The Poet Watches

Prickly Pear Blossom ©2016 Bo Mackison

Prickly Pear Blossom ©2016 Bo Mackison

the poet watches

the branches shake the yellowed leaves
i watch the leaves scatter,
some rustle along the path
others snag in a ragged patch of grass.
i watch.

in this season of cold and death
the first snowfall, cutting winds, frozen landscape
exposed, sharp branch silhouettes.
frost-killed stalks sag under the weight of
dead flowers, a shroud in ice crusted snow.
i watch, and silence breaks open
so much change. alive.

writing from the center
in the center of the temple, a labyrinth
in the center of the labyrinth, the desert
in the desert, sun ablaze, high noon,
shallow breaths and arid breeze.
where is the safe space? “nearby, come closer”.

tangled cacti protect the perimeter
in shadow, tangles and textures
bloom with fuchsia-orange roses
hummingbirds dart amidst bees,
alone, my heartbeat a hammer, erratic,
in the gloaming I find protection.

ancient voices offer a cocoon within the darkness.
if i do not speak, I cannot be heard, cannot be hurt
by words. looks. judgment.
i cannot be denied. i cannot be touched.
i claim no feelings.

it is when i am not seen, when i am not heard,
then pain spreads like kerosene-soaked wood touched by torch
touched by sun

the place of safety lies within,
words to protect.
knowledge to save.
awareness to live.

step into the world,
ablaze. speak. be. visible.

fire burns away old perceptions
flames explode, i step from the ashes,
from charred remains

i step into the dawn, carrying the empty urn
ablaze with beginnings


Daily poetry for the month of April, National Poetry Month.

Bookmaking in the Sonoran Desert – Featuring Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Book - Cover

Prickly Pear Book – Cover © 2014 Bo Mackison

Second in the series of hand crafted books, exploring the Sonoran Desert habitat. This accordion book features the Engelmann’s Prickly Pear Cactus, the most common of prickly pears in the US Deserts.

Prickly Pear Accordion Book © 2014 Bo Mackison

Prickly Pear Accordion Book © 2014 Bo Mackison

I used photographs in this book. These photos were taken in the back arroyo, and I have the pleasure of seeing cacti covered with blooming yellow flowers every May.

Prickly Pear Book - Text

Prickly Pear Book – Text © 2014 Bo Mackison

My intention with these books is to make a small collection of books focusing on the commonly seen plants, birds, and animals in the Sonoran Desert. Quick and easy, with simply done content. I used the accordion format for the first two books.

The first book in the series features the Greater Roadrunner.

A Valentine Cactus

Heart in Nature

Cactus Heart © 2010 Bo Mackison

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
~ Lao Tzu

This photo of a cactus heart makes another Valentine’s Day appearance, as I wish my Valentines a happy day.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She sends much love and deep gratitude to her very special Valentine.

Saying My Farewells to the Desert

Prickly Pear Bloom, Vintage Touch

Prickly Pear Bloom, Vintage Touch © 2012 Bo Mackison

I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream. Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are?  ~ Henry David Thoreau

I have lived on the fringe of the Sonoran Desert for nearly one hundred days.

A hundred days of chores and explores, of work and play, of exciting discoveries and routine administrative duties, of quiet and solitude, but also a longing for conversation and thankfulness when a visitor would come for a few days.

From my home in Arizona, I can leave civilization and be a wanderer in near-wilderness in less than twenty minutes. Twenty minutes from leaving my front door to walking amidst giant saguaros. (That is if I remember everything the first time around — sunscreen, hat, walking stick, water, snacks, map, compass.) The desert does command preparedness.

I go on an incredible sensory tour each time I walk the desert.

I follow ancient trails that pass blooming cactus – flowers that only bloom from one afternoon to the next – and petroglyphs carved in desert varnish on boulders that have remained visible for hundreds of years. I can focus on the beauty, and sometimes capture a part of it with my camera, while I am serenaded by the wind and dozens of birds calling out to each other, and perhaps to me. I can inhale the desert fragrance — a combination of dust and oldness, the faintest aroma of creosote.

I can touch the desert, but only with great care and only if I follow her rules.

I can gently explore the sharpness of the thorns strategically positioned at the end of a branch of the palo verde. Or I can place my hands on the bark of the ironwood or the mesquite. I carry a rock or two in my pocket for a half mile, fingering it, examining it, then returning it to the desert floor. I study a piece of a cactus skeleton, amazed at the structural intricacies that remain long after the cactus itself has toppled over and died.

I watch the lizards scuttle from rock to rock, the quails shuttle from one bush to another.

In these few months, combined with my visits over the past four years, I’ve come to consider the desert a place more to my liking than the Midwest where I was born, raised, and schooled; where I worked, married, had children and raised them until they were no longer children; where I was (and still am) a wife and a mother, and where I first took photographs and eventually claimed my creativity through photography.

When I return to Wisconsin in a few days, it will not take much time for the lush spring to entice me with its variety and colors and deep fragrances. With its green grasses, shrubs, trees. I will wander the prairies and woodlands there, and find familiarity and comfort there. I will be with my family and friends again, and for that I am grateful.

And when I recall the desert and her many gifts, I know that I will return to the Sonoran Desert.

When 2012 passes and 2013 arrives, I’ll begin again.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC, living and photographing in southern Arizona until April’s end. Then she will migrate to her home in the Midwest.

Cactus Rose

Cactus rose

Cactus Rose © 2012 Bo Mackison

I feel truly blessed. I sit on my back patio and look over an arroyo that separates me from other human activity. The arroyo has trees on its edges — mesquites, a few large ironwood, lots of palo verdes. It has many shrubs — some are dwarfed versions of what could be a tree in a more hospitable location. And then there are the desert plants I most love — the agaves, the succulents, and the cacti.

There are many large Prickly Pears in the lower elevations of the arroyo – by large I mean ten or more feet wide, four feet deep, five to eight feet high. And they are coming into the peak of their flowering season. Since each bloom only lasts a day before it begins to wilt and shrivel, the beginning of the blooming is slow going, but certainly builds anticipation.

The first cactus rose that blooms brings great cheer. Then a few days later I see three or four blossoms on the prickly pear nearest my back space. And now — there are at least twenty cactus roses in bloom on the Prickly Pear. A lovely sight.

Today I want to share a macro photograph of the delicate beauty, the gradual shifts in color, of a single Prickly Pear flower. And next, I’ll share a fully in bloom Prickly Pear.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC, living and photographing in southern Arizona for until the end of April. Then it is her turn to migrate to her summer home in the Midwest.