6th Annual Photo Alphabet – An Exploration of 2013 – Arizona to Dreams

Welcome to my Holiday Tradition – my Annual Photo Alphabet.

Today I begin posting my photo alphabet in six parts, culminating on December 31st — just in time to welcome the New Year 2014!

Please join me during the next 6 days as I explore adventures, travel, learning, and change in 2013.


A is for Arizona and Arroyos.

Cold Front Sunset

Arizona © 2012 Bo Mackison

Hello, Arizona. My adopted state.

When I first visited Arizona, I stayed a week. It only took seven days for me to fall madly in love with the desert. The second year I rented a condo for 8 weeks — my “Bo goes Solo” experience — the first time I’d lived on my own since my college days. The third year I joined the Snowbird Migration, and Sherpa and I made Quail Condo our very own.

Backyard Roadrunner

Arroyo Visitor © 2012 Bo Mackison

There are dozens of reasons I love our casita in Arizona.

The sunshine is a major factor. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and now I enjoy the winter months instead of braving my way through cloudy winters and even cloudier moods. I love the arroyo in my backyard – wild and thick with cacti, mesquite, and acacias.

There are always birds in the trees and at the feeders – several kinds of hummingbirds, orioles, tanagers, vermillion flycatchers, woodpeckers. Gambel’s quails scramble on the ground, rushing from one bit of cover to the next. Occasionally a road runner struts past.

Coyote and bobcats prowl in the early morning hours. I’ve even had a javelina – a kind of wild pig – poke its nose onto my porch, sniffing for a handout, although I let him know he was not invited to dinner!

And most of all,  I love hiking in the nearby Sonoran Desert, camera and journal in hand. Exploring, Listening. Connecting.


 B is for Bridge.

Misty Bridge

Bridge in Fog © 2009 Bo Mackison

Bridges are connections.

Some days they are shrouded in fog. The iron trusses may be slick with ice. Some of the wooden planks may be missing, or weakened. But when the goal you want to reach is on the opposite shore, it’s time to assess the risk associated with crossing the bridge.

Life stories are bridges, too.

They connect the past with the present and affect the future. I can choose to let my past affect my choices, the risks I am willing to take, the work I accept. Or I can test the bridge, take each step with caution, but maintain forward movement.

My favorite message from this particular bridge photograph is this — even if you can see land on other side, there are no guarantees that what you think you see is what you see. The fog is a reminder that, clear or foggy, we travel across many bridges, and life does not adhere to rigid plans, no matter how well scheduled or executed.

Surprises – such as fog on the bridge – add an element of wonder, challenge, and plenty of opportunity for serendipity!


C is for Changes, Choices, and Celebration

Seisomgraph Station

Measuring Changes © 2013 Bo Mackison

Don’t you love this vintage seismograph station?

It is located in the heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Although this 90-year-old station has been replaced by a more modern facility, the building stands, testimony to those who monitored the volcanic activity in the park around the clock.

The building is tiny, only space enough for the delicate equipment that measured tiny changes in the movement of the earth.

I once had my own internal seismograph equipment.

It was very sensitive, able to detect change in a millisecond. My change detector was a warning system for me.  Change! Alarm! Beware!

But change is a constant – there is always change. I now make a conscious choice to embrace change.

I no longer need my own seismograph recorder.

Sumac Flags Flying

Celebration of Sumac © 2013 Bo Mackison

And that is something to celebrate.

Celebrate the present while looking forward to the possibilities of tomorrow. This photo, a close up of autumn’s orange sumac leaves, reminds me of prayer flags, gently waving in the breeze, celebrating the changing of the season.


D is for Dreams, Details, and Decisions.


Dreaming © 2013 Bo Mackison

I dream in technicolor.

Dreaming is one of my favorite activities, be it night dreaming, lucid dreaming, or day dreaming. Dreaming lets me explore many options, turn them over in my mind, fiddle with the details. Visualize.

When autumn arrives in Wisconsin, it adds new colors to the gardens. I spend mornings walking garden paths, admiring the yellows and oranges. As an added bonus, I always delight in seeing the movable garden art.

I work in the garden surrounded by art and nature.

How inspiring to sit on one of the benches tucked in a quiet space, and journal or photograph the botanicals in the changing season.

CCC Picnic Area - Saguaro National Park

Desert Office © 2013 Bo Mackison

I work in the desert surrounded by art and nature, too.

The colors may be different. The desert’s greens and browns still inspire. And often I bring my work and settle in one of the covered shelters scattered throughout Saguaro National Park. These remarkable buildings, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), provide a shady place for me to set up a temporary desert office.

What a dream come true –  taking photographs, writing, and working in the desert.


Tomorrow’s post: Elephants to Highways.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. I look forward to your year end alphabet. It’s a great way to close the year and start a new one.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks, Gandalf. I find writing my end of the year the perfect ritual for saying good bye to one year, and readying to greet the new year.

  2. When I woke up in the middle of the last night, I began (who knows why!) reviewing the past year. But I did it by focusing on the highs and the lows, and a lot of it from the point of view of family–NOT me. Your alphabet is inspiring me to look at MY life through the past year and to do so looking at what has energized me and how I have grown. Thanks Bo!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Isn’t it interesting what wakes us in the middle of the night? I love that my alphabet inspired you to look at your life. So much to honor in this past year!

  3. Thanks, Bo, for pointing out that a year is made of many small moments of beauty which we can hold in our hearts to brighten up a dreary day. I particularly liked the seismograph–so true that many of us are too sensitive. Terra firma does not exist–more like floating islands–learn to enjoy the ride!

  4. What an enlightening review – love all & especially the bridge and dreams. Your words are insightful and a comfort.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks, Becky. I do love to pair photos with end of the year reflections. It’s a great practice – and I find it comforting, too. 🙂

  5. Wonderful as ever. I love the prayer flags!

  6. Bonnie Leukert says:

    Beautiful work…looking forward to the rest of the alphabet.

  7. I adore your annual photo album, Bo. Your way in marrying photo to prose and then wrapping them up as a gift to us always makes me ponder my own year of challenges and accomplishments. Looking forward to the next chapter!

  8. Beautiful photos, Bo! You make me miss Arizona.

  9. I love your annual journey through the year by way of the alphabet, Bo. I’ve been tempted to borrow the idea, but you do it so well and so completely that I find I don’t need to borrow it, but just follow along and make my own connections. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I know what I mean. lol!

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