Morning Has Broken – A Desert Poem

Ribbon Sunrise

Stop everything and be still. Let the fire of stillness burn everything and reveal that which is Openness. ~ Adyashanti

there is an emptiness in the black
until I allow time enough to adjust
midnight dark is not cave black
look to the skies
star shimmer
and against a back drop of starlight
Jupiter is the headliner in the western sky,
hovers above the outline of the terraced copper mine
and Venus hangs low on the eastern horizon,
and gradually this awareness: pink haze seeps through the indigo blue
illuminates the mountain’s silhouette
details come into focus
canyons within mountains
bajada crevices are the foothill’s showy skirts
rose-pink, dove grey, orange on the horizon
cotton candy in the pale blue sky

morning has broken


Posting a desert-related poem each day in April, National Poetry Month. Updated poems from my blog archives, new poems written as sacred practice, and selected, favorite poems from other poets. Spending much awake time in early morning — which gives me opportunity to wait…wait…then watch the sun rise.

Driving to the Desert – Arriving Home


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1500 miles in the past, 300 miles yet to come.

Driving towards Alamogordo, New Mexico. Clouds hug the mountain ranges.

The snow from the last hundreds of miles has melted and, except for a few puddles, the desert looks like the desert.

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Ready to be home.

The Organ Mountains, one of the newest National Monuments (2014), rise above the clouds.

Warmer air blew in from the west and trapped the cooler air below it. This caused a cloud inversion which pushed clouds low in the canyons of the mountain ranges and exposes the high peaks.

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It was a late and very dark arrival — and included a bonus! A meteor shower through the front windshield as we drove the final 30 miles. Even a green shooting star! What a welcome!

The morning after the late arrival…the sun had yet risen over the Santa Rita mountain range and the clouds were bright with desert glitter sunlight!

And I am home. Home in the desert.


This is the last of the “every 100 miles” series.

All photos taken using my iPhone and Hipstamatic app with filter set on random. Since time and distance were the priorities, all photos were taken “on the fly” = zipping past at 65-75 miles per hour.

Essence of travel.

Arizona Sycamores in Autumn

Sycamore in Autumn

Arizona Sycamore in Autumn © 2012 Bo Mackison

I live in the desert, but I am only a fifteen minute drive from one of the Sky Islands, the Santa Rita Mountains. And in the riparian area of the Madera Canyon the sycamores are still dressed in their autumn colors.

Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon ©2012 Bo Mackison

Arizona sycamores grow in riparian habitats. In Arizona, these habitats bordering a river or other waterway make up only  one percent of the total land area. Yet these narrow strips along streams and canyon bottoms hold the greatest diversity of plants and animals of any habitat type. Birds and wildlife flock to these areas. Large numbers of plants live in these corridors that cannot survive in the more arid lands.

Madera Canyon

Red and Green in the Riparian Corridor ©2012 Bo Mackison

Riparian areas are often seen as green ribbons in the landscape. But in autumn, they take on a different character, a mix of green and red. The leaves are already falling though. Soon the riparian areas will return to their more typical green.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She has returned to her winter home in the Sonoran Desert and is already exploring her favorite places.

A Drive through Box Canyon, Sky Island View

Open Space

Open Space © 2012 Bo Mackison

The Box Canyon Road passes through the norhthern part of Madera Canyon from Arizona Highway 83, north of Sonoita, to White House Canyon Road, near the entrance to the Madera Canyon Recreation Area. This road was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps which was also responsible for building some of the original roads in Madera Canyon, and the original campgrounds, bridges and hiking trails.

The road passes through range land for several miles,. Horses are grazing behind secure fencing and cattle are both grazing on the ranch land and wandering on the roads. (Sorry – no pic. I was driving, well, skirting around cows in the middle of the road!)

Sky Island Layers

Sky Island Layers © 2012 Bo Mackison

The road eventually hugs the mountain side and climbs upward, offering views of the layers of sky island habitats. Here, a riparian corridor including sycamores and cottonwoods a leafy green near the river bed, though the river is dry. In the higher elevations, a mixture of evergreen oaks, Alligator junipers and Pinions are in the oak-pine woodland. The furthest peaks are covered with Douglas fir, Gambel oaks, maples in the middle elevations,  white fir and a few aspens at the highest elevations.

Road, Vintage CCC

Road through the Canyon, Vintage CCC © 2012 Bo Mackison

The dirt road clings rather snugly to the rising topography, but the views are beautiful. If you want to get a good look at the scenery and snap a few photos, one either needs to stop frequently — there are a few wide spots, but otherwise the road is lightly traveled and visibility is good. I could always see if cars or trucks were driving towards me or following me, so I often stopped mid-road, but I was VERY careful! Another option, and the one I recommend, is having both a driver and a passenger/photographer so that the roles are well defined.

If you look far in the distance, in the valley between the Santa Ritas, one are looking at Green Vally and Continental , Arizona, small towns south of Tucson, and beyond the towns, on a very clear day, you can make out eh multiple observatories on Kitt Peak, 70 miles away.

Rocky Seat

Rocky Seat, Long View © 2012 Bo Mackison

I love the rippling habitats of the sky islands. I sat on this rock formation for awhile, very comfy, and took a few notes, snoozed a few minutes — it was so warm and I swear the sun sang me a sweet sunny lullabye — and did a few sketches. I am practicing a few plein air techniques with some basic supplies — pencils, colored pencils and watercolors, but they are definitely in the practice stage at this point.

Green Lichen on Rocks

Green Lichen Colony © 2012 Bo Mackison

These rocks, and many of the rocks throughout the sky islands in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico, are covered with a lime green living crust called lichen. Lichen is a multiorganism, part fungus, part either green algae or blue-green algae. (The fungus is the house; the algae provides the nutrients. Lichen can grow in the most hostile places, including bare rock in cold places.

The amazing thing about lichen is that it is not scientifically classified as either a plant nor an animal. DNA analysis shows lichen is very different from a fungal make-up, which is in the animal kingdom, but it is also very different from the algae make-up which belongs to the Bacteria kingdom.A sort-of combination of animal-bacteria, but not a plant.

I guess lichen has a kingdom all its own.

See the Road Constructed by the CCC?

See the Road Constructed by the CCC? © 2012 Bo Mackison

On the way out of the canyon, I crossed a bridge, and was able to take this photograph of a dry rocky wash which appears to now be the home of lots of prickly pear (more on the edges, not in the middle sandier area.)

Out of the Mountains

Coming Out of the Mountains © 2012 Bo Mackison

And leaving the mountain pass, I came out into another thorn scrub with quite a few prickly pears, yucca, and barrel cacti spread amidst the mesquite. The cattle guards appeared on the road again and I noticed signs for open range. I didn’t see any roaming cattle on the west side of the pass, but they had been on the road earlier in the day.


How Many Habitats can you See?

How Many Habitats Can You See? © 2012 Bo Mackison

And finally, I reach the road that leads away from the Santa Ritas. I pulled off on the side of the grasslands, and took one last photograph of the Santa Rita Mountain Range and its highest mountain, Mount Wrightson (9453 feet).

I think it takes me about twice as long to take the shortcut through the mountain pass compared to taking Arizona Highway 83 north to Interstate 10 West, drive through Tucson, and then take Interstate 19 south to Madera Canyon. But the shorter drive, though interesting and with great views at times, just can;t compare to a mountain pass drive through the Santa Rita Wilderness. (And a some ranch lands at the beginning and end — just to add a bit more variety, I suppose…)


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC, living and photographing in southern Arizona. There are days the wanderlust bug bites Bo and then she wanders the roads to see what she can see.

Hiking Madera Canyon – and Nature Journal Writing

Alligator Juniper

Alligator Juniper ©2011 Bo Mackison

Another report from one of Southeastern Arizona’s Sky Islands. I hiked the nature trail in Madera Canyon. It’s a well known area for birders from throughout the United States, but I was there in the middle of the day when there were only a few hummers and lesser yellow finches flying from tree to tree. Madera Canyon is in the Santa Rita Mountains and part of the Coronado National Forest, located about 20 miles south of Tucson.

I hiked a trail that was at an elevation of 5ooo feet, in an area called Middle Madera Canyon. A creek runs along the trail, but there was only a bit of water trickling through the creek bed. Mostly there were dried leaves and rocks in the creek, and a few pools of water, inches deep. It’s been an exceptionally dry winter and spring. I’d be curious to know what this creek looks like during a typical spring.

This is a riparian area. It has deciduous trees–mostly the Arizona sycamore and cottonwoods. There are fir trees at this elevation, mostly alligator junipers, and several varieties of oaks. The river runs quite strong most years to support the number of large trees near its banks.

Green Lichen

Green Lichen © 2011 Bo Mackison

Another entry from my thirty minutes of “quiet time” and journaling exercise:

Many rocks, some covered with a light green lichen. There are several large pieces of dark gray slate. Dotted pink/gray granite. Another rock is pink/burnt orange and it has a sand-papery texture.

Sitting along side the creek. Moving water wriggles through the rocks, disappearing under last year’s dried leaves and fallen tree limbs. Moving water shimmers and shakes as it reflects sunlight, light rays bounce from mossy rock to mossy rock.

Still water is a mirror, showing the pool’s depth; it reflects my hand when I reach over the pool.

Two weathered limbs from the sycamore tree, each at least five feet long, are crossed to form a wishbone. Can I make a wish on a tree limb?  I wish . . .  to come back to Arizona next winter.

The sycamore tree’s bark looks like peeling paint flaking off an unpainted Wisconsin barn. Or does the barn look like bark from a mature sycamore tree? Arizona sycamores are different from the sycamores that grew in my neighbors’ yard in western Illinois. This sycamore is much smaller which makes sense as it grows with less moisture. The Arizona tree has smaller pieces of bark–looks like alligator hide.

The bark I remember from my childhood sloughed off the hundred foot tall tree in large pieces, rough and sand-papery, cream with silver gray blotches. As a child I wrote little stories for my grandpa on pieces of bark. My children did the same when they were young, writing “I love you” messages on the bark and offering them to me–gifts from the heart.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for two months, exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo.” She loves the sky islands and plans to visit several more before she returns to the Midwest.