A beautiful day in the neighborhood #1: desert Christmas

This is a thing here in Tucson–Santa hats for cacti.

One of my goals for the new year is to post more consistently on here. Another one of my goals is to notice the beautiful and/or quirky in my everyday surroundings. Last April, I wrote a post, N is for Now, about how our worlds had shrunk to the size of our houses and neighborhoods and about looking at our surroundings through a macro lens, noticing the beauty in the often-overlooked details of our everyday lives. I’ve been thinking about that idea a lot as I’ve moved to a new city, and many of us, at least here in the USA, are back on lockdown (or should be–stay home, ya plague rats!).

So, I’m starting a new series on the blog: A beautiful day in the neighborhood. I hope to post a picture a week of something interesting or cool in my home or neighborhood. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to join me in this venture. It might be a fun topic for a blog hop–I’d love to see y’all’s neighborhoods!

#SoCS: Our choices make our lives (with bonus pics from Saguaro National Park)

Saguaro against the deep blue of an Arizona sky

This post is part of the Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog hop. Linda Hill posts a prompt every Friday; this week’s prompt is: “opt.” Use it as a word or find a word with “opt” in it and base your post on that.

Yesterday my husband and I opted out of unpacking, organizing, and cleaning. Instead of doing those responsible adult things, we opted to explore the western unit of Saguaro National Park, about a half-hour’s drive from our new home in Tucson.

Cholla forest

I read a lot of self-help books, because I want to be the best version of me than I can, and I have a lot of dreams I want to achieve and maybe (if I’m lucky) about a third of my life left to achieve them. One theme that runs through much of the self-help literature is that our lives are the summed-up consequences of the choices we’ve made, especially the small choices we make multiple times each day: the choice to take a walk instead of doom-scrolling social media for another 30 minutes; the choice to eat the banana instead of the Cheez-Its (I fail this test regularly. Extra Toasty Cheez Its are swoon-worthy.); the choice to say something kind instead of something angry; the choice to write each morning instead of spending half an hour browsing online for Little Free Library designs (not that I actually did that this morning. No, not me.)

Tl;dr: our choices–even the little ones–matter, because taken together, they make up our lives.

Sonoran Desert noir

Like everyone else, my family has had a… challenging year. Not a bad year, no, not really. In fact, speaking only for me and mine, 2020 was a pretty good year in many ways. But the global pandemic has limited–or at least affected–everyone’s choices. Thanksgiving really brought home those limitations, as so many of us had to weigh the risk of gathering with family and friends against the loss of those connections, those opportunities. And if you have elderly relatives–or are elderly yourself–the risk that you might not get another such opportunity. Even everyday choices seem more fraught: do I visit a crowded grocery store to grab the thing I need for the dish I want to make? Do I risk Home Depot on a holiday weekend to get the part I need to fix whatever broke on my old, cranky house this time? (spoiler alert: it’s the plumbing) Do I? Should I? Will I become one of the people we read about in the news, whose dying words are that they wished they’d taken COVID more seriously?

It’s exhausting. The pandemic is exhausting. 2020 is exhausting.

And moving to a new city and taking a new job in the middle of this mess? You guessed it: exhausting.

Up close and personal with a saguaro

We don’t have family to visit, and I cooked enough food on Thursday to feed quite a few nonexistent relatives, so yesterday we were looking at 3 days of unstructured time, the longest break we’ve had since we moved into our new house a month ago today. 3 days to unpack. Organize. Clean up the Thanksgiving dishes I was too tired to wash on Thanksgiving.

“Let’s get some unpacking done today,” I say to my husband.

“OK.”

A half hour passes. I’m still puttering away at the computer, pretending I’m being productive. “Almost ready,” I say.

“OK.”

More puttering. A trip to the bathroom. A snack. Back to the computer.

“Let’s go somewhere outside,” I yell from the den.

“OK.” More enthusiasm this time.

And 30 minutes later we are out the door for our desert adventure.

Baby saguaros sheltered by rocks. Aren’t they adorable little pincushions?

This morning, the Thanksgiving dishes are still in the sink. The boxes are still full. The carport is still full of stuff we need to sort and clean and bring in the house.

And I don’t care.

I don’t.

Because our lives really are the sum total of the choices we make, and yesterday we chose to sink our roots a little deeper in our desert home, to look a little closer, to embrace the beauty and wonder of a place that is still new to us but already becoming part of us. And when I’m on my deathbed, I doubt I’ll give a thought to the dishes and the boxes and the messy carport. But maybe instead I’ll remember choosing to spend a clear autumn afternoon wandering among the saguaros with the love of my life.