I believe most of us are already familiar with the expression “bloom where you’re planted.” A few weeks ago, shortly after dawn, while on a walk, I asked myself this very question: did I successfully bloom where I was planted?
In all the places in the entire world I could have picked, I can’t say Southern Arizona was even on my radar. Most of my time here, I have felt like a fish out of water. Nonetheless, here I am.
Every summer, when this place seems hotter than Hades, I — once again — ask myself what in the blue blazes I am doing here. Me, the girl who was raised by the sea.
The Arizona Desert
When the three digits temps arrive, I sulk….a lot.
I know for most people winter is the dreaded time of the year when everything seems to die, the nights are long, and the temperatures frigid.
For us, Southern Arizonans, we welcome winter with open arms. Winter heralds cool — but still pleasant — temperatures and a beautiful blue sky. We can eat outside and don’t have to battle the snow (what is snow again?). We can still don shorts and flip-flops. Winter is a bit of heaven.
Furthermore, winter enables me to go for long walks with nothing but capris and a T-shirt (sometimes a light sweater) without any worries about rattlesnakes or heatstroke.
However, as soon as Christmas passes, I feel my spirit deflating in anticipation of the return of summer. Apprehension pools in my belly as it always shows up sooner than I want it too. In truth, I am never quite ready for the blazing sun which rather than lift my mood, makes me melancholy, if not depressed.
Arizona is hot!
Last year, Sky Harbor International Airport — in Phoenix — grounded all flights because of extreme heat conditions. Gratefully, this occurred during the same time my son was getting married in blessed — cooler — Colorado. So last year, I escaped the clutches of Hell (yes, a bit dramatic I know but, nonetheless correct from where I stand).
My Life Pre-Sunny Arizona
I was born in a small — and beautiful — town in France. Much older than the United States, it has a rich and convoluted history. It is also a harbor town where 80 degrees was considered a “heat wave.” Granted the humidity made 80 seem much hotter. However, it was green, and there was water!
I am still a beach girl at heart, no doubt about it.
I spent my summers by the sea A place that is still one of my all-time favorite places on Earth, not only because of its rugged and breathtaking beauty, and its transparent — albeit ice-cold — blue water, but because of the memories this place evokes in me.
In my childlike mind, I was The Mistress of this world, and my territory was hallowed ground. It is only out of kindness and benevolence that I “allowed” tourists and residents alike to lives on these shores. In my young fertile mind, this was MY domain.
I still feel very protective of this beautiful place as if I left behind some mystical energetical imprint of sorts.
But, here we are again as summer draws near, and I feel the now familiar yearning growing inside of me. I long for the ocean — or even just water — and for “my” childhood kingdom.
A few years ago, out sheer desperation, I fabricated a pond out of an old bathtub we had discarded after remodeling a bathroom. No more than 12 inches of water, some pond plants, a handful of mosquito fish, and the master of these shallow waters, a goldfish. He was a mere one-and-a-half inch Wal-Mart $.99 goldfish who has now grown to a good four inches or more.
Catching a steak of scarlet on occasion as he swims the depths of his domain never fails to bring me joy. I receive so much happiness from a dollar red goldfish doing what he was created to do. I doubt he is aware of my affection for him (or her?). No matter.
Yes, this is my life.
May I now say I bloomed where I was planted?
When I think of summer, my answer would have to be; I don’t think so.
Why Am I Here?
Why am I here then? That’s a pointed and fair question.
I am here because I fell in love.
However, falling in love, I first came to the United States because I was drawn here. Yes, this is still my best answer.
And, before I stayed for the man I love, I immigrated for love. Indeed, I fell in love with the United States during my first visit. For whatever reason, I felt at home on this side of the Atlantic. It was not so much the grandiose landscape of this vast country — much different than my birth country — which appealed to me; it was the people.
After high-school, I applied to Northern Arizona University, was accepted and traveled over 5,000 miles to attend the fall semester. No small feat for being the first one to finish High School.
Upon arriving, I became quickly acquainted with culture shock. Come to find out that “visiting” and “living in” are not the same thing. I was the odd woman out for obvious and not so obvious reasons.
Beyond being a foreigner, I wasn’t a party girl. Apparently, this fact was limiting to my fitting-in. I knew no one, and I couldn’t speak the language very well. For these reasons and also because my roommate went home on weekends, I spent a large part of the day napping hoping to make the time go by faster. My freshman year was HARD.
Additionally, I had no car and walked everywhere. Grocery shopping was done on foot, both ways. I carried my groceries in a backpack. The distance from my dorm room to the nearest grocery store — a Safeway — was not huge (a tad over a mile). A pretty walk in sunny weather. However, it seemed more prolonged in inclement weather — such as snow — loaded with a week’s worth of groceries.
One time, in the Fall, out of desperation and sheer boredom, I walked all the way from campus to a craft store in North Flagstaff.
Fall and Spring were my favorite times of the year.
Northern Arizona is magnificent, robed in its Autumn colors. The air is crisp and fresh, and the sky is azure blue.
When going to an early morning class, I loved sniffing the air pregnant with the aroma of burning wood from many fireplaces. To this day, I adore the smell of burning wood.
Spring was no less breathtaking as Nature came out of its snowy slumber.
During these times, I did wonder if Flagstaff would be “my forever home.”
However, life threw me a curveball, and I had to quickly relocate to another city. I had two choices; Phoenix and Tucson. In fact, it was no choice at all. I still equated Phoenix as the gates of Hell which left me an easy pick: Tucson.
A Place to Bloom?
Tucson was supposed to be a place of rest until I sorted my life out. No huge surprise when my plans met an unplanned detour.
Once again, I had left everything which was familiar to me.
Moreover, I left without anything. Even though I now owned a small two-door car, I could not transport my meager furnishings. Neither could I afford movers. A friend planned to bring my few belongings over the weekend. This meant, for five days, I slept in an empty apartment on the floor. No electronics, no nothing.
I would go to bed soon after work for I knew no one and could not manage to find my way around a town so vast (this was pre-GPS). In truth, I was a bit catatonic.
In short order, I found a new normal, and I made some friends, Life marched on as it always does.
After — barely — surviving my first Southern Arizona summer with a black car no less. I tried to move back “up north.” A two-month stint in a fancy resort, waiting tables, made me realize I was NOT waitress material, not because waiting tables was beneath me. The job I liked well enough. It was the jerks who treated people like sheeple I couldn’t stomach. I had only three choices:
- Put up with it and cry…no thanks.
- Lose my cool and be fired…no good.
- Quit and move back to Tucson…the obvious choice.
Bloom where you’re planted?
I don’t think so.
I can’t say I was blooming. I was just happy to be surviving.
Bloom Where You are Planted and Love
A few days after my return to Tucson, I met my husband.
I know some say there is no such thing as love at first sight and this may well be true for them. For me, the story is vastly different. Hubby and I both knew within days we were meant to be together and twenty-five happy years of marital bliss proves us right.
Upon our marriage, because I was not content leaving in Tucson, we did have some discussions about moving. Although my husband is a third generation Arizonan, he was open to the idea of relocating.
However, after much dialogue, we decided to stay.
Actually, the final decision was made quickly and easily.
I was raised around extended family members: aunts, cousins, and grandparents, and I felt these relationships were an essential component of my life. I wanted my future children to have this same experience. Staying meant they would have that opportunity as my husband’s entire family lived in Arizona.
Has time proven this decision was worth it?
Go to Part II.