Nature’s Abstract

Nature's Abstract

Nature's Abstract © 2012 Bo Mackison

A photographer sees the world through a filter. Not the interchangeable filters for lenses, but the filter in the photographer’s mind through which an unfolding scene is seen as a photograph. ~ Bo Mackison

Pincushion cacti are rather small cacti. Globular, lots of protruding, sharply hewn spines. Almost easy to pass by in the search for the giant saguaro, the prickly pear with its oval sculptural pads, the ocotillo waving green branches with the tips turning red with flowers.

Then I saw these little groups of pincushions. I liked how they were bunched together in little pods of three or five, and since my camera was ready on my tripod,  I took a few photos.

Later in the studio, I enlarged the photo  — and wow, it was no longer a simple little cactus. I’m studying the desert, letting in the immensity of the place while still focusing on and  absorbing the tiny spaces. There were sure some tiny spaces in between the spines of this not-a-friend-of seamstresses pincushion. I sure loved it, though.

Spaces — this is an entangled pattern of tiny spaces, tiny bits of shadow and light from the cactus spines.

How do I look at these spaces? Seeking? Searching?

Turn the spaces into words through metaphor? Struggle with the concept of spaces with danger or limitations? Give thanks for the infinite variety of spaces and places? Celebrate life and the wholeness of the world, place by place, and tiny space by tiny space?

Do you examine spaces? What thoughts come to mind when you observe the many complexities of tiny spaces such as these cacti?


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She is exploring the Sonoran Desert and examining the smallest of spaces while allowing in big thoughts.


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 love the patterns in the photo, especially when the patterns overlap. The B&W accentuates the feel.

  2. What a wonderful abstract, what sacred geometry! I agree with Gandalf–the black and white makes the abstract just perfect.

  3. I remember them well. This also reminded me of a small cactus that I saw a few times in the Mount Lemon area as I recall, a colorful little thing I believe was called a “Rainbow” cactus.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Not sure if I’ve seen a rainbow cactus, but it sounds pretty. I get up to Mt Lemmon so I’ll be on the look out.

  4. Joanna Paterson says:

    Sacred geometry, what a beautiful expression. Now that would make a good title for a book of your photos and reflections, don’t you think?

  5. Beautiful imagery, Bo. Your prose makes me ponder my own detail work. Haven’t you found that after you take a macro, or closeup, come home, download the images, open them on a big monitor – what treasures you see? Treasures that you didn’t see when you were there? A tiny ladybug peaking out from under a leaf; tiny hairs that line a leaf; a shade of purple hidden in a lichen – something that shows a whole little microcosm living in a tiny space. I’m going on and on. Carry on, dear. Love this image and your thoughts, as always.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Ah, Debi, what a sweetie you are! Yes, my computer screen often shows me what I did not see in the field, even when I think I am looking so carefully. Amazing what magnification does, yes? 🙂

  6. Joanne Keevers says:

    This is one very cool photo, Bo. It looks to me like a black and white kaleidoscope, you know the old fashioned cylanders you peer into, move around and the tiny pieces inside make different images? This photo looks like it should be one in a series of the changes made to the patterns as the kaleidoscope is turned.

  7. Wonderful abstract, Bo. The more I look at it, the more it draws me in.

  8. WOW..this is terrific! Such a wonderful abstract!!

  9. Stunning…I am so drawn into the “spaces”…and the design…

  10. Very nice!

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