Category Archives: Arizona

Lessons From A Clown

This figure was painted for me by a friend on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona and given to me as a gift during the year we lived in Kykotsmovi, a Hopi community. The figure is a clown Kachina.

I’ve had my clown kachina for more than thirty years and his right foot has been damaged by children and grandchildren who enjoyed playing with him

A Kachina is a spirit in the Hopi belief system. There are many different kinds of Kachinas. At the dances we went to in various Hopi villages, members of the community would dress up to look like the Kachinas. Each kind of Kachina had a different appearance and personality and purpose.

The clown Kachinas were often a source of amusement at the village dances. They were noisy and not terribly circumspect in their comments. They were often dramatic and behaved in a kind of ‘over the top’ way. They satirized life by acting out and exaggerating improper behaviour. Their aim I think was to illustrate how overdoing anything is bad not only for individuals but the community as a whole.

I remember how at one dance we attended the clown Kachinas were giving us a very boisterous and entertaining lesson about the detrimental impact of smoking too much.

The clown Kachinas made us think about the fact that if we wanted to have a peaceful community we needed to first examine our own standards of behaviour.

It’s an important truth for all of us to consider. I have my clown Kachina figure on my desk to remind me that my behaviour makes a difference in the ethos of my family and my community.

Other posts…….

That’s How Light Gets In

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Filed under Arizona, Religion

Don’t Piss God Off, Red Rocks and Letters to America

Yesterday when I was walking through Steve Juba Park near my home I thought about something Shug says in the novel The Color Purple.  Shug believes God wants us to admire all the beautiful stuff in creation. It’s a sin she claims not to look for beauty and not to appreciate it.

Shug says, “it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple somewhere….and you don’t even notice it.”   Well, I don’t think God could have been too upset with me yesterday in Steve Juba Park because I was being wowed by plenty of purple beauty.  Here are three of the photos I took. irises

little purple flowers


I picked up a jigsaw puzzle last Wednesday when I was volunteering at the MCC Thrift Store. jigsaw red rocks crossingIt was a picture of Red Rocks Crossing in Sedona Arizona. I finished it yesterday and so today when I go to the store to volunteer I can return it and pick up a new puzzle. I chose the Sedona puzzle because I have been to Red Rocks crossing in Sedona and know just how beautiful it is in real life. Here are a couple of photos I took when I was there. red rocks crossing Sedona

sedona red rocks crossing

Macleans is running a series called Letters to America.  Submitted by prominent black Canadians each unique and beautifully written letter makes you think about why Black Lives Matter.  

Esi Edugyan the author of the bestseller Washington Black reminds us of what an important role the abolitionist movement in Great Britain had on ending slavery in the United States.  People an ocean away cared about Black people in America.

Rinaldo Walcott a University of Toronto professor says that in Ontario a Black person is 20 times more likely to die in an encounter with police officers than a white person. Canadians are too willing to abdicate responsibility for safety in our communities to the police. Better housing, health care and transportation are things that will truly make a difference. 

Andray Domise a Macleans contributing editor and historian tells us Canadians like to pat themselves on the back because they were the final stop on the Underground Railroad but we need to remember that in the 1950s and 1960s when Black Americans were trying to leave the United States and its segregationist Jim Crow laws they were turned away at the border by Canadian authorities or deported back to America if they somehow made it across the 49th parallel. 

Lawrence Hill the author of the widely acclaimed Book of Negroes lays a lot of the blame for racism in America on Donald Trump and his devotees.  Speaking through the voice of his father Hill says Trump and his enablers must be voted out of every political office in the United States. Trump has no respect for Black folks, Muslims, refugees or women. He wants to turn America into a dictatorship and he and his supporters have perverted everything good people should hold sacred. 

There are other great letters in the series. Read them for an interesting and varied Canadian perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Other posts………….

The Color Purple- God in Every Living Thing

A Strange Book But One Worth Reading

Inspiration on a Walk in Sedona

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Filed under Arizona, History, Nature, Politics

Hopi Connection, Should I Volunteer and a 17-year-old Hero

bb team hopi mission school 1990

My husband with the Hopi basketball team he coached

Dave and I taught on the Hopi First Nation in Arizona for a year so I was very interested to read that the Hopi Nation along with the Navajo Nation that surrounds it, has been the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the country of Ireland.

joel dave canyon de chelly 1

My husband and son hiking Canyon De Chelly on the Navajo Nation in Arizona

Apparently, during the Irish potato famine from 1845-1849, the Choctaw First Nation in Oklahoma sent $170 to Ireland for famine relief. Now the people of Ireland have returned the favour by contributing to a fund established to provide assistance to people on the Hopi and Navajo nations.  The high incidence of diabetes, a scarcity of running water and the practice of several generations living in the same house have enabled the coronavirus to spread more quickly through the territory of these two American First Nations.  One-tenth of the COVID-19 cases in Arizona are on the Navajo or Hopi reservations. The leader of the Choctaw Nation says he is gratified that the generosity of his ancestors has resulted in assistance to other American First Nations who need the help the most. 

women working at the thrift storeShould I go back to my volunteer position? The Thrift Store run by Mennonite Central Committee is partially opening near the end of the month.  I received an e-mail yesterday that volunteers are being invited to return under very strict regulations that will keep us socially distant. We will work with smaller, consistent groups of people.  

at the thrift storeI’ve indicated I’d like to go back, partly because of the fact that almost all of my other jobs and volunteer commitments have been put on hold and I’m anxious to get out of the house and do something useful.  But I am also wondering if I am putting myself and my husband at risk by doing this.  I am in the older age category that is most susceptible to the virus.  The Thrift Store, however, provides an important service to the people in its neighbourhood and to people around the world who are the recipients of the funds it raises. Those services are needed now more than ever.  I’d love to hear your feedback on what you think I should do. 

When the pandemic first started, a former colleague of ours, Sharon Singh who is an award-winning technology educator in Australia,  recommended the clear statistical information offered by a website created by Avi Schiffman a 17-year-old high school student from Seattle.  My husband Dave has been visiting the website regularly ever since.

avi schiffmann

Avi Schiffmann’s Twitter site image

Avi, a self-taught computer geek, started the website in December and it now has 30 million followers.  It updates itself with reliable coronavirus information every minute. Avi has turned down more than 8 million dollars in advertising for his site because he doesn’t want his viewers to be bothered by troublesome pop-up ads. This kid is a real hero.  You can watch Avi being interviewed on the Trevor Noah show here. 

Other posts………

Common Threads- The Hopi

Look What I Found!

Questions From the Genius Bar




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Filed under Arizona, COVID-19 Diary

We Are Headed Home

desert hiking trailThis morning we will say goodbye to beautiful Arizona and start our drive back to Manitoba some three weeks sooner than we had planned.  Our children and grandchildren were going to come here to Phoenix to vacation with us at the end of March but they have cancelled their flights.  Following the advice of medical experts in our family, we are heading back to Winnipeg.  

mounk at arizona citzenship conference

We heard Yascha Mounk speak at Arizona State University.

I have been doing lots of reading including articles in The Atlantic by Yascha Mounk who we heard speak here at the University of Arizona just a couple of weeks ago. I have also read reports from doctors in Italy and have listened to the advice offered by our prime minister and Canadian health officials.  Going home seems like the right thing to do. The assumption seems to be that the United States is very ill-prepared for the coming crisis and it will be better to be in Canada. 

So we have bid farewell to our unique little apartment here in Tempe, cancelled the reservation for the big house in Dobson’s Ranch we had rented to share with our children and grandchildren and are making the trip home.  

dave outside art musuem u of a

Dave on the University of Arizona campus with  Snake Skin Boots by Eduardo Sarabia

I had been looking forward to exploring the University of Arizona campus during our stay here, attending lectures and concerts and spending time writing in its four libraries but now they have decided to close all classes so that will not be happening.

Dave could possibly still have kept on golfing and we did do a lovely hike yesterday and had a great last supper with friends but there was little else to encourage us to remain in Arizona especially when the much-anticipated family vacation we had planned wasn’t on the horizon any longer and we were being urged to return home.

We know in Winnipeg our usual routines will be upended since both my places of employment have shut their doors and public spaces like the pickleball courts and curling rinks and gyms where we exercise have closed, the theatre events we had tickets for have been cancelled and it looks like churches and libraries will close next. But it will feel safer to be in our home country and home city and nearer to family and friends as we wait to see what the coming crisis brings. 

Other posts………..

My Polio Vaccines

Vaccinations Aren’t Just For Babies

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History




Filed under Arizona, Health

Orbiting Tempe

Orbit Bus Tempe

They have these cute little buses here in Tempe, Arizona.  They are called Orbit buses and each navigates a different route named after a planet.  They don’t just operate on main roads but follow side streets into all kinds of neighbourhoods.  You can flag them down anywhere.

dave chats with the bus driver

Dave chats with our Orbit bus driver about the free bus service Tempe provides

The other night when we were going to a basketball game at Arizona State University we took the Venus line and then transferred to the Mercury line. And here is the thing.  These buses are completely free of charge.  The city operates them to encourage people to take public transit rather than drive their own cars.  Dave chatted with one of the drivers who said the program has been very successful. Taxes were raised by a tiny percentage point to pay for the Orbit buses. 

Dave looks at the pamphlet that shows the different Orbit routes

Tempe is a university town and many students make use of the free bus service. In my home city of Winnipeg, they are thinking of cancelling a program that allows university students to buy bus passes at a reduced rate. A pretty backwards approach compared to what they are doing here in Tempe. When we lived in Hong Kong we used to have little neighbourhood buses like the Orbit buses. We called them minibuses. Dave and I used them all the time. 

What a great idea to create less traffic and protect the environment. 

Other posts………..

Help Me Decide

Bus Chat

Loving Uber


Filed under Arizona

Oh What Fun!

Here I am with the cactus bandana I made in the hands-on education room in the Arizona State University Art Gallery. I had such a fun time there! As you entered the space you could watch a video featuring an artist named Cruz Ortiz. He explains how he created the art on display in the room.

Summer Nite Star Dream by Cruz Ortiz

He went out into the Sonoran Desert near Phoenix and drew sketches of all kinds of things. Then he created woodblock carvings of the things he’d drawn.

Palo Verde Cream by Cruz Ortiz

He inked the woodblocks and used them to make the prints that he arranged together in order to compose his larger artworks. There was a table with all kinds of woodblock prints sort of like the ones in the Ortiz artworks and fresh white cloth bandanas. You could unfold one and then make your own special piece of art. I had so much fun making the first one that I made a second one too! There was this floor to ceiling cupboard in the space and a sign nearby that explained what a still life artwork was. You were invited to take objects from the shelves and arrange them to create your own still life.  I made three.


Ocean Treasures


Then you could sit at a table and sketch your own still life object.

One whole wall in the space was for making poetry. You could rearrange the magnetic words to create a poem of your own. I composed one about my mother and one for Elisabeth Warren who had just bowed out of the Democratic Presidential race.  I was sad that the youngest, most intelligent, most energetic, most organized, most personable, most positively passionate of the three remaining viable candidates was judged more for her gender than her competence. Before you left the space you were invited to add your comments and ideas to these long strings hanging from the pillars in the space.  In the background, you can see my partner Dave who read while I had my fun but was always willing to put his book down and take a picture as needed. I wrote two different messages and pinned them to the strings in the education space.

Something else that was cool and fun was that the art studio where I was enjoying myself was just next to the Arizona State school of music. Since it was a lovely day there were musicians all over the place outside rehearsing and they provided a wonderful musical accompaniment to my artistic endeavours.

Other posts………….

Artists in Action

A Dutch Touch on a Fine Fall Afternoon

Meet You At The Folio

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Filed under Arizona, Art, Education

Bits and Pieces of Our Arizona Life

Thursday night we went for dinner and a movie with friends. We saw the documentary Once We Were Brothers. It is about the music group The Band. They are probably most well known for the 1978 Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz which showcases The Band’s final concert. We were the only four people in the theatre so we could have sung along with all the very familiar songs we heard during the movie. 

Friday night we went to the Venture Out Mobile Home Park to have supper with three other couples who all attend Bethel Church in Winnipeg with us.  We went to a university basketball game on Saturday night. We spent $12 US in order to purchase a clear plastic bag in the Sun Devils merchandise store. We had to empty the contents of my purse into the bag and then hide my purse under a very large and very prickly cactus on the stadium grounds. We didn’t know that purses, backpacks, diaper bags and camera cases empty or full are not allowed in the Sun Devils stadium. We watched a very exciting game that the Sun Devils won! My purse was still under the cactus after the game. We now have an extra bag for groceries and I’ve got a few scratches on my arms from the cactus spikes. Sunday morning we had a great breakfast and an excellent visit at the Olive Mill with friends, including our former Steinbach neighbours Ric and Helen who spend their winters in Arizona. Helen had made us each a jar of her special orange peach jam. YUM! In the afternoon Dave and Mitch and our friend Rudy hit the links while the rest of us hung out at Hans and Chris’ house in Johnson Ranch and then enjoyed a chilli supper prepared by Dave and Chris. Monday we went out for brunch with Larry and Jo.  Larry and I are members of the same writers’ group in Winnipeg.  We knew we would be in Arizona at the same time but also knew we would both be staying in a number of different places.  Wouldn’t you know it Larry and Jo were at the same vacation community where we spent our first two weeks and we ran into each other in the workout room?  We made plans then to get together later.  We had a great visit!

Went grocery shopping Monday afternoon.  Shelves where toilet paper and hand sanitizer are sold are bare.  This is the case in every store we visit.

Other posts……..

Politics By the Pool

Another Handlebar

A New Sport For Dave


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Filed under Arizona

Wild Flowers and A Lost Camera

See our camera around Dave’s neck?

Our friend Mitch on the Merkle Trail

Dave used that camera to take some gorgeous shots of the many different wildflowers we learned about on a hike down the Merkle Trail in Usery Park  in  Arizona.  The wildflower walk was led by the legendary Ranger B who hosts lots of interesting hikes in the park. 

Dave took this photo of our hiking group with my phone.  

After the hike was over Dave put the camera on one of the tables in a picnic shelter at the end of the trail while we made post-hike plans for dinner.  We both forgot to pick it up before we headed to our car and only discovered it was missing when we got home.  We called the park and went back there to search for it, but no one had turned it in.  The camera was nearly ten years old and had a few technical problems but I am so sad to lose the beautiful pictures Dave took of the wildflowers we saw. This blog post only includes the few photos I took with my phone. Here our friend Mitch is smelling the flower of the creosote plant. When you rub it and then cup your hands to smell it you get the aroma of fresh rain. These are some of the oldest plants in the world. Ranger B told us they’ve around for 11,500 years. The trails were lined with Brittle Bush flowers that looked like daisies. The buckhorn cholla plant features these fiery red blooms. You had to look carefully for them because they were hidden on the desert floor among many other things, but it was possible to spot some woolly daises or Easter Bonnets as they are more commonly referred to. Ranger B said the chuparosa flowers were a favourite of hummingbirds. Dave also had photos of the fairy duster, the globemallow,  the sore eye poppy, the gilia, and the fiddleneck but they are in our camera which belongs to someone else now.

It was a gorgeous day for a hike!

wildflower walk arizona

Other posts………..

The Flowers of Costa Rica

Trilliums- Food For the Soul 

I’ve Got My Camera Back


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Filed under Arizona, Nature

Another Handlebar

We’ve had lots of good times with family and friends at The Handlebar Pub and Grill in Apache Junction on previous visits to Arizona. There is good music, wonderful food grilled over a pecan wood fire and the atmosphere is friendly and upbeat. This time we are staying in Tempe, a completely different part of the Phoenix area and we were surprised to discover there is a Handlebar Pub here too.   All the wood both inside and outside of this Handlebar comes from a historic old barn in the midwest. The barn was dismantled and shipped to Arizona. Like its namesake in Apache Junction, this Handlebar has live music on Saturday nights. But unlike the Apache Junction Handlebar which is named after all the beer tap handles that adorn its ceiling this Handlebar gets its name from the fact that it is a popular hangout for cyclists. We dropped into the Handlebar after a steep hike in the hot sun and enjoyed some cool drinks served by our congenial bartender Jordan, who is a student at the University of Arizona. She has her sights set on becoming a criminal lawyer.  Jordan steered me towards the Ramble On cocktail and it was a real thirst quencher. We shared a delicious pretzel but I learned later that The Handlebar serves the finest grilled cheese sandwich in Phoenix so we will have to try that next time.

On Wednesday night after enjoying a wild flower desert hike together with our friends we went to the other Handlebar. I am sure during the coming month we will make more trips out to our old Handlebar haunt, but it is nice to know there is another Handlebar within easy walking distance of our current home. 

Other posts…………

String Em Up At the Handlebar


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Filed under Arizona, Restaurants

Is It Really A Teapot?

Queen of Hearts Teapot by Michael Sherrill

Michael Sherrill is a ceramicist from North Carolina with an international reputation for his work.

Blue Teapot by Michael Sherrill

He got his start making teacups and teapots to sell at local craft fairs and souvenir shops in order to support his young family.

Two Sides of Tea by Michael Sherrill

Michael makes his home in the mountains of North Carolina and was initially inspired by the local folk pottery.

Red Lacquer Teapot by Michael Sherrill

I saw Michael’s work on display at the art gallery on the Arizona State University Campus.

Michael Sherrill

 In a video, Michael explains how he sculpts his ceramic pieces and talks about an innovative set of hand-held clay tools he has developed.  He made them for use in his own work but now they are sold to ceramic artists around the world under the label Mudtools.

My Moving Heart by Michael Sherrill

Although primarily self-taught Michael is now an instructor at the Penland School of Crafts. 

Leather Jacket Teapot by Michael Sherrill

Michael’s exploration of the teapot form began by making fully functional teapots but…..

Happy to See You Teapot by Michael Sherrill

he has pushed that idea to the extreme so that now sometimes his ceramic sculptures are barely recognizable as teapots.

Halcyon Teapot by Michael Sherrill

Michael says he is no longer interested in whether the teapot actually pours.  The most important thing is whether it is exciting visually.

Jacob’s Ladder Teapot by Michael Sherrill

This begs the question of whether something can actually be called a teapot if you can’t make or serve tea in it. When is a teapot not a teapot? 

Other posts………..

English Tea With The T-4s

Clay Conversations

A Giant Recycling Project

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Filed under Arizona, Art