Bookmaking in the Sonoran Desert – Featuring the Roadrunner

Roadrunner Book

Roadrunner Book © 2014 Bo Mackison

I’ll be doing a bookmaking project in 2014, featuring a different aspect of the Sonoran Desert each week.

My first subject ran through the back arroyo as I was enjoying my sunrise coffee. A roadrunner would make a great feature for the first book, I thought, as I watched him ducking in and out of the brush. Then I decided, instead of traveling to the wide open spaces of the desert, I’d choose a subject from my backyard, the back arroyo.

Not only would it make the study of a particular animal, plant or mineral convenient – my subject would always be available – but it would also encourage me to learn more about my backyard habitat. Perfect.

No Wonder, This Bird is a Cuckoo

No Wonder The Bird is a Cuckoo © 2014 Bo Mackison

When the roadrunner visited, I took a couple of photographs, but mostly I just observed his behavior. I was amused at his rather peculiar antics — the bobbing of his crested head and the high jump he executed in the air, even the flip-flip of his tail as if he was telling me what he thought of my coffee drinking in his neighborhood!

I did some research on the roadrunner and made a simple accordion book. Then I added content. Even though I am not an illustrator, I plan to do simple drawings for these books. I’m not going to stress about this, figuring that as I practice it will get easier.

The writing was fun, especially since I uncovered so many interesting, and humorous, facts about the roadrunner’s habits. The first page of the book is an introduction and the sketch was on the next pages.

Most Famous of Sonoran Desert Birds

He skitters across the arroyo, shaking his shaggy crest,
Gives me a flip of his tail, no wonder. The bird is a cuckoo.

Two Poems in One

Two Poems in One © 2014 Bo Mackison

I wrote words and then added type cut from magazines to make two poems in one.

I decided to incorporate a second poem into the first by highlighting specific words. The first poem reads normally; in the second poem the read only the cut out words. This poem-inside-a-poem reads a little rough, since I didn’t think to add the second poem until  the words were already written in the book. I’m looking forward to planning a bit more in the next book.

Here is the first poem, read normally.

He has the habits of a slap stick comedian, a relative of acclaimed characters in Western tall tales & Saturday morning cartoons.
I’ve seen him do a helicopter dance, land with a bird in his beak. He’ll do combat with a rattler…and win.
And yet, Mr Cavalier, when courting, he presents his intended with a twig or blade of grass,
then the chase is on — ’til she decides yea or nay.
On cool desert mornings he spreads his tail feathers, exposes dark flesh,
& warms himself with the heat of the sun. An energy conservationist.

And here is the mini poem, composed in cut out words:

Sonoran Desert. No Wonder.
Come To the West & Dance…
and With A Yea!
Desert Warms the Sun.

Bookmaking - Accordion Book featuring Greater Roadrunner

Accordion Book Featuring Greater Roadrunner © 2014 Bo Mackison

See the agave plants in the corners and the sun symbols on the end covers?

One of my favorite parts was cutting out parts of the agave plant and adding them to the corners of the front and back inside covers. The endpapers remind me of a multitude of suns, appropriate for a book about the desert.

Now it’s time to go for an evening walk in the arroyo, and see if I can spot my next subject!



November’s Child

November's Child - Book Cover

November’s Child © 2013 Bo Mackison

We will tell you this: we are doing the impossible. We are teaching ourselves to be human.
When we are finished, the strands which connect us will be unbreakable;
already we are stronger than we have ever been.
~ Martha Courtot

In August of 2012, I began an online class offered by Abbey of the Arts. The class was a twelve week interactive class, Women on the Threshold: The Wild Heart of Longing. The course offered story, creative arts, and guidance to step into a place of unknowing, the threshold space where the old is released so that the new can be born. (This is now offered as a self-study course.)

I wrote the following last November, towards the end of the course:

I study the [above] quote first thing this morning, before the early morning’s darkness turns to light. I again read the words, “We are doing the impossible. We are teaching ourselves to be human.”

The sky lightens a bit more, and I feel a lightening in myself. Walking with others, though still alone on my path, I notice a strength that I long denied. I used to say, “I am not that strong. I am damaged. I am so alone.” It was my mantra.

It was also self-prophecy.

As I repeatedly told myself that I was weak, damaged, and lonely, I believed those words with an ever-deepening conviction. But change is possible. It happens as I journal, work on art and poetry, walk in the nearby woods. Collecting the stones and feathers and stories from this workshop, interacting in spirit and deep connection, I notice a gradual change in myself.

I watch the sky as it cycles into morning, and I repeat words of wisdom, the real truth. “I am strong, I am whole. I am not afraid.”

For too many years, I carried my life story in my heart. Instead of focusing on the positives, I let the negatives creep in and weary my soul, grieve in my heart. My story was my companion — not a happy companion or a healthy companion, but it was a familiar. I knew the story intimately. Some times I pushed the story away, only to find that it had crept back to take residence in dark crevices. It filled my empty spaces. I never could push away the story far enough.

Finally, instead of trying to eradicate the past, I embraced my story of long ago. I accepted what once was, the unchangeable past that is neither my present nor my future. I stopped pushing it away and instead focused on my present, while the past lingered around the perimeter. Gradually my story lost much of its allure and power, its grip on me.

I decided to face the past to see if there were lessons to be learned before I could release it, and began an art project. I stopped making excuses. I worked on the release of anger and hatred, I considered old habits and re-shaped them. I am not allowing them to interfere with present-day living. Not perfect, but better, so much better!

My art project took wings. It was a photography project involving vintage childhood toys from the 1950s. I brought home antique shop and flea market finds. I stashed them in corners of my studio – a yellow dress, perfect for a kindergartener’s first day of school, starched and pressed; two tiny red school chairs; and a twin of my first camera, a Brownie camera, which was a present from a beloved grandmother. My last purchase was a lime-green tricycle, much pre-loved.

As I worked on the project, I remembered me as a small girl. I clearly saw this child riding on her cherished trike, allowed to pedal around and around the block, finding freedom in the experience of traveling that short distance on her own, pumping the pedals until her fear and loneliness lessened and she could be in her body once more.

These vintage items, this collection, is rather like a collection of stones and feathers and shells. As I live with these tiny reminders of childhood, I find my heart softening. Memories of a kind smile or a warm hug resurface. I re-connect with a small child’s determination and resiliency.

Crossing thresholds, listening and absorbing so much wisdom, breaking out of routine, beginning this very personal creative project — so many wonders, so many miracles!

The project is now completed. There are two books. The first one, in the above photograph, is a book I created and ordered from Moleskine + MILK. The second is an abbreviated version which I made after taking a workshop on hand crafted book structures. The second book was in an exhibit of artist books at the Tucson Festival of Books this past weekend, and was selected to be in an exhibit at the Tucson Main Library during the month of April.

As the above excerpt from the poem states, “We are doing the impossible. We are teaching ourselves to be human.”


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She finds healing in the creative art process. Photographs and an excerpt from the second book will be in the next post.