Spring

Spring is in full bloom in the desert. Snowbirds have flown home, school children are antsy for summer, yellow palo verde blossoms are in the air. Baseball training grounds are empty, stale popcorn in the seats and dreams of the World Series carried forward to a new year.

As the temperature climbs, the garden grows. Bright green pea shoots reach for the tomato trellis, stretching their arms inches per day. Pale coral squash blossoms open and close to the beat of the sun. Tiny white flowers will transform into peppers, and yellow ones into tomatoes. The basil multiplies. The citrus sag under the weight of fragrant new life and the heat of the day.

In this season of life, as friends turn 40 and 50 and 60, I watch with curiosity as relationships strengthen, and others dissolve. Babies are born. Parents and spouses die. Marriages come and go. I wake in the night worried about friends, worried about worry, restless with the state of the world. I carry their heartache with me, wondering how I am so fortunate.

Casseroles baked, letters mailed, cookies delivered on platters with hugs that may not be wanted but are needed. I am thankful for what we can do. As sure as the weather changes, I am reassured that we need each other.

Growing Community

Last weekend, while wandering Miami, Arizona after a lovely walk through Boyce Thompson Arboretum, a girlfriend and I stumbled upon a community demonstration for hydroponic gardening. We were “just in time for the tour!” Elvin Fant was leading several others through an old building downtown that was once owned by the copper mines.

Gardening in Miami, and its neighbor towns in the Copper Corridor southeast of Phoenix, is a dangerous proposition. Once a booming mining community, today the towns are littered with tailing pools and other remnants of the industry. The smelter smokestack was removed just last year in neighboring Superior. Commemorative t-shirts are available at the Circle K for $20.

That Circle K is one of the largest convenience stores I’ve ever been in. They don’t just sell the typical sodas and gas, but also a counter for hot sandwiches. The Copper Corridor is a food desert. The largest grocery is Wal-Mart, and that’s 25 miles away.

Elvin discovered that the Safeway next to Wal-Mart was closing, and the owners planned to leave the 27,000 square food building vacant. The retiree, who still owns a local mechanic shop in town, found this infuriating. How could they leave that space vacant and where was everyone going to get their food?

The Vietnam veteran did some research and discovered hydroponic gardening. Within a year, he met with hydroponic researchers at the University of Arizona, secured an intern to write grants and help with planting and research, and secured two vacant buildings in town. Today, he’s growing food for his community and evangelizing to all who will listen about how easy it is to grow your own food when the earth is poisoned. He has more than 60 volunteers who help, and several local restaurants buying his produce.

They’ve also created a classroom and have regular community discussions and demonstrations about growing food.

He’s growing food in both locations, selling worm farms to neighbors, and has organized a community garden that feeds the local food bank. The man is a local hero. I felt so fortunate to spend some time with him, hear his excitement at watching this work grown, and amazed at how quickly he was able to get his idea off of the ground.

If you are in Miami, stop and say hello. You can support the Cobre Valley Indoor Farms work here.

A Season of Rebirth

Grandma Max & Pap

Easter has always been one of my favorite holidays. My late Grandmother Maxine would have us to her home in Tucson for a simple meal after church, and we’d all enjoy chocolate. She loved chocolate, and it was her annual sacrifice for Lent.

I think of her often, how she’s molded who I am today, and how I wish I was more like her. She rarely complained. She rarely missed church. Her family was always her first priority. She was a child of the Great Depression, and this made her a practical, frugal adult. Our Christmas cookies often came in recycled cottage cheese containers, for example. She felt no shame in this.

That said, she loved beautiful things, for which she also felt no shame. She loved American Indian jewelry. I was lucky to inherit several pieces when she died; I still get choked up when I wear them. I wore one of her necklaces when we were married, and always wear a piece of her jewelry for important book events.

This week, as the world watched Notre Dame catch fire, I thought of her. My grandparents traveled to Europe on vacation in their late 70s. Her heart would have broken to see a place of worship in flames, especially during Holy Week. However, I think her spirits would have been lifted, as mine were, to see Parisians fill the streets to sing hymns in response.

My grandparents also spent many years living in Louisiana, and knowing my practical, ever-loving grandmother — her charity would have gone to the Baptist churches burned by an arsonist earlier this month. I can see her writing that check to meet her budget –$12, or $18, or whatever she could give.

I miss her dearly. When I sit in silence, I feel her presence, nudging me back toward church, pushing me toward closer relationships with my cousins, giving me the eye when I put the cottage cheese container in the recycling bin.

How lucky I have been to have these strong, faithful women in my life. As we celebrate Easter this weekend, I am thankful for them. It was, after all, a strong and faithful woman who told everyone of the resurrection.

Happy Easter, Passover, weekend to you and yours.

Kelli