6th Annual Photo Alphabet – The Finale – Universe to Zip A Dee Doo Dah

U is for the Universe.

Kitt Peak

See the Universe @ 2013 Bo Mackison

No place better to view the distant Universe than an observatory on the peak of a dark mountain.

We arrived at the Kitt Peak National Observatories in southern Arizona in mid afternoon, and stood amidst the dozens of observatories, home to a variety of telescopes. Scientists from all over the globe come here to study the Universe and beyond. My daughter, who was visiting from Wisconsin, and I were eager to participate in the Night Observing Program.

Huddled together in the dark confines of a small observatory, our group of fifteen took turns peering into a powerful telescope. We viewed Jupiter and her moons, double stars, the rings of Saturn. It was a thrilling experience, especially the realization that we could see the rings of Saturn with our eyes, using only optical instruments.

It was an amazing visual connection.

It was a cold night on top of the 10,000+ foot peak in February. We didn’t linger outside, rather we settled in a warm classroom and listened to a short program by a visiting astronomer. I still haven’t forgotten his closing words. After describing the evolution of the solar system and showing us stunning photographs of the heavens, he simply said:

“You are all stardust. You are all bits of star light.”


V is for Vines.

Rusty Red

The View @ 2008 Bo Mackison

This photograph of a rusty barn, covered with bare climbing vines, was one of my early favorites.

It was also my first published photograph, printed in an award-winning magazine, Wisconsin People and Ideas. It was my first inkling that others found my photographs interesting.

The composition and subject were simple – an open window, the view partially obscured by a tangle of vines, a tin roof with rusty patina, a hint of shingles and red paint, a lightning rod to ward off danger, the bare winter branches.

A study of lines and mood, a feel of wabi-sabi. A hint of things to come, the hallmark of many of my later photographs.

It remains one of my favorites, still.


W is for Words and Wisdom Cards.


Words © 2013 Bo Mackison

In March of this year, I created my first Desert Wisdom Card.

The card’s theme was PLAY and I included a photo of a bunch of pottery jackrabbits playing musical instruments. Every time I looked this photograph, I smiled, it was that kind of photo. I wanted to share that feeling, so I posted the photo and musings about play on my blog.

By the end of June, my first Desert Wisdom Card Set, 24 cards in all, was complete.

During the summer, I experimented with many ways to create an art edition of the Desert Cards. At a friend’s invitation, I attended a book structures workshop taught by Jackie Hefty at her Whispering Woodlands Studio, just west of Madison. I was enchanted by Jackie’s hand-crafted books, many composed with letterpress printing.

When we toured her studio, I discovered her letterpress printer — it was love at first sight!


Imagination – Perseverance ©2013 Bo Mackison

When I told Jackie I wanted to print my wisdom cards, she offered to mentor me in the ways of the letterpress. I learned to set type on a composing stick, tie type, set type on the letterpress bed, and clean and work a letterpress. I printed the first set of cards, one page at a time. It was a  Zen experience. Simple yet precise, rhythmic, slow art.

I took photos to document the process, and photographed two lines of type which I had tied together. (When I set the words on the press, I separated the words and printed two words on a single sheet of paper.

Unintentionally, I had bundled the words “imagination” and “perseverance” together.

I loved the serendipity of that combination, reflecting on the journey of the Wisdom Cards — from a vision in my imagination to their physical creation, a path which required a lot of perseverance along the way.

Since publication, I’ve been honored to send 20 of the 26 sets of the hand created cards to new owners.

Recently, I printed a second series of Desert Cards.

This set of 16 cards, all new words, new photographs, can be used as companion cards to the original set, or as a set on their own. They will be available in early 2014.

The Wisdom Cards set me in motion a new path.

Inspired by the desert and her wisdom, I am currently planning new ways of combining those passions with my love of photography and wordsmithing. Complete details coming in January. (It’s going to be a very busy time in the desert.)


X is for eXploration.

Creative Cairn

Explore @ 2012 Bo Mackison

“The seeker embarks on a journey to find what he wants and discovers, along the way, what he needs.”
~ Wally Lamb

It was all about my constant yearning to explore.

My desire to walk the crooked path, inch along the mountain ledge, cross the desert arroyo, discover the hidden in the foggy forest, has led me to many places of discovery. Places that I fall in love with, places that continue to teach me valuable lessons, places that open my mind, my heart, my spirit.


Y is for Yucca.


Yucca Shadow @ 2013 Bo Mackison

“It is … through the world of the imagination which takes us beyond the restrictions of provable fact, that we touch the hem of truth.”
~ Madeleine L’Engle

Yucca is my reminder.

There are sharp points along the way. There are shadows mingled with sunlight. There is beauty in the common. There is life in the desert.


Z is for Zip A Dee Doo Dah.

Canopy Hike - Swinging

Zip Line @ 2011 Bo Mackison

There are times to honor with celebration – celebrate with a song and a leap and a zip a dee doo dah!

Celebrate changes. Celebrate who I am today.

How have I changed from the person I was a year ago?

Am I more courageous? Am I open to new and exciting opportunities?  Yes, I am.

Did I learn how to gently grow my business while keeping it within my comfort zone, within my do-ablility?  Yes, I did.

Am I capable, am I strong? Yes. Yes, I am.

Not perfectly. Not without many falters and missteps. But I am calling progress what it is — PROGRESS. I am owning not only my failures, but also my successes.

It is s a time for celebration. As the time approaches to say farewell to 2013, I choose to leap upon the zip line, with a cheer for the new year,

“Zip a Dee Doo Dah!”


Thus ends my annual photo alphabet for 2013.

Thank you.

I am ever so grateful to have the privilege and gift of time to reflect over the past year, and bring these photographs and words together in an end of the year tribute. Grateful for you, my readers. Grateful for the coming of the New Year.

Farewell, 2013. Welcome, 2014.

May the coming year be one of much wisdom, delight, and blessings for all.

Happy New Year! 

~ Bo

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. Sharon Pelton says:

    I have so enjoyed your gift to us, each day say something new, Not overwhelming with a plethora of words but a gentle balance of photograph and quotes, stories. Can’t say enough about how I have enjoyed this time. Great idea.

  2. Happy New Year to you and your family, Bo!

  3. Lovely!!! I have really enjoyed following along on this, your very personal journey of self discovery, and Life Discoveries. Trying not to over exclamation-point-ize my remarks here, but still…Bo…I am so happy for you. You have truly embraced yourself, your style, your nature and created something of real, lasting beauty. Congratulations to you! I am really enjoying my Desert Wisdom cards, too. Each day a different experience made more richer by them. Love you!

    • I agree and was wondering when my wisdom cards are coming. U we’re traveling from north to Arizona and said u wanted to personalize them. I was wondering if your magic dust over them is complete and ready to send sharon

      • Bo Mackison says:

        Sharon, I JUST sent you an email, letting you know the cards were posted today! Thank you for your patience, traveling across country was one thing, getting my studio unpacked an set up was a bit more than I imagined!

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