Patience – A Desert Wisdom Card

Patience © 2014 Bo Mackison

“Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can – working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!  ~ Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Patience. Certainly a wisdom gift of the desert. Certainly a quality required when one is actually walking/living/being in the desert, and for those desert-like times when life feels arid and silent, or overwhelming and fragmented.

I love this photograph, a photo taken at Mission San  Xavier del Bac, a mission church in southern Arizona built in the 1700s. The church took decades to build by hand with primitive tools.

There were no supplies of paint or marble or fabric. Even the wood had to be hauled from a distance of twenty miles.  They built the walls with lime-kiln clay. They carved statues from wood and dyed them brilliant colors using both native dyes and imported gilding. They carved shells, roping, and drapery-like sculptures for windows ornamentation and the choir.  They painted wall murals and patterned arches. They sculpted a baptismal font and painted it to look like marble.

Works of art that required patience and determination, and which are still in use, and honored by the present day parishioners.

“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

In the photo, I stand in the shadows.

Waiting. Watching. Questioning.

Listening to the Silence.

Practicing patience.

Playing with Photography, Part VI – The Vineyards

Channing's Daughters Vineyards, Long Island

We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season
without thinking of the grapes it has borne.
~ Marcus Aurelius

Atlantic breezes cool Channing Daughters Vineyards and create a climate hospitable to a wide array of grape varieties.


Channing's Daughters Vineyards, Long Island

The Vineyards are on a beautiful plot of land in Bridgehampton on the North Fork of eastern Long Island. Twenty-five acres of vines, a small winery and a bustling tasting room.

Channing's Daughters Vineyards, Long Island

Owner/Sculptor Walter Channing’s works are present in the vineyards, tasting room, and almost anywhere you look around the estate.

Channing's Daughters Vineyards, Long Island

Sculpture © 2014 Bo Mackison

Sculptures emerge unexpectedly the end posts of vineyard rows and less subtly in the form of towering inverted trees against the horizon.

Channing's Daughters Vineyards, Long Island

We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy,
even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry. ~ E.B. White

Experimenting – or Playing – with Photography. Part V, Flowers, Flowers, Everywhere


Flowers in the Fountain © 2014 Bo Mackison

“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ~ Claude Monet

While I was visiting New York City and Long Island over the extended Labor Day weekend, our timing was perfect. The flowers put on a tremendous show for us. Everywhere we walked there were planters, gardens, even flowers floating with such grace and beauty in fountains.

I was with beloved family who I only see once or perhaps twice a year, and didn’t want me and my camera interrupting the flow. (Once my big camera is in my hands, this mysterious force takes over and I see photo ops constantly – not such a good plan with a group of four, including one pregnant daughter!) So I continued to “play” with photography while I was visiting family on Long Island. And yes, the cell phone camera can be a distraction, too! But not quite as bad, I’m told.


Blue Hydrangea © 2014 Bo Mackison

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Hydrangea must be THE flower of eastern Long Island. They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!


Green-Eyed Susans © 2014 Bo Mackison

“Without darkness, nothing comes to birth, As without light, nothing flowers.” ~ May Sarton

Never underestimate the power of a flower! I stopped to admire two planters of green-eyed Susans flanking the door of a jewelry shop I had no intention of visiting. Then a too fancy opal ring in the front window caught my eye. I had lost my wedding ring several months ago, and I’d been casually looking at opal rings (I’d decided to go with an opal my birthstone, not another diamond).

On the spur of the moment, we entered this very formal jewelry store. Not even my kind of store, I thought. But my daughter – shopper extraordinaire – found a black opal way in a back case, on sale, end of season, etc., etc. and the pieces fell into place.

So I thank this charming bunch of bright flowers, for I now have a replacement ring. Deeply grateful!


Red, White, and Green © 2014 Bo Mackison

“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”  ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

More Hydrangea, with a different color treatment…an unusual combination inspired from a shake of my camera and the serendipity of the Hipstamatic app…


Hydrangea © 2014 Bo Mackison

“A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in–what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.” ~ Victor Hugo

And Hydrangea in blue. Don’t they have just the most luscious colors – that pale blue with lavender and yellow highlight?

Tomorrow, this atypical tour of my New York visit takes us to the vineyards of Long Island – what a feast for the senses, there…

Experimenting – Actually, Mostly Playing – From an Airplane Window — Part IV, Approaching New York City

Flying from Madison to NYC

Aerial of Williamsburg Bridge and East Harbor

“Chapter 1.
He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion…no, make that: he – he romanticized it all out of proportion. Yes. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.’

Uh, no let me start this over.

Flying from Madison to NYC

Aerial of Brooklyn and Harbor © 2014 Bo Mackison

‘Chapter 1.
He was too romantic about Manhattan, as he was about everything else. He thrived on the hustle bustle of the crowds and the traffic. To him, New York meant beautiful women and street-smart guys who seemed to know all the angles…’.

Ah, corny, too corny for my taste. Can we … can we try and make it more profound?


Flying from Madison to NYC

Aerial View of Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge © 2014 Bo Mackison

‘Chapter 1.
He adored New York City. For him, it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. The same lack of individual integrity that caused so many people to take the easy way out was rapidly turning the town of his dreams in…’

No, that’s a little bit too preachy. I mean, you know, let’s face it, I want to sell some books here.


Flying from Madison to NYC

Descending into LaGuardia © 2014 Bo Mackison

Chapter 1.
He adored New York City, although to him it was a metaphor for the decay of contemporary culture. How hard it was to exist in a society desensitized by drugs, loud music, television, crime, garbage…’

Too angry, I don’t want to be angry.

Flying from Madison to NYC

“The City” © 2014 Bo Mackison

‘Chapter 1.
He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Behind his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat.’

I love this.

Flying from Madison to NYC

X Marks the Spot – NYC © 21014 Bo Mackison

‘New York was his town, and it always would be.”

~ Woody Allen from Manhattan

Experimenting – Or Mostly Playing – from an Airplane Window — Part III, Clouds, Clouds, Then Land Sighting

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”
~ Cesare Pavese

The flight from Madison to New York City was a window view of ceaseless change.

It made me realize how little I know about the clouds I look at nearly every day, and discover that I wanted to learn about clouds. I couldn’t even recall the name for the study of clouds.

Nephology is the study of clouds, a subset of meteorology.

Nephology? No wonder I couldn’t recall it, I don’t think I have ever known that -ology. And cloud naming appears to be a mix and match affair, one that requires more than looking at a few photos to get an identification.

So for now, I’ll just go with:

Enjoy all the pretty clouds from the airplane window!

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”  ~ Pat Conroy

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”  ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Flying from Madison to NYC

“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown…”
~ Paul Theroux from The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

Flying from Madison to NYC

“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.”   ~ Khalil Gibran from The Prophet

Flying from Madison to NYC

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”  ~ C. JoyBell C.

Flying from Madison to NYC

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
~ Christopher McCandless

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”  ~ Wendell Berry from A Place on Earth

Experimenting – Actually, Mostly Playing – from an Airplane Window: Part II, Clouds, Clouds, Clouds

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Clouds pass and disperse.
Are those the faces of love, those pale irretrievables?
Is it for such I agitate my heart?”
~ Sylvia Plath, from Ariel

Flying from Madison to NYC

“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?–it is the same the angels breathe.”
~ Mark Twain, from Roughing It

Flying from Madison to NYC

“We pledge to fight ‘blue-sky’ thinking wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day.”
~ Gavin Pretor-Pinney, from The Cloud-spotter’s Guide

Flying from Madison to NYC

Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over… The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, whilst simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made.”
~ Steve Grand

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Clouds suit my mood just fine.”
~ Marie Lu, from Champion

Flying from Madison to NYC

“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’.”
~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

Flying from Madison to NYC

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore, from Stray Birds

Experimenting – Actually, Mostly Playing – from an Airplane Window, Part I, At the Airport

Flying from Madison to NYC

Loading Luggage and Misc © 2014 Bo Mackison

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
~ Terry Pratchett from A Hat Full of Sky

Typically, I am a slow photographer.

I sit and absorb the feel of a place. I connect with the space. I may wait for a certain cloud formation to float into a certain location, or a shadow to darken a rock. I take in the feel of the space, the mood of the landscape, the energy of the street scene.

Sometimes, I am a photographer who wants to play and just see what happens.

I grab my iPhone, shake the camera,  start shooting.

My favorite techniques for giving myself full permission to enjoy the process  – PLAY – I refer to as my “shake and take” technique.

I open the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone and take a photo.

Then I shake the phone. The app randomly changes lenses and film. During my recent flight from Madison Wisconsin to New York City, I took a photo, shook, took the next photo. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Sometimes I simply must put serious aside and just play. On this flight, that is exactly what I did, and I loved the crazy, sometimes totally great, sometimes totally crazy results.

Sharing. Because sharing is part of the fun and play!

Flying from Madison to NYC

Safety Check for Take Off © 2014 Bo Mackison

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson from Emerson’s Essays

Flying from Madison to NYC

We Depend on Wisconsin Aviation © 2014 Bo Mackison

“It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression, ‘As pretty as an airport.”
~ Douglas Adams from The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Flying from Madison to NYC

Winging Away from Madison © 2014 Bo Mackison

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
~ Anaïs Nin

I did something similar earlier this year, documented in the post A Series of Photographs – Exploring the Creative Process.

In that series I shot only one subject from the same perspective – a palo verde tree – using the “shake and take” method.

In this flight series, I explore a cross-country flight and then exploring bits of NYC using the same method.

Part one begins at the Madison airport, Part Two and Three are sky and (crazy) clouds and tiny landscapes, Part Four is rather amazing views of New York City on a clear day while descending into La Guardia. Parts Five, Six, and Seven include Long Island vineyards and wineries, the town of Greenport, and a funky restaurant in NYC. And then beyond…the return.

Enjoy. Then go play!

Torch Cactus in Bloom – A Light in the Desert

Torch Cactus

Torch Cactus ©2014 Bo Mackison

One’s options in this world are as vast as the horizon, which is technically a circle and thus infinitely broad. Yet we must choose each step we take with utmost caution, for the footprints we leave behind are as important as the path we will follow. They’re part of the same journey — our story.” ~ Lori R. Lopez

A Ten-Foot Tall Giant in the Prairie – Pale Indian Plantain

Pale Indian Plantain - Tallgrass Prairie Flower

Pale Indian Plantain – Tallgrass Prairie ©2014 Bo Mackison

Pale Indian Plantain, these tallgrass
prairie flowers rival the prairie’s grasses.
Tall and thick, its stem the deepest red like rhubarb stalks.

Leaves large as a father’s weathered hand hang low on the stem,
rough and ragged. Midway, the leaves are mother-sized hands,
reaching towards the sky and the cluster of
child-sized leaves high on the stalk.
This family of leaves. Orderly.

I stand on the earth, side by side with the Pale Plantain.
It towers above me, statuesque,
hovering over the other prairie flowers,
with an occasional compass plant its only rival.

Its whorl of yellow-green florets gives way to shriveled fibers
signaling another turn of the seasonal cycle.
And late summer drifts towards autumn.

My Desert Office


“When I look in the mirror, I see a woman with secrets. When we don’t listen to our intuition, we abandon our souls. And we abandon our souls because we are afraid if we don’t, others will abandon us.”  ~ Terry Tempest Williams

When I am in Arizona, I often go to the desert to work. I follow my intuition and my need to settle into a place of sunshine, heat and silence, spaciousness and solitude. It’s not the place most people would choose as prime office space, but it suits me fine.

When I connect with nature, I experience a boost in my mood. My imagination switches to on, and I find my work projects more inviting. Perhaps it is simply a change in scenery. Some women I know find a quiet niche in their local library, head to a busy coffee shop to write with companions, set up a sewing table in the midst of their garden, or paint in a park.

But me? I head to the desert. I bring my backpack filled with writing materials and my camera, and settle in one of the covered shelters scattered throughout Saguaro National Park. These stone and “cactus-wood” shelters were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and still provide a shady place for me to set up my temporary desert-scape office.

If you are not finding the time for creativity, you are not finding the time for one of your main reasons on earth…to fully allow the creative force of your divinity to connect and move through you. ~ Jill Badonsky

The change of pace triggers the little child in me who says, “Yippee! I don’t have to work inside today!” Suddenly any resistance I may have brought along decreases and I’m more motivated to look at my scribbled to-do list–a very casual document–and choose an item that catches my attention.

I also give myself permission to begin by working in very small increments, especially if I’m considering a project I find overwhelming, technical or difficult.

“Just begin,” I remind myself. “Start working for just ten minutes.”

After ten minutes, I have already given myself permission to stop, although ninety percent of the time once I’ve gotten started I keep right on working productively. I have broken through the “get started” barrier, broken through the procrastination, the overwhelm – and I get my work done.

But if after ten minutes, I’m still looking at a blank piece of paper, or kicking my toe into the desert dust to watch it poof, or I’m distracted by the cactus wrens building a nest in the rafters, I change tactics.

Usually, when the distractions of daily life deplete our energy, the first thing we eliminate is the thing we need the most: quiet, reflective time. Time to dream, time to contemplate what’s working and what’s not, so that we can make changes for the better. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

I grab a tiny notebook and pencil and my camera, and I hike through the Sonoran Desert. I study the giant saguaro, I watch the tiny lizards scuttling from the shade of a boulder to the skirt of a low-growing acacia shrub, I stop and listen to the coyotes sing as they gather in the arroyo when the shadows lengthen.

If I need more time, more grounding, I’ll walk in the canyon deeper into the wilderness, and head away the few people who also walk the desert in the late afternoon. I might sit on a rock outcropping, and settle my feet upon the earth. If I’m taking photographs for a project, I take time to contemplate my surroundings.  Study the muted colors, the desert is awash in greens and yellows. The ocotillo’s bare branches swaying in a slight breeze, ten foot long sticks that will sprout green leaves after a rainfall. Birds chatter and swoop; ground squirrels chase each other.

The material of the artist lies not within himself nor in the fabrications of his imagination, but in the world around him . . . The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his doorstep. ~ Paul Strand

As I pay attention to my desert surroundings, ideas pop into my head, often answers to confounding questions that I’ve puzzled over for hours. I pull out my paper and pencil to capture the thoughts immediately. Thoughts like these are as fleeting as the dream you remember upon awakening, but forget before your feet hit the floor.

I always write breakthrough ideas down, no matter how certain I am I will remember them.

Before I leave my desert office, I add a short note in my journal. This is my “ta-dah” list, a list that is the sequel to my “to-do” list. On this second list, I write down the highlights of my day.

Here is a rather typical ta-dah list from a desert office visit this past spring:

  • saw a bright red cardinal and it made my smile
  • wrote 200 words on the ‘courage’ essay
  • took some fun photos of three lizards in the shadow of a saguaro
  • walked the canyon trail and listened to the coyotes sing, wrote some poetry as I stood there listening
  • felt grounded and grateful