It’s almost 7am. I’ve been up for about an hour. I like being up early before everyone else.
We’re still in the desert and the mornings are cold so it’s just a bit chilly in the RV. Outside the window, a line of mountains separating sky from firmament, unbroken but for one tall Saguaro that pierces the border. Closer, creosote and ocotillo kind of lend an underwater vibe, almost like I could be looking into an aquarium.
Yesterday was Sunday, our third day here in Saguaro National Park. We had planned to go break camp and drive into town to a church Sharaun dug up online, then head back to the campground and walk over to Old Tuscon, a former movie set now turned Old West themed attraction with saloons and gunfights and shows.
At church, however, we got invited out to lunch by some of the members. Having truly regretted passing on a similar offer once before on the trip, we’d made it a rule that we’d always accept if the chance again arose. Thus we found ourselves eating hospitality-funded burritos at a local Mexican joint with some great people.
And that’s how and where we learned that the very day we were in town (Tuscon proper) was the final day of a weekend-long Dia de los Muertos festival, which was to culminate in a huge procession of humanity walking through the streets in memory of their loved ones who’ve gone before them.
We decided to ditch the Old West and instead experience the procession. And it was a day of magic. One of those spontaneous decisions which unpredictably spawn pure magic – the epitome of what we’re hunting through this trip.
It’s easier for me to try and recount said magic with less words vs. more: There was skeletal facepaint, flower crowns willed into existence from Dollar Store booty, tamales purchased from a front yard. We climbed atop the RV to watch, and climbed down again when the procession drew us in, walking with the masses for a block or so.
In the end the spirit of the whole thing clutched me and I found myself emotionally engulfed in the powerful purpose of the day. What an amazing occasion! What a terrific way to remember and honor and grieve and commune. And such a very natural thing for humans share, rooted in the universal experience of death and loss and memory, and yet I’ve never experienced anything even close until yesterday.
We made paper hearts to wear with the names of our loved ones, we wrote their names on ribbon and pinned them on a procession banner, wrote them again on paper to go in the urn. Letting it all in, I was unsurprised and glad to cry tears of sadness, but mostly of happy remembrance, at the spectacle. It was emotional all around in all the right ways.
That’s the stuff.