Being born in Germany

Being born in Germany and living there until I was six did not prepare me for the life that awaited me in Arizona. All I knew about the world around me was that it was green in the spring and summer, brown in the autumn, and white in the winter. I remember the day I was told we were moving to Arizona quite clearly. I was informed that I was going to move to the desert. This part instantly filled me with images of sand dunes, cacti and camels in addition to a healthy dose of dread.

So at the tender age of six I embarked with my family on a journey which would take me to my new home, whether I liked it or not. On arrival to Fort Huachuca, a brown landscape dotted with mountains greeted me. At the time, I did not care too much as long as I had a steady supply of toys and neighborhood pals. Fortunately, for me, we moved into a new neighborhood in town that had many children my age. After 2 years however, I was informed we were moving again, but this time it was not in town, but out in the countryside.

Initially this did not pose any complication in my life as I soon met new friends in the sparsely populated area. As I aged however, the rural nature of my home began to wear on me. Outside of school, my friends and I could rarely visit each other because of the long distance between our homes. There were, and still are, no parks or other places were we could meet. All that greeted me when I opened the front door was ten acres and a vast view of the mountains.

At the time, I did not value ten acres and a vast view. As many young people would observe, I found it to be boring. The truly gorgeous blue sky and the visual orchestra of an Arizona sunset in the shadow of the mountains was something I did not have time for. Yet unconsciously, the environment became an important part of my daily life.

Whenever I looked out of my window, tall green mountains wrapping my town’s southwestern side greeted me. Now when I think about, it is as those mountains were a mother nurturing the town by cradling it and being ever watchful. Those same mountains produce a fantastic winter coat of white that contrasts with the desert below. Wonders such as these were things I continually took for granted.

Rural Arizona throughout my teenage years was definitely not my idea of fun. The largest town was located 10 miles away, and it only had around 40,000 people. Events tended to go around Sierra Vista leaving my life seemingly boring. As a teenager, I tended to ignore the natural beauty that surrounded me. Mountains could be seen on all sides and as far as the eye could see. The perpetual blue sky created the stuff of paintings when contrasted against the brown earth and the green mountains.

Unfortunately, I was too preoccupied to be concerned with matters of nature. My naïve idealism valued ever-grander things, and ignored the potential that a small town has. Reports of other teenagers living in large cities complaining that they had nothing to do did not faze me, as I told myself that they only feel that way because they had never lived in such a rural area. As I got older however, I began to realize that regardless of where we live, we create routines for ourselves because of what is available. The emptiness of the land here however, still created a longing for something different. This something different was namely, a different place with more life, with more culture, with more history.

Little did I acknowledge that Cochise County is brimming with history. People have inhabited this place for thousands of years, and all of them have left their mark on the land. At the time, I could not tangibly see the history the area passed down on its inhabitants. To me Tombstone was just another tourist trap, built entirely on a few minutes of history. Bisbee was just another former mining town with nothing unique to offer except a large gaping hole in the ground. As time passed however, I slowly began to appreciate the heritage of the area.

This occurred in small steps, and was by no means a sudden realization. The contributions of Chinese workers in the development of Tombstone are fascinating and little acknowledged, and the deportation of Eastern European workers in Bisbee is tragic and well documented. Upon first inspection, one could never glean this information, as it seems these people have not left their impact. It then becomes apparent that there is an incredible and intangible quality about Cochise County: that perhaps the previous inhabitants felt that it too was open and rural, but without realizing it, they contributed a wealth of culture to the place they inhabited. I think that is the legacy imparted to each generation that lives here.

There is a spirit in Arizona that lives in the wide-open spaces from mountain to mountain. It lingers on in the spirit of those that dwelled here centuries before. It is what allows us to live in a place that few would think they would want to call home. It makes all kindred spirits who call Arizona home.

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