Category Archives: Arizona

Recon

swaths of gold small

If I am to liken writing a book to fighting a battle, or preparing to build or whatever, it is important that one count the cost. To do the recon first. If you send soldiers out into the field and tell them okay, I want you to explore all this region and map it for us, since we have no map, and I want you complete that in three weeks – that would be a ridiculous assignment. No one knows what’s out there. A more reasonable assignment would be to send the people out to map for a particular period of time. Then evaluate what they have and decide the next step. External factors may demand decisions be made on less than complete information, whereupon the outcome becomes far less certain.

Might need to have a number of recon assignments before you are ready to launch any kind of operation.

In book writing, you never really know the terrain until you’ve actually written the first draft. You can stand at the edge of the unknown territory and see there’s a mountain there, a valley there, a canyon there. You can surmise what you will find, and you can estimate a route. But until you are actually down there and walking through it, you cannot know how it will go, where it will go, what you will encounter, etc. So I think it is time to plot the book, try the first trip through the wilderness and see where I end up.

White Mountain Memorial

Last weekend, as I mentioned in an earlier post, we gathered together with my son and his family, and my sister up in the White Mountains.

When my son was growing up and we were home schooling, we used to take an annual trip up to the White Mountains to a place called Big Lake where we camped for about three days, enjoying the changing of the aspen. My mother always went with us and my sister drove in from New Mexico to join us.

We have all sorts of good memories associated with these trips, and my mother especially enjoyed them, so we decided to have a trip in memorium for her.

Originally we were going to do it last fall, but after the Wallow Fire  blazed through there last summer, we decided to wait a year.

We had never camped in an official campground, but in our “own” special spot off the road to Big Lake. There was a pipe spring there, an old cabin, and a glorious stand of aspen — in addition to expansive views of the open range, which my husband glassed morning and evening for antelope and elk. (Click to enlarge all photos)

It was a place far enough away from the roads we could let our dogs roam free, and they loved it, too. We camped, roasted marshmallows, took hikes, sketched, painted, and took lots of photos. Sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, we even heard the elk bugle as they came out in the fields below us to challenge one another.

Though I had prayed the Lord would spare it, we had no way of knowing if the place was even still standing, for the fires had raged right through that area…

Given my son and his wife had Lily, only a little over a year old and would be coming from California, we opted for staying in a condo in Pinetop and driving out to spend the day at our spot rather than camping as in the past. I think it was the right decision.  We had a wonderful time.

Here are a few more pictures:

View from our cabin in Pinetop. I love the way the aspen leaves flutter to the ground in the wind which you can almost see in this picture.

Lily walking like a pro. She and Quigley became friends and cohorts in making trouble. She opened the drawers and doors and he took full advantage!

En route to our “spot”: the fire had raged through much of the forest, leaving skeletons of burned out trees

Thankfully we found our spot mostly untouched, complete with the cabin my mother, sister and I had sketched many times

The trees nearby were also still standing unharmed, and the aspen were midway through their autumn display

Lily was fascinated by the gold aspen leaves quivering in the wind

We saw this guy at the end of the day as we were driving out. Great finish to a wonderful day.

Where I Get My Ideas

Sketch of the Grand Canyon’s Inner Gorge from Plateau Point

Last night and today I have been doing something I haven’t done in a very loooong time.

I’ve been updating my website. Yes, I have a website in addition to this blog. The link is in the margin to the right.  The last time I updated it was in 2009, when The Enclave came out and all I did then was put a notice on my home page and add a page just fro it. I didn’t even remember to change the “last updated” blurb in the header, so that it still said “July 2007” when I started to work last night.

I had no idea it had been that long. I’ve been thinking for some time that I need to integrate it with the blog, but that’s about all I’ve done: think.  And not much of that, either.  Too many options, too little knowledge and WAY too little time!

But with the re-release of Arena, and this month’s free e-book special of The Light of Eidon, I figured I should probably get back to the website and at least update Arena’s cover and mention the special.

In the process, I’ve found some fun things there; things that I’d forgotten.

Like the Arena Scrapbook I made to illustrate some answers to the question, where do I get my ideas?

Here’s the start…

“People ask where I get my ideas.  As with all authors, mine come from things I’ve experienced in my life, either directly or indirectly through reading, movies or things others have told me. Sometimes places or events surface that I think are completely original, only to discover later that I actually experienced them somewhere before.

It was a real shock to be walking down the upper switchbacks of the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail some twenty years after the first time I’d done it and come to a spot that was “straight out of Arena.” Until then, I thought I’d made it up completely.”

To see the photos of experiences that spawned various elements of Arena, I invite you to visit my Scrapbook Page HERE.

Remembering Last Summer: Barah Ministries Arizona Conference

It’s 10:55pm Sunday night. I’ve not worked on Sky for three days. Or at least not directly, though I’ve continued to read and study about the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 — a study that unexpectedly has been paralleled by Pastor Farley’s lessons this last week. I love it when God does that.

But I’m tired now, and information about the churches is still rolling about in my head in disparate pieces, so I thought I’d put up a post I did last summer about the Bible conference I attended that, for one reason or another I never got around to publishing… kind of a walk down memory lane, especially since it occurred just a couple weeks over a year ago, when we were in the middle of trying to sell my mother’s house. Thus, in the interest of getting to bed before midnight tonight, I give you my report on the 2011 Barah Ministries Bible Conference held at Wild Horse Pass Resort near Phoenix:

 

On Thursday, May 13, over two months ago now, and a week after my car wreck on the morning of the yard sale, I went to Phoenix for a Bible conference. It was the day after we met with the realtor to finalize plans for my mother’s house going up for sale. My sister went home to Santa Fe, and I took off in my little gas-efficient rental car for the Wild Horse Pass Resort where the Barah Ministries Bible Conference was being held.

This conference, hosted by Pastor Rory Clark of Barah Ministries, featured two invited guest speakers, Pastor John Farley (who is my pastor now) and Pastor Robert McLaughlin (who was my pastor for over ten years until last fall). The latter man was the main reason I went. He urged us in January 2011 to attend and I believe I made my reservations in February, not at all sure I’d even be able to go given the situation with my mother at the time. But I gave it a shot nonetheless. If God wanted me there, He’d find a way. I never would have guessed the way He found, but that’s hardly surprising.

Anyway, the conference officially started Friday, but I went up Thursday afternoon. Being the introvert that I am, I know that even a two-hour drive through bright sun will zap my energy and I did not want to arrive zapped before I’d even heard a word of teaching. I drove up alone, listening to my June Murphy Come See a Man CD (you can find it here) — she writes and sings all her own songs and they are amazing. Filled with doctrine, and they won’t leave your head after you start listening to them! My favorite is  I Will…. or is it I AM…?  or…When I Say I Love You…  Wait, I really like Come See a Man, too. Okay, forget it. They’re all favorites.

Anyway, going early is always fun, because you run into old friends you haven’t seen since the last conference, and there’s lots of opportunity to meet and visit. My friends Kelli and Richard arrived shortly after I did, and we all got settled, then went to dinner and after that Kelli and I went out and lay on the lounge chairs by the pool (see picture above), looked at the stars and listened to the Bible class that had been taught earlier that same night in Massachusetts (where they held their own little mini conference in Pastor’s absence.) It was awesome. Listening to teaching about God while looking up into the vault of heaven was quite an experience.

Wild Horse Pass Resort Lobby

The next morning I got up early, went down to the great rotunda (see the photo above) and got a latte and a muffin (they had no scones 🙁 ) and ate it by the giant window overlooking the pool, man-made river and golf course.  Below is a shot of the ceiling. There were birds flying about inside as well. And the rocks to the right are an indoor waterfall. Random Native American flute music plays here pretty much all the time.

 

After I’d finished my muffin and latte, and written a bit in my journal, I set out to explore the grounds, eventually finding a place under a cottonwood tree where I could sit down and finish doing my morning pages.

It was a beautiful morning in a beautiful setting and I loved the opportunity to just sit and enjoy the stillness. It had been a long time since I’d been able to relax and not have to worry about running off somewhere to take care of something…

After I finished my pages, I headed back toward my room, and on the way found a heron fishing in the stream that runs right by the hotel rooms.

 

Here’s a close up:

 

(I’d just gotten started using my new camera back then and was tickled to death with the close-ups I could get)

The conference started at 10am and was excellent as all of them are. There is always so much going on, from the doctrine taught, to the happenstance meetings in the halls, to the long talks over lunch or in hotel rooms… It’s just a wonderful time to fellowship with God’s people, drink in His word in concentrated doses, strengthen old connections and make new ones.

And now, back to this summer, June 2012 — I have a new conference to look forward to in a couple months in Portland. Already have my tickets. Can’t wait to see everyone! And to see what lessons God has prepared for me there.

 

Spring in Arizona

Specifically Southern Arizona. 

A couple of weeks ago, (about a week after my surgery, in fact),  I met my editor at a local garden restaurant for lunch. After we finished eating and talking we took our cameras and went around the hummingbird garden taking pictures. The hummingbird garden is one planted with native wildflowers that attract hummingbirds. At the time of our visit, the flowers were all in bloom. I had a blast, and thought I’d share some of the pictures I took.

This next one  is a nesting morning dove. She just sat there not far off the path and let people walk by. Most didn’t notice her, but even when we started taking pictures, she just watched

And now for my favorite of all the shots I got, and the most appropriate for the “hummingbird garden”:

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year everyone!

May 2012 be a year of continued blessing and growth for all of you.

I can hardly believe it’s been over a month since I last posted.

Then again it seems like forever since December began. A lot has happened since then. Last summer, after 30 years of submitting applications, my husband finally drew the single 2011 Desert Bighorn Sheep hunt permit for a unit in the eastern portion of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona. The season began December 1 and ended December 31. Since he will never get another chance to hunt Desert Bighorns,  he has since August been making the four-hour drive out to hike the arid, empty, forbidding lands of the Cabeza Prieta seeking to get a sense of where he might find the sheep.

As a man who’s always looking for adventure, he found it in spades.  In an area bordered on the south by Mexico and on the north by the Barry M Goldwater Bombing Range he encountered violent thunderstorms, and gale force winds, blazing heat, frigid cold, solitude, bad roads, dust storms, illegal smugglers of people, drugs and guns, the discovery of human remains, A-10 and F-15 fighter jets strafing and bombing the nearby range  in training runs that shook the air and ground for miles, and a never- ending parade of Border Patrol officers wanting to know what he was doing. With his access limited to three roads, each miles from the areas where the sheep were, and camping prohibited throughout most of the refuge, he faced a long walk out at the end of the day, no matter where he was.

And that was just the lead up. He worked his last day of work for 2011 right after Thanksgiving, taking off before opening day to prepare and get settled in his camping area before the season actually started. Five friends met him out there to help.  He was prepared to hunt the entire month if need be. I had no idea if we were even going to be able to do Christmas.

Plus, with my mother gone, my sister decided to stay in New Mexico, and with our son and daughter-in-law due to stay with her family in Tucson for the holiday, even apart from the hunt, Christmas 2011 was certain to be a radical departure from our accustomed traditions.

Since by the weekend of Dec 11th my hubby was still at it, I gave up on the idea of getting a tree, put up a small one in the piano and put Santa hats on the animal mounts we have in our living room.  Here’s our full sized Gould’s turkey with his tiny hat. It makes me laugh…

As it turned out the ram was taken over that same weekend,  and shortly thereafter my kitchen was co-opted for meat processing for about a week.  No Christmas baking to be done then!  Instead I spent the time working on the Christmas letter and ordering presents (first time in a loooong time we had to do so without lists!)

Once the butchering was done, my husband develped a weird staph infection under the skin of one of his fingers, so we were off to Urgent Care two days in a row right before Christmas. The treatment was a shot of antibiotics followed by a 10 day pill regimen of the same along with daily soakings in betadine and epsom salts. It’s better now, but for awhile it was very nasty — swollen, painful and after awhile black. (Which was really just a scab beneath the skin, though we didn’t know it at the time)

We ended up having the kids at our house for Christmas morning, then went over to join Kim’s family for the Christmas dinner that afternoon. It made for a very nice –and festive –holiday after all. I’m thankful they invited us!

Here’s Lily with her new stuffed puppy, which looks — ahem — a lot like Quigley. Imagine that…

Then we left for California to visit my 91-year-old stepmother (and her 92-year-old sister)  for three days and by the time we returned I was exhausted and had picked up a cold — most likely from the seven story hotel in which we stayed (on the seventh floor) (with Quigley) along with about 100 marching band members from Japan and their supporters, all of whom were apparently housed on the third floor!

But! on the way home New Year’s Eve, on the road somewhere between Yuma and Gila Bend around 8:15pm we saw the New Year’s Eve meteor!  It had nothing to do with the Quadrantid meteor shower that was supposed to begin  on the 3rd, but was instead a random meteorite from somewhere out by Jupiter.

It started as a bright light coming at us out of the east. What in the world???Then it sprouted a tail that turned green with red around the edges and we realized it was a meteor. It looked like it was going to crash into the ground right beside the highway, but just before it did, the head vanished and the tail slowly faded. Turns out it wasn’t that close, but streaking low on the horizon, visible to people in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Others also thought it was going to hit the ground or a building, but we were all deceived I guess by how bright and low on the horizon it was. Fantastic experience. We could hardly believe we’d seen it. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen, apart from the little white streaks way way up in the sky from “shooting stars.” If only I’d had the camera out and ready I might have been able to get a shot.

Instead, I’ll have to settle for this picture from Wikipedia that shows what a bolide looks like. It’s very similar to what we saw. Ours had a fatter, greener tail. Still — Very Cool! And it seems symbolic somehow, though I haven’t figured out how, yet.

A Different Kind of Mourning

Well, we’ve sold my mother’s car, Indian arts, and house (it’s due to close this week) and last Thursday had an estate liquidator come and remove everything we had left and didn’t want. In the meantime, the White Mountains have been burning, which is where we’d planned to hold our private memorial for my mother.

For maybe fifteen years we — me, my mother, sister, husband, son and his friend took an annual trip to the high country of the eastern White Mountains to camp and enjoy the aspens as they turned color. My husband often scouted for elk and we frequently heard them bugling in the night. Since we never stayed in — or even near — an organized campground, our dogs were free to roam. We hiked and sketched and painted and nature watched and cooked. We have many happy memories of those times and the place itself, which, to quote a recent interviewee, was one of the most beautiful on earth.

We stayed in two different places over the years, one not far from the Bear Wallow Campground, which is the campground where they are saying the horrific Wallow Fire began. The second place was near the town of Greer, which was recently overrun by the flames and 22 cabins were lost (to put it into perspective, though, it was 22 out of 500).

In going through my mother’s things last week, I came upon these pictures from our trips there. The first ones, including the one at the top of this post, are from the Bear Wallow location. The  last one with the “family portrait” is from our place near Big Lake, just south of Greer.  (click on any of them to enlarge)

Double Cienega. I painted that stand of aspens out there.

This is from the hillside above the previous meadow as we hiked up to see a bear den Stu had found.

Us in an aspen grove. It was on this walk that I experienced the rain of aspen leaves I wrote about in a scene in The Shadow Within… That’s Adam, MUCH younger than he is now (so are we for that matter!) and the hound was our first, a bloodhound/black and tan cross named Grumpy. He’s the one that sold us on hounds.

Aspens at the top of the hill.

Walking along the road at the top of the hill, on our way to the den…

There’s our camp, at the edge of the trees, looking out across the meadow.

This one was taken several years later at the Big Lake site. Adam on the left is obviously a bit older than he was in the previous shots here and the new hound is Samantha, Grumpy’s replacement. She was also a bloodhound/black and tan cross. Or at least that’s what they told us when we bought her. My mother is on the right.

To hear and see the news reports, it sounds as if all of the above is gone, nothing but charred black stumps, dead snags and scorched ground. Time will tell — there may still be pockets and stands of life and Stu still wants to try going up there, though lodgings may be a bit harder to come by even than before. God will have to work all this out if that’s what He wants us to do.

In the meantime, we mourn the loss of our beautiful special spot in Arizona — and in our lives and memories — grateful we had as many opportunities to enjoy it as we did.

Artist’s Date

The Artist’s Way has two major “tools” as part of its course: the morning pages, which are to be done daily, and the Artist’s Date, which is to be done once a week. To quote from The Artist’s Way Website,” the Artist Date is a one to two-hour block of time set aside weekly for an excursion on your own that celebrates and nurtures your creative self. These excursions or playdates should be festive.”  The book adds, “Think delight, magic, fun. Not duty. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you. Follow your sense of the mysterious not your sense of what you should know more about.”

Twelve years ago, I bombed out on the Artist Dates for the most part. They seemed silly. How would I ever find the time? I spent a lot of my time alone anyway, what’s the good of taking the time and effort to go somewhere. So I didn’t do them.

Today I went on my second Artist Date since starting this course. I left at 9am and went to a nearby McDonald’s to redeem the rest of a gift card I’d been given for mother’s day — got a small mocha frappe and took it across the street to Reid Park with my sketchbook and camera. I went alone, which is one of the requirements — as in, Quigley stayed home. I sat on a bench near one of the lakes and sketched — the ducks and geese, the trees, the lake. First time in maybe ten years that I’ve done that. (Yes the sketch is lame, but I am very much out of practice. And part of all this is about getting comfortable with making not-so-great-art and just having fun.

It was SOOOO cool! I LOVED it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed doing that. It was such a blessing I could hardly believe it. A beautiful day, not many people, just enough, really. And the trees. I love the trees, and the variety… God’s details. Nothing in nature is linear and straight and simplistically ordered. Even though there is order behind all of it.

There were two loose dogs, but since I didn’t have Quigley, I didn’t care!

After I filled a sketchbook page, I packed up and pulled out the camera, then went around taking pictures of whatever caught my fancy — overriding any protests that my choices might be silly. After all, what difference did it make? It’s a digital camera. It’s not like I’m wasting film.

So…

 … I photographed the geese, the ducks, the lake, the man with the two short-legged dogs…

….. the trees, a night heron, the waterfall all sparkly with morning light, the sunny hillside with the grass such a bright yellow-green.

I love that color. Photographs can’t capture it.

I was so jazzed by it all when I left at ten. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it. And while there I was even consciously and literally taking notes on the people and what I was hearing and smelling… thinking there could be a place like this in Sky.  I can’t even describe the sense of lightness and joy I had coming home. Who woulda thought? I’ve been going to that park forever. But today it was all brand new.

Then when I got home, as I came back inside from hanging out the laundry I found a mushroom in the grass. Last night there was nothing, this morning, a fully formed mushroom. Thinking it was probably poisonous, I picked it up to throw it away, but it was so cool, so perfect I decided to draw it. 

Then I threw it away. Good thing, too, since I just identified it: Green Gilled Parasol  or  Chlorophyllum molybdites . And it IS poisonous.

What an awesome time!  And oh yeah, I also got in three more pages on Sky. To go with the three I did yesterday. Which means I’ve reached page 15. In addition to taking my mother for her PET scan. So, silly and goofy or not, this Artist’s Way course seems to be making good on its promise of breaking through creative blocks!

A Busy Weekend

It started with me getting out of bed before seven on Saturday to shower and then run off to take my mother to the grocery store. When I got home it was water the grass, eat breakfast and hang out a load of sheets, then Stu and I were off across town and out to the Desert Museum for the Saguaro National Park Symposium on Climate Change. We went, not because we have a great interest in climate change, but because a friend of ours was giving a presentation on the research she’s been doing on frogs in local drainages. Despite the climate change billing, it was fun. We listened to an hours worth of talks — our friend’s and three others — and it brought back memories. Both my husband and I have degrees in Wildlife Biology (I think they call it Wildlife Ecology now. Or maybe Wildlife studies?) and at one time in our lives were looking at maybe doing the same sort of work as was presented in the talks.

Of course that was not God’s will for our lives, but our interest was still strong enough we were engaged by what we were hearing. Afterward, as we headed home through the desert, we were surprised to find thunderheads building to the south and east — surprised since supposedly the monsoon has ended.  They were so cool, I told Stu to stop the car so I could take pictures.

Once home, we ate lunch and then did Skype with our son in San Diego — for two hours! And after that it was time to walk Quigley, eat dinner and then my hubby went off to meet with a high school friend in town from Pennsylvania. I was invited but I had already turned into a pumpkin from all that interaction, travel and stimulation and was in sore need of down time. So I stayed home, went over my notes from Bible Class and finished a birthday card.

Today was our local assembly’s monthly communion and pot luck. We usually gather on Sunday’s for a recording of classes taught in Massachusetts earlier that morning (Their 10am is our 7am) in the home of one of the deacons (I learned only recently that meeting in separate, public church buildings didn’t start until the third century BC  A.D.  — see how pathetic my brain is when drained? — Until then, most church groups met in homes.) On the first Sunday of each month we do communion along with the Somerset, MA congregation, and have a pot luck afterward with lots of talk and fellowship.

I don’t usually get home till mid afternoon or later. At which point my introvert self is completely drained of energy and my brain is full of stuff in need of processing. I love that analogy to the bank where all the deposits are being accepted, but nothing is actually being catalogued or recorded. If that’s not done soon, chaos will ensue.

Fortunately I don’t have to go anywhere that I know of tomorrow. I have delusional hopes of maybe getting in some work on Sky, but if the usual pattern for post-communion Mondays’ follows I’ll probably just moodle. But I’ve put all that in the Lord’s hands, having arrived at the conclusion that I have no idea what’s wrong with me, if anything, what I’m doing wrong, if anything, if I really have no self-discipline, or just a multifaceted calling that demands flexibility. Today in class one of the speakers reminded us of 2 Peter 1:7  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Not just anxiety, but your whole life, and your gift, he said. Weird that he’d say that, but it was just what I needed. Cast it all on Him and leave it there.

It’s the leaving it there that’s the tricky part. When I first wrote that down in my journal, I followed it with my next thought: “That can’t be right.” But when you set that down in writing, you see how absurd it is. Do you believe what the Book says or don’t you? Is there something unclear about “all”?

So, that’s what I’m going to do.