Monthly Archives: January 2017

Horses First in Arizona

 

little-leaf-trailTrails in the San Tan Regional Park where we have been doing a fair bit of hiking are open to cyclists, hikers and horse back riders. In order to make the hiking paths as safe as possible park officials have made it clear who takes priority on the trails. 

 

horses-firstHorses rank number one.  Every one else must give them the right of way. Hikers are second in line.  They must yield to horses but not to cyclists. And cyclists are on the bottom rung. It is their responsibility to yield to everyone else on the trail. 

So far riders, bikers and hikers on the trails have all been extremely polite and friendly and following park etiquette admirably. But I guess you know you are out west when horses are ‘top dog’. 

Other posts…….

Visiting Uncle Herb

Cowboys Coffee Hour

Mailboxes of Distinction

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La La Land

La La Land has been nominated for a record number of Oscars. We saw it last week. Why has the movie become so popular? I think one reason is because it shows two young people following their dreams and their dreams come true. Sebastian dreams of owning and running his own jazz club and Mia dreams of being a serious film actress.  They both go through many struggles on the way to achieving their dreams and they have to make compromises. Sometimes they are close to giving up but they don’t. I know plenty of people who start out following their dreams and then often for very practical, understandable, good reasons they give up. I think people like La La Land because its characters didn’t give up.

Another reason I think people like La La Land is because Mia and Sebastian understand each other and are each other’s biggest cheerleaders when it comes to following their dreams. Many dreamers give up on achieving what others might deem the impossible because they don’t have enough support from the important people in their lives.  Mia and Sebastian believe in each other and push each other to not give up and in the end their dreams come true. 

 I am one of those multitudes of movie goers who liked La La Land perhaps because even in my mid sixties I still have dreams and I have realized the importance of having people in my life who can understand those dreams and believe along with me that they will become a reality. 

Other posts……

I’m Possible

Making Wishes in Sedona

On Walden Pond

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Getting To Know the Southwest Through Art

majestic-cat-by-tom-palmoreOn our visit to the Phoenix Art Gallery I wanted to concentrate on finding art that told the story of the southwestern part of the United States. This stunning piece called Majestic Cat is by Tom Palmore.  He specializes in paintings that include wild animals and look almost like photographs. By putting the animals in a setting that has connections to the human world he wants to remind the viewer that we share our planet with other beings. The southwest Sonoran Desert is home to many mountain lions. lew-davis-copper-mining-townArtist Lew Davis was born in the copper mining town of Jerome, Arizona. The Phoenix Art Gallery has a whole series of his paintings which depict life in a copper mining town including this rather haunting one of a young boy called Little Boy Lives in A Copper Camp. canyon-country-georgia-o-keefeGeorgia O Keeffe is probably the most famous artist of the southwestern United States.  She lived and worked primarily in New Mexico and painted many pieces that depict canyons.  This one called Canyon Country was painted in 1965. Although the Grand Canyon is the most well-known of the southwest canyons there are an abundance of canyons throughout the area. easter-painting-paul-pletkaLike Georgia O Keeffe artist Paul Pletka lives and works primarily in New Mexico but he studied at the University of Arizona. This piece of his called Our Lord The One Who Is Flayed shows a group of Mexican people reenacting the passion of Christ during Lent. The painting has images from the biblical story of the crucifixion as well as the story of the Mexican deity Xipe Totec the god of renewal. colorado-river-phoenix-art-galleryDave, my brother and our art gallery guide check out a recreation of the Colorado River by artist Maya Lin. It is called Pin River and made up of thousands of metal pins pushed into the wall. The artist digitally mapped the topographical lines of the river and then recreated it. Part of the Colorado River flows through Arizona’s Grand Canyon before emptying into Lake Mead on the Arizona Nevada border. ed-mell-sweeping-cloudsI was particularly interested in Phoenix artist Ed Mell because he taught for a time on the Hopi Indian Reservation just as we did.  This piece of his is called Sweeping Clouds. 

The Phoenix Art Gallery provides a good introduction to art of the southwest. 

Other posts……..

Getting Into Art

Are You Sure They Aren’t Photographs? 

Sleeping in an Art Gallery

 

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Filed under Arizona, Art

Sunset Walk in America The Beautiful

Dave and Hans ready for the hike.

Dave and Hans ready for the walk.

At the invitation of our friend Hans, who lives not far from us here in the San Tan Valley we went on a photography walk to see the Arizona sunset.  The walk was in Lost Dutchman State Park an Arizona park we had never visited before.

Hans gets ready to take a photo beside a saguaro cactus that we learned weighs 10 tons. We hoped it wouldn't fall on him!

Hans gets ready to take a photo beside a saguaro cactus that we learned weighs 10 tons. We hoped it wouldn’t fall on him!

Hans who belongs to a photography club carries all kinds of photography equipment along with him on these adventures. We even had to turn the car around just after setting off for the park to go back for stuff he had forgotten.  I’m sure the photos he took on our walk were stunning and I am looking forward to seeing them. people-on-hikeWe were on the walk with forty-five other people. When we introduced ourselves we found out there was one other couple from Canada. They live near Ottawa but otherwise our group had visitors from more than a dozen different American states.comb-for-cactusBarb, a park volunteer was our guide for the walk. She has a comb pick in her hand. She told us this is an essential tool for a desert walk because it helps to get unwanted cacti burrs off your clothing without hurting your hands. hedge-hog-cactusBarb stopped to point out a whole bunch of different plants and trees on the hike.  These are hedgehog cacti. four-peaks-with-desert-in-foregroundEarly in our walk we got our first view of the snow-capped Four Peaks way off in the distance. They are part of the Mazatzal Mountains.  Only one of the four peaks has an official name-Brown’s Peak so I wondered what we could call the others. 

four-peaksPerhaps one should be named the Amethyst Peak since our guide Barb told us that between the third and fourth peak is the only commercial amethyst mine in the United States. Helicopters take supplies in and minerals out. The miners hike nine miles to work and usually spend about a week at a time at the mine site which has no running water or electricity.  Hand tools are used to extract the amethyst. flat-iron-mountainBecause we were on the hike with Hans we actually got a picture of the two of us together.

dave-lost-dutchman-hikeDuring our two-hour walk, it was interesting to watch the sun change Flat Iron, the rock formation behind us. Formed by volcanic activity some 25 million years ago it is a pillared mesa. marylou-lost-dutchman-hike

marylou-flat-iron-sunset

 

mistletoe-on-treesHere Barb is showing us some mistletoe growing on a tree.  Desert mistletoe will eventually kill a tree but it can take 10 to 15 years to do so. The parasite is spread from one tree to another by birds who wipe their bills on branches or deposit droppings on the tree after eating the mistletoe fruit.  Mistletoe is just a fact of life in the Sonoran Desert and there isn’t much you can do about it. 

Don't Dave and Hans look fascinated with all the facts they are learning about the mistletoe?

Don’t Dave and Hans look fascinated with all the facts they are learning about the mistletoe?

sunset-on-the-mountainAt this point in the evening, Flat Iron reminded me of the red rocks you see in the Sedona area. praying-handsThis rock formation has been dubbed The Praying Hand. It is a favourite ascent for rock climbers.faces-in-the-rock-az I thought the formation on the bottom left here looked like a hand too and in the one in the centre, I could see a face with eyes, nose and mouth. 

purple-mountainsLater in the evening, the light on the distant mountains reminded me of that line from God Bless America about the purple mountains majesty. The song was written using the words from a poem by Katherine Lee Bates. She and her life partner Katharine Coman were fellow Wellesley professors who traveled often to the American West and were tireless advocates for America’s poor. hoodos-and-flood-flat-iron-azThe rock formation in the background of this photo figures prominently in a First Nations legend that tells the story of a group of people who escaped a flood by climbing to its peak. The white line on the rock shows how high the water came.  See the hoodos to the left? They are tall thin spires of rock also called fairy chimneys or earth pyramids. There is also a tragic modern story associated with this rock formation. On Thanksgiving, in 2011 a plane crashed into it killing six people including a father and his three children. sunset-desertAs we neared the end of our walk the sun truly set and we got some colourful views. diverse-crowd-hikesThe news is just full of all this rhetoric about a divided America and so it was kind of reassuring and lovely to hike through the sunset with this huge group of people of varying ages, from varying cultural backgrounds and various geographical regions in the United States who were all so friendly and enjoying nature’s spectacular show together.
cactus-in-the-setting-sun

Other posts……….

Wine Canyon

Six Toed Cats, A Birthing Chair and His Last Penny

Better With Friends

 

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Filed under Arizona, Nature

Learning How To Write Historical Fiction

I just finished reading three novels written for young people. Each one is historical. Since I am writing a novel set in 1907 I was eager to get  insight into how to best craft a story set in the past.

the_gentle_falcon_coverThe Gentle Falcon by Hilda Lewis takes place in the 1300s and tells the story of Isabella Clinton a girl chosen to be a special companion to the French child bride of England’s King Richard II. The book starts off in an interesting way as we meet Isabella and learn about her life and the adventure she is about to begin. However the middle section of the book seems too bent on getting in all the historical details of Richard II’s life. It took the focus off the main character too much. Reading The Gentle Falcon reminded me that story and character development is more important than covering all the historical facts.

when_you_reach_meThe second novel I read was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stein. It is a Newberry Medal winner set in 1979. The book is about a New York girl named Miranda and her life at school, home and in her neighbourhood. She is trying to figure out who is sending mysterious letters to her. From reading this book I learned it is much harder to write a novel set just decades ago than a novel set more than a hundred years ago. Because many things in 1979 were  similar to the present it is harder to establish the unique historical context of the story. I think the author might have included more references to things unique to the 70’s.  It reminded me to check every detail of my manuscript to be sure I don’t have references that are too generic or modern and plenty that are unique to 1907.

tucson-jo-national-book-award-finalistThe third novel I read was Tuscon Jo by Carol Matas. It is set in the 1880s in Arizona and is a fictional account of the family life of one of Tuscon’s first mayors. We really get to know our main character Jo, the mayor’s daughter very well. The real mayor whose life inspired the story was Jewish and Jewish faith and culture is given lots of emphasis in the story. I found out later that the book’s publisher specializes in Judaic literature. I learned you sometimes have to write your story in a way that will bring it to the attention of a certain publisher. In an afterword Carol Matas said she moved some of the events around in time to make the story better. It is important to remember when you write historical fiction that you can do that. 

Other posts……

Lesson Not Required

Winnie the Pooh is from Winnipeg

Book Pilfering

 

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Filed under Books, Writing

I’ve Lost My Hiking Buddy

ken-and-meMy brother went home yesterday and so I’ve lost my intrepid hiking buddy.  He was always willing to head out on the Arizona trails with me. 

I wore out my old pack back while hiking with my brother and had to get a new one. I'm modeling it here. It is so light and roomy. I just love it.

I wore out my old pack back while hiking with my brother and had to get a new one. I’m modeling it here. It is so light and roomy. I just love it.

When my husband Dave was on the pickle ball court or golfing or playing baseball or watching football my brother and I would head out on a hike. hikingin-grey-sweaterThe views were spectacular but my was it ever steep. hiking-gold-mineOn the upward trail I had to do parts of it a hundred steps at a time and then stop to catch my breath and on the downward trail I admit I had to hold my brother’s hand in sections where there were lots of loose rocks and a very steep descent.  We hiked nearly ten kilometers and most of it was up or down. ken-on-trailI am sorry to have lost my hiking buddy now that my brother is gone.  My sister is coming tomorrow however and I think she might be willing to hike too.  First though I will have to get new running shoes.  I wore my old ones out while hiking with my brother. 

Other posts……..

Hiking the Trail of a Ruthless Warrior

Hiking Diamond Head

Waterfall

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Filed under Arizona, Family

Warms Your Heart and Makes You Laugh Out Loud

Looking for a great little series on Netflix?  Look no further than detectorists.   We just finished watching two seasons worth and what a gem it was. We so enjoyed it!

detectoristsThe series follows a group of hobby detectorists in a British village.  They have a metal detecting club and look for historical treasures in the surrounding meadows and fields. They meet regularly to share their findings. 

I liked the way the series showed the caring but understated relationship between the two men who are the main characters. They are passionate about their hobby. Both are experiencing personal crisis and their metal detectoring is a way of dealing with it, a kind of therapy if you will. I found the espisodes charming and heartwarming. Each member of the metal detecting club has a unique personality and when they interact it makes for some great humour. I don’t know when I have laughed out loud as many times as I did watching this series.

My husband Dave liked the soundtrack and the great cinematography which highlighted the pastoral English countryside in a beautiful way.

My brother said he enjoyed the nuanced  gems of human interaction in detectorists.  He found the characters to be quirky but definitely relatable and said there was a kindness about the show that so often is missing in television programs. He liked the gentle pace and the way the stories unfold fluidly not in a jerky fashion as so many television programs do.  He thought the writing was great. 

If you were a fan of the old British series The Avengers you will appreciate the cameo performance by one of its stars Diana Rigg in detectorists.  Diana’s daughter has a starring role in the drama and is just as dynamic an actress as her mother. 

While watching the series I learned that it is important to distinguish between a detector and a detectorist.  A detector is the actual metal detecting machine and a detectorist is the person who operates it. 

Other posts………

Winnipeg in Televison and the Movies

Creative Television Commercial

Breaking Bad- What’s to Like? 

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A Whole Lot of Organ Music With Your Pizza

dave-and-marylou-organ-stopWould you like to eat too much mediocre pizza at picnic style tables while an organ with 6000 pipes serenades you?  Then Organ Stop Pizza is for you!  Yesterday we had another one of those unique kitchy experiences that comes with the territory when you are an Arizona snowbird.  organ-stop-pizza-mesaThe Organ Stop Pizza Place in Mesa has two massive rooms upstairs and down squished full of long tables and benches, a salad bar, icecream bar, and a walk up counter where you can order pizza.  It also features the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre organ built in 1927 in Denver Colorado and rebuilt in the 1970s to provide entertainment for pizza patrons in Arizona.  organ-stopThe organ rises up above the audience on a rotating hyrdraulic elevator and all kinds of added instruments spread around the venue are manipulated from the organ console including dozens of different drums, bird whistles, cymbals, tambourines, wood blocks, bells, chimes and even an accordian. o-canada-organ-stopThe music on our visit was mostly show tunes from movies like Star Wars, Frozen and Sound of Music but also included stirring renditions of the American anthem and God Bless America during which most of the patrons jumped to their feet with mouths full of pizza and beer and put their hands over their hearts. They even played the Canadian anthem in acknowledgment of the many snowbirds in the audience. No one stood. Shows how patriotic we Canuks are. Check out the Canadian flag in the photo. There is a light show of sorts as you are entertained and the organist Charlie Balogh, who was very talented, took a break from the music to announce birthdays and other special occasions being celebrated by patrons. dave-ball-team-organ-stopWe were at Organ Stop with some of Dave’s slow pitch teammates from Manitoba and it was very hard to talk to each other with that organ music exploding all around you. So we skipped the ice-cream bar and retired to Eric and Joyce’s home in Gold Canyon for Schwann’s ice-cream, chocolate chip cookies and chance to really visit.  There was lots of laughter and interesting conversation. When we left the Organ Stop there was a very long line of people waiting at the walk up pizza counter. Our early arrival meant we’d avoided that.  It was an experience to visit the Organ Stop, but one I’m glad I didn’t have to wait in line for and something I only need to do once. I had a sore throat the next morning from trying to talk over the music.  I should have just closed my mouth and listened. 

Other posts…….

Hi Ho Tonto!

Funky Asheville 

MaryLou’s Castle

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Filed under Arizona, Food, Music

Inspiration From Dr. King

martin-luther-kind-day-talking-stick-arenaWe attended an NBA basketball game here in Phoenix on Martin Luther King Day.  Before the game started the arena was ringed with words of inspiration from Dr. King. I’ve added a photo of my own for each quote. 

decided-to-stick-with-loveI have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden. 

Photo taken in Dehli India 2007

Photo taken in Dehli India 2007

live-as-brothers-or-die-as-foolsWe must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. 

Our son with a good friend when we were living on the Hopi Nation

Our son with a good friend when we were living on the Hopi Nation in 1990

succumbing-to-bitternessNever succumb to the temptation of bitterness. 

Ringing the peace bell in Hiroshima

Ringing the peace bell in Hiroshima

darkness-cannot-drive-out-darkness

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. 

A candle given to me after my Mom died. I lit it the day of the American election.

A candle given to me by a friend after my Mom died. I lit it the day of the American election.

Other posts…….

Thoughts on Hope

And That Led Me

Costa Rica Inspiration

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Filed under Arizona, Inspiration

Should I Be More Real and Messy and Honest?

“Your post was FANTASTIC!  I loved it.”  One of my readers responded to my blog Real and Messy and Honest with those words. He told me people get far more enjoyment from reading stories about how things went wrong than they do from reading stories that include lots of details about how great and interesting and enjoyable everything turned out to be. The post Real and Messy and Honest was certainly the most popular thing I have written in a long time, garnering many views and comments.

snow-stormMy cousin Carol said this was my funniest post yet. My cousin Fred took time to write a humorous personal reflection on Facebook about each thing that had gone wrong for us. His funny responses ended with a link to the Monty Python video of the song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from the movie Life of Brian.

Reader Lori says my post was recognizable and real and she is well aware no one has a perfect life, but she still appreciates writers who highlight the positive.  Anita, who started following my blog when we holidayed in Costa Rica says while my blogs always have lots of great facts and pictures this post provided a change she loved. She suggested it is good to try and see the humour in the messy side of life.

Other readers said they appreciated me exposing the underbelly of my life. It proved I was real.  Fellow writer Dora said she had loved my honest messy blog post but she also likes the usual cheer in my posts. My highschool friend Sandee reminded me that good things can fit into the mess of life too and my friend Arlene said my positive energy lifts her spirits so I should put a smile back on my face and keep looking at the positive side of life. A former pastor of mine thanked me for sharing and said it can be a good at times to recognize the messiness in our own lives and those of others. Many readers said the post had resonated with them because they have had very similar days to mine. One of my former teaching colleagues said the post made her laugh out loud because it was so familiar.

marylou hiking quail trailFellow writer Suzanne told me not to pay heed to people who criticize me for being too positive.   According to Suzanne looking for a silver lining is a gift to be admired not a fault. She loves my positivity and is glad all my posts aren’t written like Real and Messy and Honest.  It would offer far too depressing an outlook on life.

One of my faithful readers Ruth said she was glad I wrote about the downside of my day. It made her laugh and realize that she and her husband aren’t alone in having heated discussions sometimes when they travel. She said she truly enjoys all my positive and enlightening posts but this realistic post was a great way to begin the year of 2017.

Heather Plett the life coach who inspired the post by asking her followers to write a real, messy and honest report about a day in their lives told me I had done a good job of completing the assigned task.

The response to this post made me think I do need to try and write my posts in a more humourous fashion and not be afraid to write about conflict or negative things at times.  It also made me realize I shouldn’t change the way I write too much because most people who follow my blog do so because they like it’s positive tone and direction.

Writing Real and Messy and Honest certainly got a lot of response from my readers, response that has given me lots to think about.

Other posts………

What Are People Saying?

An Attitude of Gratitude

Higher Ground

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Filed under Reflections, Writing