Layers of Wilderness

Southwest Layers

Canyon Layers © 2013 Bo Mackison

Listen to your life.
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is . . .
Touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart
Of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments
and life itself is grace.
                                          ~ Frederich Buechner


Silence is so loud, all of my senses on alert. Bees buzzing in pockets of blooming brittlebush, yellow blossoms swollen with pollen laden landing strips. They buzz my head when I lean in for a closer look.

I take in the spectacle. Cactus with upturned octopus arms stretching towards the sky, mighty saguaro of cartoon fame. Rocks bleeding rusty reds and oranges. I greet these ancients on their sacred ground. I, the newcomer, stare and gawk and take snapshots to send home.

Town is twenty-five miles north – four concrete block houses, an RV park dwarfed by rows of fifty year old palm trees, Shady Palms it’s called. Two gas stations. A faded sign at Edith’s Rock Shop advertises cheap crystals and polished gems.

There’s a diner, Grandma’s Cafe. A border patrol truck, white with the familiar green stripe, is angle parked at the entrance. I eat what the locals eat – bean burritos for breakfast, hot tortillas just flipped on the griddle, strong coffee.

Formica tables and folding chairs fill the room. And a maple dining set, table with two leaves, eight matching chairs, a bouquet of plastic roses centered on a doily. It’s the only available table, yet no one sits there.

The newspaper is a six page shopper with a few local items – a music benefit for a kid with leukemia, a Saturday night BBQ at the church in Ajo, ads for health care and Mexican insurance.

Coke and bottled water pack the refrigerated case, two bucks a bottle if you want something cold to drink. This is the desert.

The cook is Marjie, she’s the waitress, cashier, the owner, too. The regulars ask about her newest grand-baby, Jesus, her fifth, the first boy. “Born at midnight” she says, “Five pounds, six ounces. Already he’s a screamer. Aye yi yi.”

She half-smiles when I offer my congratulation, then balances a tray of dirty dishes half on her hip, hums with the radio static as she disappears into the kitchen.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She explores the whole and the fragments, the extra-ordinary and the ordinary.






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. You could retitle this “A day in the life of ….” Great post. Loved the glimpse into this area.

  2. Absolutely incredible “slice of life” of your new world. I could smell the burritos cookin’ and now I have a rumbly in my tumbly. Your blog is a gem.

  3. We used to kid about the “University of Southern Ajo”.

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