Simplicity – A Desert Wisdom Card for Reflection, Art, and Practices


Simplicity – A Desert Wisdom Card © 2014 Bo Mackison

Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more. ~ Jon Kabat-Zin

A search of the desert floor reveals a simple flower, the Mexican Golden Poppy.

Only four petals on this flower. Simple, yes, but there is evidence of a sense of grounding, of balance, and the cycle of life, on this small bit of the earth.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity is not only about making space in your living space for living.

It is about making space in your life for work and play, solitude and relationship. It is about letting go of thoughts which rob you of valuable brain space and time. Simplicity encourages a re-thinking of commitments so that one has the time and energy to focus on the most essential of priorities.

It means cleaning up loose ends – old promises, unfinished business, a recycled to-do list – things that may be important, but linger in the circular file in your brain, stealing time and cluttering valuable space.

. . . choosing simplicity whenever possible adds to life an element of deepest freedom which so easily eludes us, and many opportunities to discover that less may actually be more. ~ Jon Kabat-Zin

SIMPLICITY offers questions/reflections for journal writing, art, daily practices:

  • Journal reflection: What brain drains make it difficult to nurture the activities which support you, feed your soul and spirit, allow you to focus on the projects which serve while offering kindness to self and others?
  • Begin a simplicity practice. Schedule open spaces into your day, times blocked off for pauses, daydreaming, or creative thinking. These moments of quiet fill the well, re-charge your energy, give your brain a boost.


Bo Mackison is the creator of the Desert Wisdom Cards, a 56 card set in 3 series that feature a Sonoran Desert theme – its myths and stories, cultures and heritage, and the desert’s inspirational stark beauty. Each card has a desert photograph and a word for contemplation.

Working with the Desert Wisdom Cards – Past, Present, and Outcome

Desert Wisdom Cards - Three Card Spread

Desert Wisdom Cards – Three Card Spread © 2014 Bo Mackison

“One has to live in the present. Whatever is past is gone beyond recall; whatever is future remains beyond one’s reach, until it becomes present. Remembering the past and giving thought to the future are important, but only to the extent that they help one deal with the present.” ~ S.N. Goenka

Although I choose a Desert Wisdom Card each morning for personal reflection, there are days when I want to explore a specific aspect of my day in more depth.

Some days I pull three cards as I am reflecting on a question. This helps me address a question or situation from several directions.

The left card represents the past. Perhaps it is a past experience that has an impact on my present situation or a past relationship that influences my current situation. Perhaps it is a lesson learned, or not learned, that provides information.

The center card represents the present. How do I view my current situation? What influences are at work, both external and internal?

The right card represents the future or the outcome. Perhaps this is a long term or short term goal. Perhaps I decide on steps to take or a decision to make for an immediate outcome.

The cards are guides and encourage me to be open minded and explore lots of alternatives and connections.

I offer a personal example:

Situation and Question:

I have been asked to do an audio interview. While I’ve done written interviews, I’m hesitant to do an audio one. I deeply respect the woman who has requested the interview, I would love to do it on so many levels, for many reasons. Yet, I hold back and delay in setting an interview time.

I want to look at the situation in a new way, so I pull three cards. Courage. Vulnerability. Hope.

Courage Card:

  • The Courage card is a photograph of the remnants of an abandoned 1800s rancher’s home.
  • It is deep within the wilderness of Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, in the most southern reaches of the United States.
  • Cactus and desert shrub has taken over, as seen from the window view.
  • All that remains are the brick walls and wooden frames of this two room house.

Courage in the Past:

  • I connect with the words courage, wilderness, in the desert, being on my own.
  • I remember a situation, not so long ago, when I was on a hike in the high desert wilderness and lost the trail while scrambling on the rocky trail.
  • Late afternoon. I circled the trail several times before realizing that, unless another person appeared, I’d have to spend the night alone and off trail.
  • I recall feeling an odd mixture of fear and courage, knowing I was prepared enough to spend a night in the wilderness.
  • I remember thinking how dark the skies would be, how beautiful the night sky.
  • I realized I was facing a somewhat scary experience and I was capable of  managing.

Vulnerability Card:

  • The Vulnerability card is a photo of a mature prickly pear cactus. Two of its pads have a wounded surface exposed.
  • The plant exuded a protective fluid to cover the wound. It protects and continues to grow. I can allow myself be vulnerable and be OK.
  • Even though a part of the cactus is vulnerable, the remaining plant is vibrant and healthy.

Vulnerability in the Present:

  • I connect with the words “vulnerable,” “feeling exposed” AND “healing self,” “vibrant and healthy.”
  • When I think about doing an audio interview, I feel nervous (exposed) imagining this new experience, but I know I would be doing an interview with a kind and welcoming woman.
  • Though I may feel vulnerable, that is OK. I can feel vulnerable AND feel vibrant and ready to show up.

Hope Card:

  • The Hope card is a photo of a door, its threshold, and an interior stairway at a southern Arizona mission ruins. (from Tumacacori Mission, a protected site, maintained as ruins, and part of the National Park System.)
  • Though I envision myself standing in the shadows, I can look through the portal and see the steps bathed in light.
  • The stairs are stone and in good repair. I know I can climb them as I walk forward. I will have a new perspective from the top of the stairway.
  • In climbing the stairs (taking on the challenge), I come to a place of warmth and light.

Hope as the Outcome:

  • I connect with the words “moving from the shadows into the light,” “the obstacle before me is not dangerous, it is in good repair, I am in good hands.”
  • When I reach the top of the stairs (do the interview) I will be in a place that feels warm and light.

In Summary:

  • I know that I have been in places of fear (lost off trail in the wilderness) AND I have felt courage (I am prepared enough to spend the night alone) and even anticipation and joy (what a show I will see — the dark skies alight with stars).
  • “How lovely are these cards!” I think as I consider the interview.
  • I feel like I can manage this “challenge” an I will enter “a place of warmth and light,” in other words, I can do the interview and do a good job.
  • It will be challenging AND satisfying.


The third series of Desert Wisdom Cards are now available. Two of the above cards — vulnerability and hope — are in the new series. For more information, here is my invitation to you to explore and be inspired by these Wisdom Cards.



Desert Wisdom Cards, Series III — An Invitation!


Invitation – A Desert Wisdom Card

Step into my world, a world where the beauty and diversity of the desert is portrayed in photographs.

I invite you to look around. Be inspired.

Discover the desert and the incredible opportunities for sharing her wisdom.

I have selected a special set of eighteen photographs and coupled each photo with a single word for reflection, meditation, or as a journal prompt. I invite you to have a look at the Desert Wisdom Cards, Series III.

Desert Wisdom Cards Set III

Desert Wisdom Cards Set III © 2014 Bo Mackison

Announcing the Desert Wisdom Cards – Series III

After many more months of photographing the Sonoran Desert in the Southwest, choosing themes and cards that “spoke to me”, and then creating a new deck of cards and portfolio, the Desert Wisdom Cards – Series III are ready for you to enjoy.

These cards were not a part of my original creative plan, and yet, here they are.

As I wrote when I completed the second series, it was not my original plan to create a deck of only desert-focused cards. I’d planned a set of nature-based cards that included four themes – desert, shore, prairie, and mountain – plus a set of source cards the combined sets based on the template of a tarot deck.

I completed the first series of Desert Cards last October, and began to create the prairie cards. But the spark wasn’t there yet. I still have the photographs, I have the themes and concepts, but there was a strong need and desire to complete the desert set before considering a prairie set. And so I created the Desert Wisdom Cards – Second Series last March.

Still the desert called.

Today the third series of Desert Wisdom Cards is ready.  With this set, the series is complete.

Desert Wisdom Cards Set III

Desert Wisdom Cards Set III – Portfolio Shown with 4 of the 18 Cards © 2014 Bo Mackison

What are Desert Wisdom Cards?

The Desert Wisdom Cards – Series III are a set of 18 hand-made cards used for reflection and inspiration. Each card has a photograph of the awe-inspiring Sonoran Desert and a single word for contemplation, reflection, or as a prompt for journal writing.

The card set is now available in a hand crafted, limited edition of 26, numbered and signed.

How were the Desert Wisdom Cards first created?

I created all three sets of Desert Wisdom Cards for use during my morning routine, focusing on the photograph for inspiration and reflection. I also use the cards as prompts for journal writing and as a springboard for art and nature projects.

While working with my desert photographs, I discovered that the process allowed me to use my art for daily reflection,  problem solving and goal setting.

The cards became a framework to consider choices, make plans, and instigate changes in life — while providing structure for an in-depth creative practice.

Click here for more information on the Desert Wisdom Cards

Desert Wisdom Cards - Series II

Sampling of Covers of the Limited Edition Sets ©2014 Bo Mackison

How to use Desert Wisdom Cards:

They are perfect to use as a mini-set for meditation, inspiration and contemplation. A few useful suggestions include:

  • Choose a daily card as a focus card during meditation.
  • Choose a card as a journal or art prompt.
  • Enrich your spiritual practice through contemplation of the desert and nature.
  • Inspire and nurture your creative muse.
  • Use a three card spread, similar to a Tarot spread, and consider past, present, and future.
  • Other Tarot style spreads are easily used with the Desert Wisdom Cards.
  • Use a card for writing practice, considering symbols, metaphors and other elements found in the photo and inspired by the card’s single word.

Of course, these are only suggestions. As you work with the cards you will find your own unique ways to incorporate the cards into your practice, routine, or ritual.

Desert Wisdom Cards - Series II

Desert Wisdom Cards – Series III ©2014 Bo Mackison

Set Specifications:

The Desert Wisdom Card set includes 18 cards, storage portfolio, and four page user’s guide. The cards also fit in the four flap portfolio that comes with the original set.

A desert-hued portfolio complements the cards.

This set of cards comes in a hand decorated folded portfolio, similar to the portfolio for the Second Series. Each portfolio is hand decorated with ink, acrylics and metallic paint. Designed in the color palette of the desert, the folder is unique and a mini-work of art in itself.

A four page guide is also included in the set.

This guide offers suggestions for using the cards, including activities that focus on the body, mind and spirit. Also included in the booklet is information on the evolution of the cards and additional resources for nature and art related activities.

Special thanks to James Wells who graciously shared his method of delving deeply into tarot cards using multiple activities for body, mind and spirit. What a great resource this was, as I adapted many of his activities for the Desert Wisdom Card guide-book.

The cards are 7.5 inches by 4.5 inches. Each card features a color photograph of the Sonoran Desert and a single word for reflection.

Each card is printed on a cylinder letterpress, type set by hand, and printed using a vintage (1940s) Vandercook No.3 Letterpress.

The cards come in a hand crafted, folding portfolio. Each portfolio is embellished with ink, acrylics and metallic paint. Designed in the color palette of the desert, the folder is unique and a mini-work of art in itself.

Click here for more information on the Desert Wisdom Cards

Desert Wisdom Cards - Series II

Detail of Desert Wisdom Cards Portfolio ©2014 Bo Mackison

How to Purchase a Set of Desert Wisdom Cards?

The Desert Wisdom Cards – Set III are now available in my Etsy shop.

$55.00 for set of 18 cards, tie portfolio, and guide-book.

The Third Series completes a 56 card deck when combined with Series I and Series II.

Set II is also available on Etsy.

And a thank you!

It is indeed a privilege to share my Wisdom Cards with you. Thank you.





Petroglyphs in a Desert Canyon – Interpreting Ancient Symbols for Personal Insights

Petroglyph Canyon Wall

Petroglyph Cliff in Sonoran Desert Canyon

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear-the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.” ~ Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

Deep in a canyon in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, the cliff walls transition from red and gray striated rock to a giant wall of petroglyphs, figures pecked and carved into an ancient layer of the black desert varnish which covers many of the rocky surfaces.

Scientists estimate that many of the petroglyphs were carved from about 300 A.D. until 1300 A.D..

The Hohokam may have pecked these petroglyphs while on hunting and gathering expeditions, or during religious or other ceremonies. Perhaps they are solstice markers, tribe symbols, decorative art, or even an ancient form of graffiti.

 Studying these mysterious symbols, I began to wonder at the message as it was intended, nearly a thousand years ago. A message whose meaning has disappeared just as the Ancient Ones disappeared from these lands almost overnight, back in the 1300s. Some of the markings do align with the solar calendar – one spiral in this canyon is precisely half-illuminated by a slit of light as it shines through a split rock, This happens only twice a year – at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.

I viewed the spiral on the vernal equinox and watched as sunlight illuminated exactly half the spiral. On the March day when it is half light/half dark. Twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. Halving the spiral into equal parts of light and dark.

Snake Petroglyph

Snake Petroglyph in Desert Canyon

Each thing in its way, when true to its own character, is equally beautiful.”  ~ Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

What messages might you take from symbols as they appear in your daily life?

After researching these petroglyphs, I realized:

  • things are not always as they seem
  • that sometime, in the mystery, lies the unexpected answer
  • that I see/study symbols and may incorporate meaning as I understand it into my life

For example, the snake petroglyph is geometric and prominent amidst the other carvings. There is no way to know what the snake symbol meant to the ancient Hohokam. Yet I can make my own interpretation of the snake and its message, as it pertains to my life, today.

Snakes become dormant in colder months, expending little energy. They are summoned by the lengthening days, by the sun’s longer appearance each day, and they move towards warmth and the life giving powers of the sun. Snakes move in rhythm with the natural cycle, the natural forces of nature. I, too, am drawn to the longer days and tend to slow down as the days shorten. Or I seek places of sunshine, places and spaces that provide warmth.

The snake is of the earth. It crawls upon the earth, burrows into the earth for shelter, warmth, protection. I feel grounded when I stand upon the earth, and focus my energy downward, anchoring deep within the earth.

Snake is ruled by instinct for survival. I, too, live by instincts – some of which I follow, often finding my way; some which I ignore, sometimes to my detriment.

Snake is powerful, often feared, and sometimes is killed or hurt unnecessarily by people who are frightened and do not understand the ways of the snake. How does this relate to me? When I follow my passions, and insticts, take risks, do the unexpected, how do others respond to me? How does this affect my forward movement?

What might snake’s message mean to you?

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.