The not-so-thirsty agave plant

giant agave plant

One of the fun things of being a photographer is that you get to go out in the elements when saner folks are at home, staying warm and dry on a stormy day.

I did take an umbrella on this rainy afternoon, but gave up when I found it impossible to balance both bumbershoot and camera in order to get just the picture I wanted. As a a result, the picture of this massive leaf of the giant agave was taken with rain dripping off my nose. Plant and person mirrored each other!

What I liked was the paradox of wet and dry. Here was this desert plant, designed with thick leaves to minimize the loss of moisture, brimming with water.

Hard to imagine, but we CAN embrace opposites if we just try.

If we all did the things we are capable of doing,
we would literally astound ourselves.

~Thomas Alva Edison~

 

The beauty of being thrifty

Moss patterns

It is always fun when Mother Nature shows you something you didn’t expect to see. Here, the moss patterns reveal the water currents, as clearly as if they’d been drawn with crayon.

And, as I looked closer, I recognized a pattern that I’d seen it before: it resembled the curve in the bark of an ancient tree, growing around the scar of an old, pruned branch.

Count on Mother Nature to be parsimonious. Why invent a new image, when you have one waiting in the wings to be used again!

All the vanity, all the charm, all the beauty of life
is made up of light and shadow.

~Leo Tolstoy~

 

An eye for rust

Artful decay

As an aficionado of texture, when I came upon this old shack, I was in seventh heaven. Consider that great rusty barrel, the rain-stained wood, the stovepipe hanging at an angle, that old window missing one pane, the tattered, rusting side-panels. It was perfect!

And then I discovered why is was perfect. It’s not real. This sheep herder’s cabin, nestled among a grove of eucalyptus trees, is a carefully constructed movie set. All that rust is man-made, as was the angle of the stovepipe and the metal patches about to fall to the ground. All were built with an eye toward illusion.

I decided I liked it anyway. How could I not admire an artist with an eye for rust!

And now we welcome the new year.
Full of things that have never been.
~Rainer Maria Rilke~

 

Don’t always believe what you see

Texas Mountain Laurel - Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly

I was attracted to this spot by a smell that took me back to childhood, the wonderful aroma of grape Kool-Aid. This is a Texas Mountain Laurel, or Mescal Bean plant, native to the southwest.

And then when I got there, I discovered this amazingly beautiful butterfly, a black Pipevine Swallowtail.

One gives pleasure to the eye; the other to the nose.

AND, both are highly poisonous!

The mescal bean has seed pods that make both people and animals sick. Even the coyotes won’t touch them. And the Pipevine Swallowtail is so toxic that other butterflies imitate those beautiful orange spots so they won’t be eaten, either.

You can’t always believe what you see…or what you smell!

If it is true, if it is beautiful,
if it is honorable, if it is right,
then claim it.

~Rob Bell~

 

In the furtherment of enjoyable exercise

trail mix dispensers

I found a whole wall at a hiking store filled with DIY dispensers for trail mix. My hat is off to the creators of the mixes, who must have had fun thinking up as many flavors as Jelly Belly jelly beans.

The hike may be tough, but if you gotta do it, go in style!

Statistics show
that of those
who contact the habit of eating,
very few survive.

~Wallace Irwin~

Enter the resourceful agave

Spider web in agave plant

The sharp tips of the giant agave are there for a purpose–to fend off predators such as javelina and hungry cattle intent on a juicy meal.

Too bad somebody didn’t tell the spiders, who found the spines to be perfect tent poles for their webs. Or the wind, who discovered the web to be a perfect receptacle for some spare leaves just blowing around.

It is nice to find something that can be put to more than one useful purpose. Nature is resourceful that way.

The first rule of intelligent tinkering
is to save all the parts.

~Paul Ehrlich~

What remains is precious

What remains is beautiful

In Arizona, both in the desert climate of Phoenix and at higher elevations like Sedona, pomegranates, those expensive jewels of the supermarket, thrive. I’ve seen hedges of pomegranate bushes, so full of delectable red fruit that the branches sink with the weight.

This one I liked, because the remaining fruit seemed almost a hand-carved bird feeder, serving up the sweet pips to all comers.

It reminds me that something doesn’t have to be whole and beautiful to be perfect.

The act of putting into your mouth
what the earth has grown is perhaps
your most direct interaction with the earth.

~Frances Moore Lappe,
author of DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET

 

Brilliant saguaros in the Arizona desert

saguaro cactus all in a line

Saguaro cactus are one of the trees of the desert. But if you have ever observed them closely, you’ll notice that they naturally space themselves out, keeping an almost exact distance between one and the next. It’s almost as though they were planted in a carefully aligned plot by an obsessive gardener.

Imagine my surprise when I found this line of saguaros, all edged up against the rocky cliff. They shouldn’t be doing that. Against the rules!

And then I had an epiphany. These cactus were doing exactly what they should be doing, growing where the water would run off the cliff and nourish them. They knew. I was the ignorant one.

I need to remember that. Sometimes the normal rules of what works and what doesn’t don’t work. It pays to be flexible.

After all, when you come right down to it,
how many people speak the same language
even when they speak the same language?

~Russell Hoban~

Tenacity of the vine

The vine in the rockThis was such a cool discovery! It is both a model of design, with all those zigzagging textures, and the actual event, a wisteria vine too stubborn to quit.

When the plant found itself blocked, it changed direction not once but several times. And it isn’t a young whippersnapper of a vine. Take a look at the thickness of girth–this plant has been here for years, patiently finding a path through difficult situations and creating beauty in the process.

As I grow older, things that were once easy for me are sometimes harder to accomplish. But I have grown in wisdom through my experiences. I have become the guru of “work arounds.”

My parents of pioneer stock would be proud.

You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.

~Aristotle~

Book Review: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise PennyLouise Penny is the author of a series of mysteries about the magical village of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada. She is a delight to read, and her books keep getting better and better!

The most recent, KINGDOM OF THE BLIND, has recently been nominated for an Agatha and a Lefty by the Left Coast Crime convention in the Western U.S.

KOTB is both a mystery and a celebration of community, as the members of Three Pines work together and eat together and look out for each other. When the blizzard blows fierce, they eat and drink and stay warm together. When it stops snowing, they dig each other out, and of course connect the snow tunnels to the local bistro!

There is an eccentric poet with a pet duck, an artist, a former psychologist who would much rather run a bookstore, and of course the glue that holds them all together, Armand Gamache, the head of security for Quebec.

What I liked about KOTB was the amazing contrast the author presented between this idyllic village and the absolute hell of addiction faced by dwellers close by, who would sell their souls for a taste of the deadly carfentanil. Gamache is faced with a dilemma of sacrificing the one for the good of the many, and he suffers the consequences.

Look for the many hidden references to the theme in the book’s title, and consider rereading it, once you have reached the end. THEN, all of the subtle hints will be revealed!

Well written with a twisty plot.