Yucca Abstract – A Photograph in Canyon Colors

Palo Dura Canyon

Yucca in Canyon © 2014 Bo Mackison

While curating my photographs from a visit to Palo Dura Canyon State Park in west Texas, I rediscovered a photo of this yucca growing in the red dirt of the canyon floor. I liked the lines and composition of the sword yucca, but the colors in the original photo were dull and the wisps of thready fibers faded into the narrow spikes.

By highlighting the colors and adding a gray neutral to make the wispy threads stand out, the yucca comes to life.


All Manner of Stripes

Stripes on Benches

Stripes on Benches ©2013 Bo Mackison

“In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated. ” ~ August Sander

While visiting Casa Grande National Monument, I found plenty of opportunity to play with surfaces striped with light and shadow. And so that is what I did. I played!

Stripes in Corners

Stripes in Corners © 2013 Bo Mackison

Photography means ‘light writing’.~ L. Ron Hubbard 

I took these photos at the visitor center and the outside ramada where Park Rangers give talks about the ancient ruins of a Hohokam-era farming village and a four-story Great House.

Stripes on Roofs

Stripes on Roofs © 2013 Bo Mackison

The camera captures light, our minds capture images. ~ Anonymous

Blue skies, an Arizona hallmark, show through the slatted ramada.

Stripes - Casa Grande National Monument's Visitor Center

Stripes – Casa Grande National Monument ©2013 Bo Mackison

Photos have no narrative content. They only describe light on surface. ~ Garry Winogrand


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She explores the desert with her camera, and is mesmerized by the stripes of light and shadow.

Desert Bloom

Claret Cup Bloom

Claret Cup Bloom © 2013 Bo Mackison

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ~ John Muir

The claret cup hedgehog cactus has one of my favorite early blooms – a deep orange cup that attracts hummingbirds as pollinators. Every time I see the claret cup in bloom, with a hummer dances at its edges, I laugh in delight.

It is the only cactus in Arizona pollinated by hummingbirds. The hummingbirds stick their entire heads into the cup to get a drink of nectar, and get their heads dusted with yellow pollen for their efforts. I love to see the hummers with foreheads of pecks of pollen after they’ve gotten their fill from a few claret cups.

Unlike many cacti whose blossoms close in the evening and last only a day or two, the claret cup flowers stay open day and night and can last three to five days. It’s a cactus that isn’t stingy with its beauty.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She continues to discover beauty and inspiration while exploring the Sonoran Desert.

Attention – A Desert Wisdom Card

Palm Leaf

Guadalupe Palm Abstract  © 2013 Bo Mackison

The choice of where we put our attention is ultimately our most powerful freedom.
~ Jan Kata and Russell Taq in Toxic Success

As I sat on a bench at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, overhead fans of palm leaves caught my attention.

I watched as clouds passed quickly in front of the sun and the intermittent sunlight danced amidst the palms. The interplay of light and shadow in the pleated fans created dozens of opportunities to create abstract photographs.

I created the ATTENTION card based on this play of light and shadow.

All palm trees are tropical plant, including the above Guadalupe Palm, and palms cannot tolerate freezing weather or dry soil. Since the palms found in the Sonoran Desert require moisture, they are found in desert oases (natural water supplies) or in wet canyons, typically in the southern or western reaches of the Sonoran Desert.

The existence of palms in the desert southwest is testimony to the desert’s ancient tropical connection, a concept that requires our  imagination. The more I closely examine the desert today, the more I can see traces where the ancient oceans once existed.

The leaves of the palm tree are often used to make thatched roofs of rainproof shelters that are incredibly sturdy and can last for years. The palm is a favorite habitat of small creatures as it has many layers of palm leaves perfect for hidden nesting and resting places.

For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.
— Evelyn Underhill

ATTENTION offers questions/reflections for journal or art prompts, even a few calls to action:

  • What lessons can be learned by adding the practice of attention to today? To each day?
  • What are some of the gifts one can receive by practicing attention?
  • Connect these seemingly disparate ideas: 1) the practice of attention and a desert oasis or 2) the practice of attention and creating a shelter. Journal, draw a mind map, or write a few lines of poetry about your discoveries.
  • When can the practice of attention be added to the day? In an early morning or late evening ritual? During meals? During routine chores such as dish washing, sweeping the floor, cleaning mirrors? During a walk around the block, a walk in the park, a hike in a natural setting?
  • Action: Focus on a single object. Observe a single blade of grass, a flower, a tree for a set period of time – perhaps ten minutes. Jot down a few notes, either  during the observation time or immediately afterwards. Include any of the sensory responses – what did you see, hear, smell, touch, taste? How did you feel or react?
  • Sometimes a prop is useful while intentionally practicing attention. Bringing a camera, sketchbook, or journal on a short walk often provides a visible reminder to slow down and look at the details.
  • Consider adding a “slow practice” to your day. It may be the ritual of preparing a cup of tea or a mid-morning snack. Watch the sunrise or sunset, paying attention to the light-show of changing colors. Set an intention to stop and pay attention.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She is creating a deck of Desert Wisdom Cards for self-exploration and discovery using her photography and the theme of the Sonoran Desert – its myths and stories, cultures and history, and the desert’s remarkable natural resources.


A Meditation in the Desert
Entangled © 2013 Bo Mackison

Entangled © 2013 Bo Mackison

The Desert has Many Teachings

In the desert,
Turn toward emptiness,
Fleeing the self.
Stand alone,
Ask no one’s help,
And your being will quiet,
Free from the bondage of things.

Those who cling to the world,
Endeavor to free them;
Those who are free, praise.
Care for the sick,
But live alone,
Happy to drink from the waters of sorrow,
To kindle Love’s fire
With the twigs of a simple life.
Thus you will live in the desert.

– Mechthild of Magdeburg
from The Desert has Many Teachings,
translated by Jane Hirschfield

Reflections from my Journal

In the desert, emptiness is everywhere. It touches me most deeply after the sun sets, when a sliver of moon sets its place, offering direction, but little illumination. Then darkness descends.

The world slows in labored breathing, a pause, preparing for a new day.

To free yourself is to ask for nothing, to find hidden resources and strength developed from living each day authentically. Waiting, until the time is right for the right question, the question is asked, an answer received.

Love’s fire, caught in the crook of a desert branch. Fire-bright in harsh light, precarious, entangled. Lines and curves, shadows and light, a love-story.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is exploring creative photography. poetry, and emotion in a new series featuring desert botanicals.