Friday, January 1, 2010

How I spent my Christmas* Vacation**

A week after I returned from Antigua, my aunt emailed me and said she's coming to town.  She has a love affair with the desert that I am happy to indulge.  I signed on as the Official Chauffeur of Tucson '09 and, last week, took myself off to the car rental agency to start my time in her service.

There's a certain mentality to island living.  It's not something you'd really understand unless you've lived through it yourself.  I'm told it's similar to coming from a small town, but I know it's more severe when you're from an island.  Island living requires sacrifice, you get beauty, you get a strong sense of community, you get safety (usually) and you get mega bragging rights.  People are always jealous you're from an island.

In return you give up lots of things too.  Space, for one.  The underlying knowledge of having the ability to get in your car and BE elsewhere is another.  But one of the biggest sacrifices is variety.  In a large manufacturing country like the US, variety is an expected and taken for granted option.  If you can't get a product in one store, you can get it in another.  If you don't like the colour or size or price, you can shop around until you find exactly what you want.  When you're on an island, you don't have that option.

Some inventory manager somewhere decides how many choices of deodorant a person actually needs.  Some international treaty written to protect interests that you've never cared about says that you can only get one choice of apples at your dinner table.  Some lazy customer service manager says, "we don't ship internationally," and you're screwed. The hell of it is, you can't shop around.  There's no going to the CVS because Albertsons costs too much, or hitting up Target because Kohls didn't have the lipstick colour you want.

What does any of this have to do with my vacation?  Shopping, baby!  Taking an islander to a Walgreens is like taking a kid to her first candy store.  You get joy in just watching her eyes light up.  You step back and let her take all the time she wants to poke around and discover new things they've only seen on TV.  You let her wallow in variety.  After 45 mins or so, you remind her that there are many other stores full of stuff where she can spend her money, and you happily escort her out while carrying half the bags.

But that was just the wallet-breaking part of the trip.  There were other parts, like restaurants, and driving.  So much driving...  But the best part was this:

And this:

Hikes through the scenic Sonoran Desert with a water bottle and camera in hand.  My 67 year old aunt was a trooper, and I tried to immerse her in as much wildness as her ankles would endure.  We sucked in untold gallons of fresh air.  We collected rocks.  We shivered under an indifferent winter sun, and it was wonderful.

I don't often have the chance to marvel at nature with someone who is willing to notice the small things with me.  We hunted baby saguaro, and found dozens of pincushion cacti instead.  We picked flecks of mica off innocent rocks, and, when Nature wasn't looking, we snapped her picture hundreds of times.

My aunt doesn't drive in the States, so I was responsible for every mile we covered, all 688 of them.  Through backroads and mining country, a trip down to Tombstone and dirt roads in the middle of the Saguaro National Park, I consulted the GPS and then happily get us lost knowing we'd always find our way back.

I love the desert.  I'm so blessed to live in it.

Just Finished: Seize The Night 
Just Finished: Hush, Hush 
Just Finished: Letters From Home 
Just Finished: Rock Star 
Just Finished: Moon Called  
Currently Reading: Wild Card 
Currently Reading: Wolf Tales VI

*I don't actually celebrate Christmas.  Neither does my aunt, we had to remind ourselves many times why businesses were closed, or roads were busy.  It's odd being a non-Christian during the holidays.

**Vacation? From what exactly?  I've been chronically unemployed for years.  But anytime I'm living out of a suitcase and sleeping away from my cat, I consider it a vacation from my life.  If only I could engineer a vacation from myself one of these days.


Nobody said...

i have dreams of someday living somewhere that doesn't get colder than 40 degrees. if it wasn't for all the scary bugs and scaly things, i'd live there already... your Christmas vacation sounds amazing. the pictures are beautiful. :)

Janiece said...

Which island? I've lived in the Philippines and on Oahu, and I (vaguely) know what you mean. Hawaii has more shopping than you can shake a stick at, RP? Not so much.

And yes, I think my own emotional turmoil with Christmas is directly related to my not being a Christian. It means so much to everyone else, and I'm fast approaching a place where I really couldn't care less. I might feel better if I'd just quit 'celebrating' and ignore it.

Venus Vaughn said...

Nobody, I often said of Tucson, "It's a place where even the plants will try to kill you."


That's a saguaro closeup. Don't even get me started on the jumping cholla. (If that link doesn't work, you can see it here: )

I'm pleased that in my 9 years living there I never encountered a scorpion in the wild--or even worse, in my bed--but I did see a snake and a tarantula. I wasn't very adventurous in seeking them out though.

Janiece> Me and the fam are from Bermuda. I guess I was mostly talking about small islands rather than places that number their population in the hundreds of thousands or millions.

If you have an option of giving up on the fuss of Christmas, I totally recommend doing so. It's a bit bewildering to watch people tie themselves up in stressful knots over something that's supposed to be "fun." And the whole religious aspect is practically ludicrous at this point. As far as I'm concerned that whole "peace and goodwill towards mankind" thing shouldn't be reserved for a particular season.
...Though there's nothing wrong with a stabby automatic weapons rant every now and then too ;-) ...

Christine said...

Hi Venus,
Your thoughts on island living vs. living in a "large manufacturing country like the US" are very insightful. I really enjoy reading your perspective. And the part about taking your aunt shopping in Walgreens? Too cute.

Also, your photos of the dessert are very beautiful. Again... I like your perspective. ;)

Wishing you the best in 2010.