“Buenos dias,” said Steven.
“Bien, bien. Qué pasó,” said my partner and I to our holiday neighbor, as his fluffy poodle, Lola, pranced around his shadow. Steven was tending his garden; we were enjoying our coffee behind a white picket patio.
Bisbee is now our tradition. We found a picturesque airBnB a few clicks east of Ok Street. The valley surrounds the canary-yellow cottage. When the sun sets, turkey vultures dot the royal blue sky, swaying their orchestrated circle for feasting.
This trip marks the second vacation I’ve taken in nearly 20 years. I was either too destitute or addicted to work to recess before this era of my little life.
I’m grateful for these days.
Although COVID-19, and poor governmental leadership has ravaged our world for more than a year, I’m also grateful for this epoch. That’s worth explaining.
For starters my workload has tripled. None of my family, or friends have fallen victim to this novel virus. More importantly, the lockdowns gave me an opportunity to focus my creative energy. I recognized this chance and executed.
Conversely, I understand how fortunate I am to have gracefully navigated the last 16 months. But I was prepared to scrape by temporarily if need be. I’ve had three COVID-19 scares to date. As I finish this piece, I await test results once again. My symptoms are flu-like but not debilitating. Since March 2020, I haven’t dined out, I’ve washed my hands more than a Manhattan-based surgeon and I don’t entertain in groups larger than five people.
Gov. Doug Ducey finally ordered Arizonians to shelter in place on March 31, 2020. But weeks prior I knew it was imperative to simply change my mind about our collective circumstances. My attorney always brings up the same “Shawshank Redemption” quote about action, intent: “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” And I owe a well-lived life to the friends that I buried decades too early. So I purchased a new camera and crafted a seven-day a week writing/photo schedule.
During the early days of COVID-19, I believed the virus would be far more deadly. But I refused to cower in the wake of this particular wildfire. I took precautions when touring Tucson’s empty boulevards, which were overrun by transients and thieves. Recklessness; courage. Tomato; tomato. “If the world was about to be demolished, why not enjoy the final days creating?” I said to myself.
In May 2020, my photography started an international trail of recognition: Tucson, Glasgow, Rome. My work was included in two magazines and I was invited to join a street photography collective in Vancouver, B.C., marking the first international member to join the group. Then, I launched a humble publishing company, Grande Publishing, and printed my first photography book, “Luces del barrio.” And I snagged some freelance work along the way.
My recent string of accolades came with dozens of rejection letters. Some of my applications were beyond my technical skill. The point was to have galleries tell me “no” rather than curbing who would see my art.
What am I getting at? Chase your dreams, no matter the weather. At the very least, turn your ship toward a happier shore. Most of us are busier than what we’re paid for. We’re stressed on Monday, exhausted by Friday. But minuscule, daily adjustments — financial, physical, spiritual — will alter a person’s trajectory. It’s now quite common for an old friend to reach out to say, “I’ve noticed how well you’re doing. It’s inspiring.”
The trek from our getaway perch is a workout. Twelve oversized steps down, landing, 25 steps to Ok Street, then a steep stroll to Brewery Gulch. Three bikers admired their own hogs. A local woman chatted at us as we packed the trunk. The timing for a meal before driving home was challenging. We scored salads, motoring away sporting satisfied grins.
My life isn’t perfect. Nor would I want it to be. But I know without question that I’m captain until my coffin drops. I wish the same for you.