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Posts tagged ‘Tucson’

Celebration of Life Venues in Tucson

Serene landscaping at Hacienda del Sol

Serene landscaping at Hacienda del Sol

One of the first questions a family usually asks me as their Celebrant while we co-create a memorial or celebration of life relates to WHERE to hold the event. That is, if the family chooses not to hold it at a private residence, which is possible and often preferable, depending upon the number of guests.

So I offer this wee list of locations in Tucson where I’ve led celebrations. Families I work with have found the venues (along with staff members) to be welcoming and the settings comfortable. I gravitate toward places where genuine warmth and professionalism are of central importance to staff members, with a level of sincere caring from everyone supporting the event. Based upon my experiences, you’ll find such qualities in these places:

Hacienda del Sol

 This historic guest ranch and resort offers smaller and more intimates spaces as well as grander size for larger guest attendance. The Hacienda Room (with patio) or Inner Courtyard can be very beautiful. There are PDFs to click on and view helpful space layouts here.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

 The Desert Garden (which has covered space and a little cooling spring) is the space I’ve usually led remembrance ceremonies in at the museum. It is a very tranquil setting, with larger areas for central group seating during a ceremony and smaller ‘mingling’ spaces for refreshments and conversations afterward. You can learn more about the Desert Garden and other rental spaces here.


The Desert Garden set up with refreshments at Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

Tohono Chul Park

From the Tea House to the Performance Garden – both indoor and outdoor locations can be reserved at the park. There are plenty of natural and peaceful spaces open for walks and quiet reflection before, during or after an event here.

Performance Garden at Tohono Chul

Performance Garden at Tohono Chul

Tucson Botanical Gardens

 Likely the most centrally located of all venue choices. Smaller indoor and outdoor spaces are available – this is not a space for a guest range much larger than 100, although for intimate gatherings some of the spaces could be perfect. For memorials, they usually have more flexibility with food service.

Small Family ceremony set up at Botanical Gardens

Small Family ceremony set up at Botanical Gardens

 Tucson Museum of Art

 Certainly the most urban-feeling space I’ve listed here – though the Moore courtyard is smaller and intimate. Both indoor and outdoor spaces are available to rent here and this is a FANTASTIC space for celebrating art aficianados!

Afternoon shadows at Tucson Museum of Art courtyard

Afternoon shadows at Tucson Museum of Art courtyard

Hotel Congress

If the person to be celebrated loved a party or history or a robust bar scene, I can’t think of a better place than Copper Hall at Hotel Congress! It incorporates all of the above.

Tubac Golf Resort & Spa

A bit of a drive down I-19, yet worth it. Temperatures are usually 7-10 degrees cooler there and the scenery is beautiful. The Otero ‘Boardroom’ as shown here is really a small, intimate house with a calm patio and lawn, views of Santa Rita mountains. It is a scenic and comfortable setting; a very soothing place to be for a remembrance.

View of the Santa Rita Mountains from Tubac Golf Resort's Otero Lawn

View of the Santa Rita Mountains from Tubac Golf Resort’s Otero Lawn

Are you seeking resources and help with planning a memorial or celebration of life in Tucson or Southern Arizona? Let me know if this was helpful or please contact me if you have more questions. I am always willing to help a remembrance happen with as much meaning and grace as possible!

Marigolds and Festal Culture

All Soul's Day procession, Tucson AZ, 2008

All Soul’s Day procession, Tucson AZ

Have you heard people mention how the ‘veil is thin’ this time of year? Ever wondered exactly what they mean by this? You’re likely not alone. This is a time of liminality throughout many cultures and belief systems, wherein the veil between the seasons of autumn and winter or between the worlds of the living and dead are very transparent.

We have our well known and candy-obsessed Halloween, when kids trick-or-treat and grown-ups go to costume parties. All this spookiness comes from ancient traditions like Samhaim and All Soul’s Day. Our neighbors in Mexico celebrate Day of the Dead with gusto and mucho marigolds. And this is just the beginning! The end of October and Early November bring us a vast collection of world holidays and celebrations rarely known by folks in our western culture.  It seems our collective death-distancing mentality in the U.S. also distances us from a whole range of opportunities for celebrating, acknowledging and honoring our dead.

Here is one gigantic exception: The All Souls Procession in Tucson, Arizona. This is a one-of-a-kind, community based, collective festal experience founded by Tucson artist Susan Kay Johnson. She began the Procession 23 years ago with a small handful of friends, to honor her Father. Today it has become a collective experience to observe one painful thread we all have in common: loss. This definition helps describe its origins and intentions:

“Festal Culture”  is the expression and fulfillment of core human needs through public celebration, ceremony, and ritual. The All Souls Procession is an event that was created to serve the public need to mourn, reflect, and celebrate the universal experience of Death, through their ancestors, loved ones, and the living.

I’ve been fortunate to live in Tucson for the past eight years and participate in the procession every year. It is always held the weekend after Halloween, to keep it authentically true and not become a big drunken costume fest. In my entire life, I have never experienced anything remotely like it. It is a collective opening, or leaning into, the experience of loss and humility we all share because one day, we will die. Some people come with a reverence and tenderness for a person, an animal or a concept they grieve. People also come to celebrate loved ones long after making the transition from life into death. And always, some people come just to stand in awe of the mystery. I am an Urn Ambassador, acting as a voice of the Urn. Ambassadors help people throughout the procession realize the significance of the Urn and how they may actively put something into it for release to the elements of fire and air.

The Urn Burns (All Souls Procession)

The Urn Burns (All Souls Procession) (Photo credit: cobalt123)

This ‘Prayer Form’ offers a remote way to download, write expressions and send these in electronically for placement into the urn. During the procession, I’ve witnessed people of all ages and beliefs drawing pictures, writing notes, offering photos and tearfully offering cremains or symbolic objects like dog collars and so on, to be placed with reverence into the Urn and burned during the Procession’s Finale.

Trying to explain this event to someone who hasn’t attended is nearly impossible. This is why as a Life-Cycle Celebrant© and avid believer in the power of healing through collective experiences during ritual and ceremony, I tirelessly call attention toward it! What is possible to sense, whether consciously or subconsciously during the Procession, is the feeling of liminal space I mentioned earlier. Being between worlds. Being vulnerable and open to complete mystery. This space is powerful beyond words. Here’s a peek into it from last year:

And here is a new peek from this year’s event:

All Souls Procession 2012 – teaser from Willow Tale Pictures on Vimeo.