When my great-grandmother Sedona was written out of her parents’ will for marrying my great-grandfather, they came to Arizona. That’s why I’m allowed to say this: Arizona was then, and is now, a haven for independent people. You could call them misfits…iconoclasts…or simply people who don’t play well with others. Arizona appeals to you if you don’t want to be fenced in…or typecast…or asked “Who are your people?” Many of us make their own clans, rather than relying on bloodlines, or family names.
Arizona is mostly open land, some of it stunning – not only visually, but in an intangible way that gets into your bones, if you’re one of us. . I travel all the time, but there are still places I haven’t been. I haven’t seen the sandhill cranes on the San Pedro River, or Cochise Stronghold.. but I’ve felt air come up from the blowhole at Wupatki ruins, and stood in the current of the Colorado River.
Being an Arizonan isn’t about being born here. It’s someone who comes here, and “gets it.” Arizonans don’t conform. That’s one reason we don’t go on daylight savings time. Every year, there’s a story about daylight savings, and pressure flares up to join the rest of the country. I feel like, “I’ll go on daylight savings when you pry that hour out of my cold dead fingers.” I like that we don’t just go along to get along.
We have problems, no mistake. For every three people who move here, two move on – wherever you go, there you are. So we’re kind of a rental state. A lot of expatriates and temps. But with that lack of hierarchy comes an invitation to try things. I went to Michigan once, and while it was lovely, it was all laid out and filled in. I felt like if I had an idea, someone would say, “We tried that in 1912,” or just “They did it over in Chelsea. Didn’t work.” In Arizona there’s room for all our dreams. (Maybe not enough water to make them grow, but land…lots of land.)
One woman I know says that when she lived in New York, it was hard to volunteer, because boards and leagues were all established. But out here, there’s room for everyone to step up. She says it’s easier for women to succeed here, because Arizonans have seen women run the ranch, supervise the roundup, and feed the crew. Women are trough enough here. Always have been.
My great-grandfather named the town of Sedona after his wife. Had he been a different kind of man, we’d be wealthy descendents. But his whole estate came in at less than $300, because he measured wealth in interaction, not money. He greeted visitors to Oak Creek, and gave them directions to sightsee. He gave the women pincushions he made out of century plant. I got one sent to me, years later, by a woman who had met him on her honeymoon.
Arizonans aren’t orderly. We’re a free-spirited scattering of stragglers. But we will take you at face value. We’ll ask if you want to pitch in. And we might even give you a pincushion. I believe in Arizona.
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