In the Land of my Grandmother


My grandma was one of those spicy, sassy old women - and she didn’t take shit from anyone. She was a bonafide cat lady, with more Siamese than I could count and a couple of dogs to boot, so trips to visit her in Tucson were my kind of heaven. I loved to get up early, before the sun turned the sand lava-hot, and walk the perimeter of the house with the dogs. Those mornings, I had all the time in the world to look and wonder as the new day pushed back the shadows and set every cactus spine aglow. I spent my days in the little backyard pool or stretched out on the cool floor tiles, stealing kisses from every animal that passed within arms reach, and at night my grandma would cook - all the while talking about the javelinas and coyotes that roamed the desert just beyond her back fence. 

She taught me to shake out my shoes in the morning, just in case of scorpions. And she was always reminding me to take a least a small drink from every water fountain that I encountered (just in case). Once, my grandma told me about her love for horses. How, when she was a girl, her best friend had a horse and she wanted one so badly that she saved and saved for one of her own - but just when she had saved enough, her friend’s horse was found dead in the pasture. And my grandma told me then that she decided to spend her savings on clothes instead.

I feel like that’s how our relationship was for the most part - she and I had so much in common, but we never quite got to understand each other. For a long time, I thought that she must have told me that story just to make conversation. She knew I loved horses and wanted to say something on the subject, even if the ending was…not so horsey after all. But it’s a pretty clear memory and I can recall her face, caught up in the telling. And I think she was really trying to tell me that she wished things had been different, that maybe she should have gotten her own horse anyways. I choose to think that she was telling me she hoped I’d someday realize that dream for both of us, but she didn’t have the words in that moment. 

My grandma passed while I was in my first semester of college, and at the time I was so overwhelmed by my classes that I wasn’t sure my feet would ever find purchase. While the rest of my family went down to Tucson to clean out her house, I stayed behind so I wouldn’t miss any school. Even now, that decision remains one of my deepest regrets - I wish I had taken the time to mourn and find a little closure.

My family brought back mountains of her cookbooks and boxes of photos that, in the months that followed, changed my whole perception of who my grandma had been. My whole life, I’d never known that she wanted to be an artist…but my dad had stories and quite a few of her art supplies for proof. I didn’t really get to know my grandma until after she was gone - and getting to know her through the things she’d left behind, the objects and the stories, both soothed my heart and made it raw once more.

It’s not something that I talked about last year, but going down to Tucson for the gem show was my first time being back since my grandma’s death. I could feel her in the saguaros and in the sun, and we even made a trip out to her house on the edge of the city. I knew the roads by heart. The parts of me that were still hurting started to heal on that trip, and this past year I’ve felt better for it.

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Our Tucson trip this year felt different. I could still feel my grandma, but I also felt like the places seen and the memories made this time around were all mine. Eric and I ate well, sorted through what was surely thousands of stones, and came away smiling. We picked oranges straight from the tree, warm from the Arizona sun, and talked for hours about the things we’d like to accomplish in the next few months. It was a whirlwind - though simultaneously deeply refreshing. 


For the record (just in case anyone besides me has ever wondered) : it is possible to go to the Tucson gem show when you’re on a budget. While I definitely had a little more cash set aside this year, there wasn’t a penny to spare on stones that I didn’t absolutely love. Which was actually a really good thing for me because, when confronted with trays and trays of gorgeous stones, I tend to get a little lost between what I like and what I think might sell. My intention this trip (in keeping with the intentions I’ve set for the year in regards to intuitive making) was to tune into my intuition and only buy the stones that called to my heart, with the hope that they will inspire me to make joyfully in the months to come. 


I do wish we’d gotten to spend a little more time out in the wilds, in the land of my grandmother, but I’ll take the moments we were given. The vast openness flashing by, on our way from here to there. The grit of desert sand on my hands. Sunrise in the Catalinas. The calls of cactus wrens, atop the tallest saguaros. Till next time, Tucson.