23 May Desert Greetings & Gratitude
Hello everyone, my name is Sarah Au (they/them/theirs). I am an intern for Saguaro National Park in Tucson, AZ as part of the 2018 Latino Heritage Internship Program. Tucson, AZ is on the traditional homelands of the Tohono O’odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui People. I was born in Tucson, Arizona and raised among desert people and saguaros, where summers smelled of creosote.
I’m a resilient latinx/jotitx/xicanx/xingonx living and loving in the liminal, nepantla space. Creating home through the altar and that sacred smell of cooking frijoles. I’m a continuous student of the cosmos and mama tierra. Aspiring to be a carrier of madre’s medicine for balance and reconciliation to self, familia y comunidad. I aspire to connect through difference with earth medicine and loving presence. Reorienting with home through the greater knowing that home is where the radical, root type of healing; seven generations to come kind of healing happens. I am a passionate writer, cook, body-worker and earth-appreciator dreaming of using my gifts to co-create sustainable, intersectional, healing justice communities, working toward collective liberation.
I was raised by gritty, outdoor-loving, survivalists who crossed oceans and moved mountains through their sheer will to always find a way. They were working-poor punks, with no soundtrack, but all the radical rebellious heart to create rhythms all their own. My father was a Vietnamese refugee who migrated here in the early eighties as part of the ‘boat people.’ He was a passionate cook with a peaceful spirit and carrier of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
My mother’s history is rooted in this region of the Sonoran desert for as long as she can remember. Her memory of ancestry is lost to generational poverty, trauma and inaccessibility to history; but she shares her knowledge through stories and tells me of our indigenous history as “the people who lived inside mountains.” She is a chicana, chingona, and fierce fire carrier. I inherited their fuerza and their medicine.
I studied Sociology and Public Health at the University of Arizona. Through the contrasting dual experience of growing up in poverty and all it came with, to being the first-generation of my family to have access to an academic analysis of systematic power constructs that perpetuate poverty, a fierce fire was sparked and fueled in my panza toward facilitating equitable change. This led me to pursue healing justice work with marginalized communities, much like my own. I became involved in the local food justice movement with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, where I participated in home garden installations, community garden education and learned to grow food along the Santa Cruz River on land that has been farmed for thousands of years. These opportunities to get my hands dirty and commune with the earth was life-changing and catapulted my healing journey. In the spirit of healing, I’ve continued to grow my relationship with native desert plants, and deepen my understanding of their power, stories and relationship to place & people.
As I share these words I sit with reflective gratitude for all of the medicine that this place, this home, has offered. In the spirit of reciprocity I ask, that as my relationship with this place, this home, grows may my responsibility to this land and all its relations also grow.
Thank you to the saguaros and the ancestors. Thank you to all the energies that made this experience possible.