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!



A Roadrunner for Joanne

Backyard Roadrunner

Backyard Roadrunner © 2012 Bo Mackison

 “Now then, I can easily understand why it should puzzle you that a person of my intelligence, I.Q. 207 super genius, should devote his valuable time chasing this ridiculous road runner, this bird that appears to be so skinny, scrawny, stringy, unappetizing, anemic, ugly and misbegotten. Ah, but how little you know about road runners. Actually, the road runner is to the taste buds of a coyote, what caviar, champagne, filet mignon and chocolate fudge are to the taste buds of a man.” Wile E. Coyote

Last year, when I wrote about seeing roadrunners in my Arizona backyard, Joanne Keevers left a comment and said she wanted to see what a roadrunner looked like since there were no roadrunners in Australia, and would I please take a photograph if I got the chance. Well, it’s taken me almost a year to see a roadrunner within camera range, and even this guy nearly escaped without me getting a photo. You can tell he is running away from me as I snap his portrait.

Funny thing, before I reached for my camera, he walked to within ten feet of me and then stared at me, almost cocking his head as if to say, “You want something, lady?” Even while I had my camera in hand, checking the settings, he stood quite still. But as soon as I lifted the camera to my eye and began pressing the shutter, he took off at a brisk pace.

He did not run. He merely walked off in a bit of a hurry. I don’t think road runners do much running, but they are quick of movement. They are one of the few creatures that can kill a rattlesnake.

So, Joanne, here is a roadrunner photo for you — with best wishes to you from Arizona to Australia.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She enjoys watching the variety of birds in her backyard arroyo. And once in a while, she even gets a bird photo!