I'm not accident prone.
Really. I'm not.
Things just happen.
So ever use the scotch tape method of removing a splinter from your finger successfully? Me neither. Now imagine being given a roll of duct tape.
Same principle, but I've gotten ahead of myself.
February was feeling a little off this year.
I'm not suppose to be here. I'm suppose to be in Tucson.
It's more than a tradition, it has become part of the rhythm of my personal and professional lives, something I have basically taken for granted. Don't get me wrong. I admire all the efforts at a virtual Tucson, and I want to support everyone that I can, but the sense of place for all things Tucson is integral for me and at this point, my screen fatigue for Zoom and IG is real.
Tucson 2020 was approached with a "wait and see" attitude and then an abundance of caution was exercised once I decided to go. There was this thing lurking... known then as the Corona virus. Abundant hand washing solved all worries.
I went with a designer who had never been as her Tucson sherpa. Knowing her taste, her nascent collections, and her upcoming events, I was able to tailor the Tucson experience for her by getting her in front of the right vendors at the right shows as efficiently as possible. And taking pictures along the way documenting her journey. It was wonderful seeing Tucson through her eyes.
I also thought I was exercising an abundance of caution as I moved in for the close up of a bird nest at the airport. A delicate shelter, precariously built among the needles of a cactus. An architectural wonder that would prove safe shelter from any predator or overly eager tourist with an iPhone.
I heard my friend's voice, "Be careful" and thought I had put enough distance between me and the nest. Little did I know that this particular kind of cactus has a kinetic reach when it senses a predator. I found out soon enough which really wasn't soon enough. The pain was concentrated and excruciating. My layers of clothing were no match for these penetrating barbs. The needles even stuck in my very tough Ariat work boots. So you can imagine what they did to my skin.
This badge of honor slash souvenir eventually fell out in April, but served as a reminder of the power of little things, of very real and unintended consequences, of physical pain so intense that I still wince when I recall it.
So back to the duct tape.
We checked into the hotel, and the dear man at the desk was a veteran of such encounters. He blithely hands me a roll of duct tape and asks me to bring it back when I'm through. He was in no hurry. Good thing.
The process took a very painful hour. (BTW tweezers were ineffective and I have yet another use for duct tape that never would have occurred to me.)
And I'm done re-visiting this episode.
Tuscon was predictable in the best ways and surprising ones too. The landscape was reliably austere. The gem fairs were packed with the new and unusual.
The food trucks behind AGTA were delicious, and the shade from the umbrellas at the tables was welcomed as was the vitamin D therapy from the sun.
Masks were still a novelty and largely unworn. Social distancing was still not really a thing and besides, in what other city could an event like Tucson even take place? It is precisely the sprawl between all the events that make it possible. We were there for four days and covered a lot of ground. Pacing photo opps with buying and visiting with new friends and old.
Tucson really is the "Happy New Year" to the jewelry industry. It's when we get back to business after Christmas sales and the recovery and planning period of January because one cannot buy and invest properly without a plan. I call it my "script." I can deviate from it, because let's face it, Tucson is there to show you things you hadn't even dreamed of! But at least it helps structure your time there. Don't leave home without it.
The suitcase with the "desert in February layers/walk miles a day at trade shows" wardrobe never got unpacked. A new wardrobe for an island wedding in the Caribbean had to get pulled together instantly. A week's worth of easy, breezy linens and silks, sandals and bathing suits. Punta Cana was a short flight from Atlanta, and I was impressed on a visceral level that this should always be the follow-up to Tucson. Temperate like Tucson, but salty, tropical air opposed to the dry desert air. And well, there is no endless blue in Tucson. Except for the sky. And the turquoise.
(Note to self: plan and promote a jewelry event for late
February/early March in the Caribbean. Who's in?)
My son and his Brazilian wife were having a ceremony for their families after a romantic elopement the prior year. The ocean, the beach, the sky did not disappoint. The bride was beautiful (and wore amazing earrings! This is a jewelry blog after all.) and my handsome son, decidedly grown up.
The slow, gentle pace of the Caribbean came to an end and life in Atlanta resumed to the strange, slow pace of the COVID lockdown. There was yet another trip in this back to back month of travel. This time to a gray and snowy Tennessee.
One minute I'm talking gemstones and design by an outdoor fireplace, watching a glorious Tucson sunset, the next I'm discussing wedding plans with my daughter-in-law in Brazil, and then a name in my caller ID appears and I knew instantly what it meant. There was that call from a friend in Atlanta letting me know our mutual friend had died.
I was stunned. Not shocked, her health had been precarious. But entirely unready for the conversation that ensued. He knew that, but he also needed help contacting people and making plans. In reality, I did very little.
It was the beginning of the repercussions of loss and grief.
It's the hilarious texts I probably miss the most. And the long conversations filled with her brilliant insights and wicked sense of humor. The times we prayed together when I knew I had indeed been prayed for. Her innate bravery as she faced the daily betrayals of her body. She's still around, active in my thoughts and memories. More sweet than sad, I know that she is truly alive, now more than ever.
February 2020 was a blurry study in contrasts. The inspiration of the desert temporarily populated with gem dealers. A happy occasion marked by walks along the surf. Followed by the mountains of Tennessee for a formal goodbye that began a year marked by waves of grief that swell and recede with no predictability.
So much transpired that month... in minutes, in hours, and in days.
And here we are.
Birds are singing, the buds are firmly set on the trees, and brave flowers are starting to bloom.
Be brave, friends.
Priscilla's TUCSON sky
Hello, Lee here.