing memories while the men watch football and are in the garage or cooking the meat. Though the heritage of the tradition was different, there were definite roles and stages to this all-day process of tamale making. At 9:30 AM my roommates and I were out the door and on our way to my boss’s family home to join other co-workers and their families. We were there till 5 pm. It was a blast of going through pictures, meeting families and friends, and hearing stories of tradition. We even celebrated to “good health and cheer” with some tequila shots together on our way out the door. I didn’t realize before arriving, how much it meant to have my roommates meet my coworkers and to be with my coworkers this season.
This Thanksgiving showed me that thankfulness and holiday cheer really isn’t about where you are but about who you are with. Even though I wasn’t with everyone I wanted to be with and I missed out on a few meaningful family gatherings at home, I still had a lot of fun and felt the spirit of the holidays in a new way. The desert landscape might not personally seem welcoming and warm all the time – but Tucson does have the prettiest sunsets and some family charm. I remain grateful for this holiday season full of new friends and traditions.