If we have had any semi-meaningful conversation in the last 18 months you have probably asked me how I am settling into Arizona. And I most likely responded with some variation of “I’m not, really.” This move wrenched my roots in a pretty violent way and the adjusting and reframing expectations has taken a toll on their already fragile and dangling state. I still get all choked up whenever I think about my home, my mountains, and seasons with months of cool and downright frigid weather. My heart doesn’t feel like it belongs here, although I am trying to fit here. I have made a few friends, my little vegetable garden is one of the happiest parts of my life, and my work directly places me in a position to help Arizona students succeed in a college or postsecondary education (and the vast majority stay in Arizona to explore those options). So, I’m trying.
A few months ago I read This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick. I wrote MANY notes in the margins (and some rants and “See? Told you!” scribbles as well…I sometimes have one-way conversations with the printed page, apparently). Warnick has a seemingly simple list of things that, if tackled, will help you put down roots in a new place:
- Walk more
- Buy local
- Get to know my neighbors
- Do fun stuff
- Explore nature
- Eat local
- Become more political
- Create something new
- Stay loyal through hard times
Ok, so none of those really seem that hard. Right? Um, apparently yes, they are kind of hard.
In church yesterday I kept thinking about how to go out of my way to help other people, to serve them, to love them. There is the obvious political move of a protest or rally, or making donations to organizations that support the work I care about. But I also started thinking a lot closer to home, closer even that attending my monthly legislative district meeting. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know the name of any of my neighbors, people in my neighborhood, sure, but no one two or three doors on each side of me, or across the street.
Uh, what? I mean, I’ve lived here for over a year. A YEAR! None my immediate neighbors attend my church, so I haven’t gotten to know them by default of seeing them every week. But it surprised and then angered me that I hadn’t gone out of my way to introduce myself. So, goal for this week is to spend some time in the kitchen whipping up some homemade baked goods and then delivering plates of happiness to a half-dozen front porches.
I’ve decided to do better about incorporating these seemingly simple ideas into my life here in Arizona, in the hope that I will find myself fitting here just a little better. Some I’ve just barely scratched the surface, like local politics and exploring the outdoors. Some I’ve been working on for a while, like creating and tending a veggie garden in my backyard, and exploring local eats for date nights with Mr. Blue Eyes. In another week or so the raging heat will descend and stay until November or so (hi, locals, my heat tolerance is about 78 degrees, not 98 degrees, so for me, yes, actually, “summer” is 9 hellish months long), I really am hoping I can figure out some solutions to the months and months of air conditioned cabin fever. The last two or three months of normal-person temperatures have been glorious, I’ve been outside hiking and puttering around in the yard and just hanging out on the back patio with a book and a drink.
What neighborhood (or municipal/county) things do you participate in? What do you love? Wish you did more of? How did you fall in love with your city? Or, do you WANT to fall in love with your city? If so, perhaps we can form an online support group to figure out how to love where we live.