Row of Rocking Chairs

Rocking on the Porch

Row of Rockers © 2013 Bo Mackison

Turning a corner in Southport, I found this porch, home to a dozen rocking chairs.

There aren’t many inspiring quotes about rocking chairs. I found that surprising. The quotes I read insinuated that only those who could do nothing else would choose to spend time rocking in a rocking chair. Or that a rocking chair doesn’t go anywhere, just rocks in place, and why spend time going nowhere?

Ah, this row of inviting rocking chairs., filled with their own history.

I noticed the rockers as I strolled past the front porch of the Walker-Pyke House in Southport, North Carolina. The building, built circa 1800, is probably the oldest residence in Southport. It is a part of Southport’s Historic District and is on the National Register of Historic Sites. That’s the historical part.

Here’s the part where this photograph becomes a metaphor.

The rockers are an invitation to sit down, slow down, relax. Enjoy the view. (Imagine the view from this front porch – across the road are a few wooden piers and the gently rolling Cape Fear River. Late season day – November – peaceful, quiet.  Blue skies, a bottle green sea. Breathe the fresh air. Ahhh.)

Perhaps it’s time to take a break.

Perhaps it’s time to turn from a hectic schedule, give your body a time out and your mind some space. Allow new ideas to percolate while you relax with the back and forth of the rocking rhythm. It’s amazing how new ideas can crystalize when the mind has some roaming time.

So many things to love about the rocking chair. An evening pause. A vacation moment. A creative spark.

Do you love rocking chairs as much as I do?

Garden Peony in Amana

Vintage Peony

Vintage Peony © 2013 Bo Mackison

“The best art of beauty is that which no picture can express. That said, the mere act of looking at your surroundings with intention and perhaps the anticipation of finding a suitable subject, makes you more aware of the diversity of nature. ~ Sir Francis Bacon

Sherpa and I traveled this weekend, a quick trip to visit family. On our way home, we stopped at the Amana Colonies near Iowa City, Iowa. The Colonies were settled by Pietists in the 1850s, immigrants from Germany who came to America to practice their religious faith in a communal setting. The settlers received all that they required — home, medical care, meals, a job, and schooling for children. Everything was shared.  Farming and the production of fabrics, both wool and calico, supported the community, but everything from furniture making to brewing, were an important part of the community. Well-crafted products became a trademark of the Amanas.

During the farm economic crisis in the 1930s and the followers’ desire to live a more independent life, the Colonies adapted to changing times and the communal way of life transitioned into a profit-sharing entity, The Amana Society.  Private enterprise was encouraged and the Amanas were able to thrive.The seven towns which comprise the colonies were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Today the Amana Colonies attract nearly a million visitors who come to experience a place where the past is cherished and where hospitality is a way of life.

We found it a joy to walk the streets and browse the shops and art galleries after being car-bound for many hours. Sherpa even found a brewery and sampled one of their fine ales, while I  had a taste of their ginger ale. But I most enjoyed the intricate flower gardens in full bloom. Te Iowa River, which runs near the town was at flood stage, and so we had to take a few detours to get on the roads heading north and to Wisconsin, but we saw some amazing countryside on the back roads.

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Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She explores, with and without her camera, wherever she travels. There is always something new and interesting to see or do.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn

Window in Adobe © 2013 Bo Mackison

The Painted Desert Inn is within the boundaries of the Petrified Forest National Park and on the original Route 66. It is situated high on a mesa overlooking the Painted Desert.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn © 2013 Bo Mackison

Built in the early 1920s by Herbert D. Lore, it offered lodging and dining in a remote setting on the Colorado Plateau. Purchased by the National Park Service in 1935, it underwent extensive remodeling under the supervision of architect Lyle Bennett. Men in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) did much of the labor.

Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert Inn © 2013 Bo Mackison

The building’s red-stucco, stone walls are more than two feet thick. Multiple layers, flat roofs with Ponderosa Pine beams, and flagstone courtyards add great character and the high desert sunlight offers contrast between light and shadow.

Outlook Path at Painted Desert Inn

Outlook Path at Painted Desert Inn © 2013 Bo Mackison

Imagine being a visitor to the lodge in the early 1940s. A traveler could get lodging, meals, souvenirs…and an unforgettable view of the setting sun from this overlook point at the rear of the building.

(The inn was restored in 2006 to look as it did in 1946. It is now a museum and a National Historic Landmark.)

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Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.    As she travels cross-country, she is visiting National Parks and Monuments on her route.

 

 

 

Quiet Time in a Courtyard

Down Spout of Paint

Down Spout of Paint © 2013 Bo Mackison

I have a practice of searching for sacred spaces. While these spaces are often churches or missions, I have no limits on what I include in defining a space as sacred.

The spaces I seek are varied —  a deserted picnic area on a mountain road;  a bare space on the desert floor, a circle of desert where visible desert plants have not yet taken root; a solitary bench under a sycamore tree in a city park, a labyrinth tucked in a quiet corner of a bustling desert museum. I frequently find sacred spaces —  place to ground, connect, let my thoughts wander.

It doesn’t require solitude, although often the spaces I choose are quiet,  out of the way. Frequently, there are a few people scattered in the space, usually quiet, reflective, thinking their own quiet thoughts, making their own discoveries.

Courtyard, San Xavier del Bac Mission Church

Courtyard, San Xavier © 2013 Bo Mackison

After a busy weekend, it was time for a sacred place visit. I headed to my go-to place, a spot in the Sonoran Desert that has a tiny picnic area — two tables — and several trail heads. It is usually unoccupied, so I often bring my camera and journal and a few art supplies, and spend some quality time with myself.

Angel, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Baptismal Font, East of Sanctuary, in the San Xavier del Bac Mission

Interior of Mission © 2013 Bo Mackison

But his time I got sidetracked. Driving by the Mission at San Xavier del Bac, also called the White Dove, I suddenly took the exit for the church. I usually visit the mission several times each winter, but it is a favorite place of pilgrims and tourists, and so it is seldom my choice for quiet inspiration. People are very respectful in the church itself, but it tends to be busy with many people admiring the lovely folk art in the church’s interior. I’ve done this myself – it is a fascinating place, and deserves respectful curiosity and contemplation of the simply rendered sacred art.

But, for me,  it is not a good place for quiet meditation, writing in a journal, or making a few sketches.

Nevertheless, I found myself pulling into the parking lot late on a midweek afternoon. A steady stream of cars and visitors were leaving and there were only a few folks in the church. I found a space in a dark corner in the east transept and sat awhile, quietly focusing on the amazing art. There is much to take in, but I found that focusing on just one of the many statues worked for me, moved me into a place of calm and reflection.

Courtyard, San Xavier del Bac Mission Church

Garden Shrine, San Xavier © 2013 Bo Mackison

I found my favorite space, though, upon leaving the church interior, and discovering a small courtyard. There were tile murals, simple and beautifully executed, on three of the walls. There was a small garden shrine, with a touching display of garden flowers, cacti and succulents in pots, and a few simple rocks.

The adobe walls shone with a white patina, a glow from the sun low on the horizon. The shadows on the walls  were repetitive arches from a nearby decorative fence. The water-spout was carved from the adobe and painted a red ochre, giving it the appearance of a clay drain. There is much illusion in the church art — adobe fountains painted to resemble marble, doors and cabinets painted on the church walls.

I found a bench, and just watched, felt, listened, thought.

My unexpected stop turned out to be a perfect space for what I needed.

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Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She continues on her search for sacred spaces.

Arched Gate in Tubac

Arched Gate

Arched Gate ©2013 Bo Mackison

“Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Sherpa and I were wandering the back roads of Tubac, Arizona, a small community about 50 miles south of Tucson, this past weekend. I’ve walked these roads many times. Tubac is one of my favorite visits – one of the oldest towns in Arizona and one of the largest art communities in Arizona. Tubac prides itself as being a place where history and art merge, and they have reason to be proud.

It is a historian’s paradise – the oldest Spanish Presidio in Arizona dates from 1752 and is maintained with care by a community consortium at the Tubac Presidio Park. Old Town, the original part of town, is often missed by visitors – it’s a treasure trove for architect lovers and photographers. Most of the shops and galleries are in the newer part of Tubac, near the road leading into town. Numbering in the nineties, there is always one more shop to browse or art gallery to visit. Then there’s the Tubac Center of the Arts in the heart of town, an anchor that provides art workshops, lectures, and seasonal exhibitions.

And if all that shopping and art and history isn’t enough, the mountains of the Coronado National Forest loom to the east. The Santa Cruz River, a riparian corridor, offers a ribbon of green and opportunities for birding. Scenery is awe-inspiring in all directions and an easily accessible part of the Anza National Historic Trail is just a few steps away.

In a few weeks – February 6 through the 10 – the village will celebrate the arts in a big way as the 54th Annual Tubac Festival of the Arts springs into life. Hundreds of artists from all over the United States be there. It’s a show I’ve done the past two years. When I decided against hauling all of my large art and tent set-up to Arizona this year, I knew I’d be sorry to miss the Tubac show. But next week I’ll be at the Art Festival, this time as a patron,  and this year I’ll be able to see the whole show.

I spoke to a shop owner, asked her if she was ready for the arrival of the many artists and visitors. She gave me an enthusiastic yes, and explained that many of the shops did enough business during the five-day art festival to support their business and livelihood for the year. An example of how art is such an inherent part of a small community, not only as an extra but as a vital contributor.

If you are in the Tucson area, consider a visit to the Tubac Festival of the Arts, visit some of the shops and galleries, have a look around at the amazing history visible in the very seams of the community. It’s a trip well worth your time.

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Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She loves to photograph the many small communities in southern Arizona where history merges with the arts.