Our morning started quietly, as we all assembled at the Atomic Ranch. Above, Doriot and Meryl, on their computers, in what now seems in retrospect like an oasis of calm.
Once we were all at the table, we talked for a while about what we hoped to accomplish, and each of us spoke for a bit about why we write, blog, photograph, or study the world around us, how we are or are not in the moment, and what we wanted to work on during this four days.
I was moved by how each of us, in our own way, are simply asking to notice more, to be present in the moments of our own lives, to reach out and connect. We vowed to work to break our automatic patterns, to open our eyes, to stop from time to time and just stand and absorb what surrounds us.
Our day started at the huge, overwhelming, fabulous, colourful Copper Country Antique Mall. I love this place. I could easily spend an entire day there, prowling and poring and taking refuge in the restaurant in the center when I flagged, or needed homemade brisket, pie, or a tall glass of lemonade.
Our mission was simple: hunt for visions. Treasures. Art supplies. Take pictures. Marvel, explore, notice. I bought a vintage hat with velvet walnuts, admired on a previous trip and not forgotten, two paintings and an armful of antlers, including a beautiful full rack. I want to make a Dali- like hat rack of the small ones, and mount the full rack on the wall. My love of antlers has been an evolution. As a child, I was properly horrified by trophies of severed, hunted heads. As an adult, I became fascinated with shed antlers. Now, I get lost in the idea of the horns, the texture of the bumps, the roundness of the skull cap, and the ephemeral nature of our life force as it animates our bones.
Sometimes it seems that our bones and horns outlast us; deep inside I know that this is not true.
And I find that I no longer have the clear ideas that I had as a child and a young woman about right and wrong; about the sacred and the profane. I see now that these ideas can be two facets of a shifting truth, or an underlying reality that cannot be corralled with black and white judgments.
As we were leaving, Meryl mentioned that she saw why I loved it so; everything was a vignette.
After a couple of hours at Copper Country, we headed to the Eclectic Flea in the Lost Barrio, on South Park.
The Lost Barrio is stuffed with awesome, and the Eclectic Flea is all about a kind of intellectualized love of the Wild West, filled with art, religious imagery, and a truly wide-ranging variety of treasures. Eclectic is exactly the right word to describe this shape-shifting museum of a lifetime of love of collecting.
Above Kathi trying on hats. Below, Andrew and Laurie Anne.
After the Lost Barrio, we headed home for lunch and a viewing of the treasures we found. The day was sunny and clear, and the students from colder climates headed straight to the back yard to eat and soak up some sunshine. We sprawled around the pool, talking about life, and treasure, and how beautiful it was to roam and play, and then we headed downtown to meet up with Paula and Daniel at their gallery Sacred Machine, just west of the Hotel Congress.
Andrew, who knew about these guys not only from Daniel’s art but from their music, had stopped into the gallery a couple of weeks ago, talked to Paula, and arranged for Daniel to come in and talk with us.
They were both remarkably open, talking freely about the shift their lives have taken since deciding to settle into a physical space and commit to being there, giving their time and energy and the moments of their lives to a daily routine that bends to open hours. Like me, they are from Tucson, and have also spent the past 20 years hoping that the downtown area would stop draining talent and become the mecca for art and culture that we all dream it will be, and like so many of us, they have come to understand that we can go to all of the meetings we want to, but the simple act of occupying a space is one of the most powerful things that we as people can do.
Help is not on the way for our cities. Either we become what we love and long for and with the gift of our time and life energy, transform the world around us, or we hope and wait that others, through the gift of their own, will make it for us. We are our own best hope for becoming what we want our world to be. I was unexpectedly moved by their intention to be a giving, living part of this street, of local life. Like me, they have spent the past decades tripping and travelling, making art and making their mark. And I found kinship in their desire to turn some of that energy to home, to create a space that can nurture not only the city around them, but inspire another wave of people to do the same.
I just loved them, and their space, and their art, and found it impossible to believe that in all of this time we had never met. Sometimes it takes people coming in from elsewhere, like Andrew, to show me what has been in front of me the whole time.
Their web site is as beautiful as they are. Take a look.
After we left the Sacred Machine, we walked under the bridge to Fourth Avenue, stopping at the vintage shop Preen on our way to the Goodwill, and to dinner at Caruso’s. Preen is a wonderland of beautiful colour, vintage treasure, and fantastic clothing. They have an area in the back where they sew, and do alterations. I fell in love with their new space- they used to be downtown, in a much smaller shop. This soaring open expanse of blue walls and colourful treasure is a delight.
I bought two vintage fur collars and a sewn pearl necklet, small weapons in the quest for glamour.
Charlene, who has a keen eye, found this mindbendingly good belt buckle. Have you ever seen the like?
I coveted, but did not buy, the sassy deer platter. It is entirely possible that I will return for it, and for another soaking up of the incredible colour of blue that they chose for their walls. I could be in that space for weeks on end and never tire of the feel of it.
After Preen, we stopped into the Goodwill. Andrew found an owl, of course, and Ellen found one of those lovely old vintage lens cases, you know, nubby black leather on the outside, with a nifty little snap strap, and inside, soft velvet. I adore those cases, and she was well pleased to find hers.
After our long day, it was bliss to sink into a booth at Caruso’s, one of my favorite southern Italian restaurants, and drink Chianti, eat pizza and eggplant and manicotti, and just soak in the company of these beautiful people who have come to share this small space in our lives. Below, Charlene and her sweetie Chris, who had an unexpected adventure bushwacking in cactus.
We were thrilled to see Dave and Debi Nicholson, the owners of Beads of Colour in Dundas, Ontario. I adore Dave and Debi. Debi blogs, too, and I’m a regular reader.
It’s funny to be in Tucson, surrounded by Canadians. Out of nine people at our table, five were from Toronto.
I caught Kathi in a glamorous Damn Paparazzi moment at the Sacred Machine, and Andrew and Doriot in some kind of What the Hell moment, looking at Doriot’s awesome, incredible, amazing little red salt and pepper set.
My head is full of moments. It’s too much, really, to understand all at once. At dinner, before we sat down, Doriot and I walked back to the beautiful patio that they would not open, even though it was still warm and lovely outside, and we watched the birds settling into the tall cypress trees.
At the end of each day, every square inch of the hundred-foot tall trees seems to have a bird in it; they range from huge grackles to tiny little sparrows, and at the end of the day, they are very social, settling into their spaces, talking back and forth to each other, visiting, fluttering, and generally settling in for the night with a lovely commotion and ruckus and fluffing of feathers. I was sad to leave the patio to go inside: I will never grasp why they are so skittish about seating outdoors at the tail end of warm winter days. I am not used to people not seeing the light, when my ideas so obviously make sense, and it was hard for me to give up on the idea of sitting outside. They were immobile, though, and told me, in the gentlest possible way, “Sit inside or fucking nowhere!” I accepted my fate, declared victory, sat down, got up to wash, sat down again, and as always, we had great service and food to make us swoon.
Each tree is stuffed with birds. I don’t know how I caught a photo without at least one fluttering from tree to tree, visiting and kibbitzing.
So it’s past three in the morning. Andrew is cooking something loaded with garlic, and something with coconut, and my brain is so sparky and the house smells so lovely that I don’t know how to settle into sleep. But I’d best find a way, hmm, because in just a few hours, we start all over again.
I hope that you had a beautiful day, too, and smelled wonderful smells and saw people that you love, and laughed over nothing and had ideas that changed your moments or your life.