blue river retreat fall 2008

Did you blink? If you did, you missed it, the not so subtle transition from summer to fall. It happens like that here in the desert, a place of extremes which can evoke both fascination & frustration. Over the weekend, during a time period of about 48 hours, we went from temps of high 90s & low 70s to temps of low 60s to low 40s, so quickly as the weather is wont to do this time of year that I always wonder how our reptiles don’t get caught with their pants down & freeze, so to speak. We’ve now tempered a bit to our more normal fall weather of low 80s & low 50s, & lizards have come out of hiding, skittering about at midday much to Roger’s & Mo’s delight.

Signs of seasonal changes can seem imperceptible here in the desert for those who are accustomed to more flashy fanfare, but they do exist, & their subtleties are what I find so beautiful… the sun rising lazily over the Catalina Mountains; our pomegranate tree's branches bowed under the weight of its dusky red fruits; turpentine bushes turning their brassy gold blooms into buff colored fluffs of seed; the sudden proliferation of coyote scat looking ever so much like thick piles of raspberry jam studded with seeds, the coloration resulting from gorging on the abundant bounty of luscious, ripe, wine red prickly pear fruits; those same fruits laying scattered about half eaten & oozing red juice & shiny black seeds, a testament of nightly feasting by the desert's denizens; the sky putting on intense blue coloration so brilliantly bottomless it doesn’t seem it can possibly be real; the rarefied atmosphere bringing into sharp focus the craggy features of the mountains encircling the Tucson basin.

Luckily, I had a little prep time for this weather change a couple weekends ago when I joined DY Begay, her friend Peggy, & Janie Hoffman at Janie’s home in the Blue River Wilderness for a little retreat. Just a couple days, enough for us 3 desert dwellers to get a bit of a respite from the heat that was still plaguing us then. We hiked on Escudilla Mountain through groves of aspens, their golden autumn leaves shimmering in the breeze, & enjoyed an al fresco lunch of crackers, cheese, & apples on an open hillside with spectacular views of sky, evergreens, aspens, & golden grasses encircling us. Peggy, DY, & I spent time in Janie’s magical garden, collecting dyeplant blooms & veggies before the first frost claimed them, enjoying the lush greenness of the plants, the beautiful blooms, & the industrious insects. DY, Janie, & I also got in a little loom time in Janie’s studio. DY was working on the first weaving in her new Parfleche series, using a cleverly procured “For Sale” sign frame as a portable loom, Janie was beginning the second to last tapestry of her Sky Island collage tapestry, & I continued work on my painted hills. And, of course, our visit was also spiced throughout with wonderful shared meals, good wine, lively conversation, & much laughter. We’re already planning another retreat in May next year… want to join us?

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