Category Archives: Places

Beauty Amidst the Thorns

McDowell Mt/Sonoran Desert

This is my first experience of the Sonoran desert in bloom and, wow, am I astonished by the profuse flowering of the prickly plants that dot this arid landscape. It’s amazing that the Cholla cactus pictured below can make room for tender blossoms amidst its dense armament of needles.

Cholla in bloom

In Springtime, the desert’s neutral palette is painted in tender greens, bright yellows, and pinky-reds as the cactus flowers open to sunlight.

Cholla in bloom

My son recently gave me a Moment macro lens to attach to my iPhone. I’ve not quite mastered the focus, especially in strong sunlight, but I did manage to catch a few hyper-close images of a Cholla cactus’s flower in bloom. I’m certain there’s a reason why the cactus flower’s stigma rises to skyscraper heights above bright yellow stamens–undoubtedly a pollinator-appealing structure–but to me this close-up recalls a SciFi creature like Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Cholla in bloom

Cholla in bloom

Don’t ask me to name the cactus variety featured below–I was too entranced by the vibrant magenta flower that crowned its thorny top. Believe me, it’s hazardous enough taking a cactus close-up, but when the macro lens requires mere inches in distance for a focal length, those needles are nearly impossible to avoid as I can attest!Cactus flower

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Back in the Saddle: BSOz Rides Again!

Hello? Anyone out there? (Should I pipe in Adele’s Hello for appropriate thematic music?!?) I know it’s been many months since I last sat at my computer to compose a blog post. Many things have happened in that interval. My husband and I packed up and sold our home in Northern California. Our new outpost is the Phoenix area of Arizona. Why not? Change is good, albeit temporarily disorienting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Saguaros

I’ve had many mini moments to share, but never quite got to the composition phase. Today, Monday, is a writing day. I’d like to share a beautiful spot I’ve come to enjoy here in Arizona, the Desert Botanical Garden. The collection of desert flora and fauna completely blows away the idea that a desert environment is lifeless. Sure at summer’s peak, it’s a tough place to survive, but the adaptations to the arid climate are surprisingly lush, green, and vibrant. I’m always amazed by the desert’s greenness–no, it’s not the intense emerald of the British Isles, but it’s its own shade of wonderful.

Desert Botanical Garden: a relaxing vignette

Here’s the photogenic Queen Victoria Agave. I’m not sure why it’s got a royal title, but does grow like a crown.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Queen Victorian Agave

While strolling through the gardens I came across a gallery opening for Dyana Hesson’s paintings. Wow! She’s a master of catching sunlight and her brushstrokes are so clean and precise. Dazzling, dazzling paintings!

Desert Botanical Garden: Dyana Hesson exhibit

Here’s her show biography–I admit I got a little lazy here with the documentation and photographed it for you.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Bio of Dyana Hesson

Now tell me, does painting called That Way call to mind the work of a renowned quilt maker? I see Jane Sassaman’s jagged edges and lovely curves.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's That Way

Now this painting is one of my favorites for capturing the grayed green common to desert plants. Plus Hesson focuses on the juxtaposition of vegetation with dangerous jagged edges and a tender colorful blossom. The painting is called Beauty and the Beast.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Beauty and the Beast

This series of photos builds to a spectacular painting called Sakes Alive, There’s Five!, a depiction of freshly bloomed cactus flowers. This may be a bucket list item for me:  find/buy the cactus plant that blooms with these beauty-queen-worthy blossoms. In the first photo I wanted to show you Hesson’s precision painting.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Look at the way the light falls on the petals. Wow!

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Are you ready for the whole image? Here she is, Sakes Alive, There’s Five! I could handle installing such a lovely painting in my home. Could I afford it? Nah. (The painting is very large, but here in WordPress, it’s coming up smaller than the detail shots. Oh well . . . )

Desert Botanical Gardens: Dyana Hesson's Sake's Alive There's Five

Dyana Hesson’s paintings typically start with photographs. With smart phones at the ready, we are indeed one step closer to creating our own artwork in paint or fabric.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Purple prickly pear cactus

Here are a couple of cacti that have purple and reddish varieties. The one above is a prickly pear (another future purchase for my cactus-garden-in-the-making), but I’m not sure of the name of the variety embedded below–it’s a tall one though at 8 to 10 feet.

Desert Botanical Gardens: Cactus

Now here’s something fun. I’ve been to the garden 3 times now and have seen a roadrunner twice. Beep-beep! Road runners are wonderful to watch as they really do call to mind the the coyote’s famous foe in Looney Toons cartoons, but they are much prettier with striking plumage patterns and head comb. I am a fan!

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Regards from Arizona! I do have it in mind to be a more regular correspondent, stop by!

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Raw Goods + Quirky Point of View = An Inspirational Trip to Arizona

Folk Art from Scottsdale, AZ, Distrito Restaurant

Hello all, I’m just back from a foray southward to Arizona to hang with family. It’s always fun for me to visit a city like Phoenix with a distinct landscape and a strong sense of its identity. Mostly it’s wonderful to escape routine, although I’m now committed to a strict two-margaritas-only policy after exceeding my meager limits to ill effect one night. Two icy limey margaritas + chips/guacamole = conviviality; 3 = rubbery legs + major headache!

Despite the lingering malaise from my first night’s celebration, I didn’t let that keep me from enjoying the modern Southwestern design style that’s taking over Arizona’s newest restaurants, shops, and public places. The cliche of howling coyotes and desert color palettes have been replaced by an edgier approach that harnesses humble inputs like acid-washed metal and concrete, cutting edge lighting design, and whimsy for new inspiration on desert themes.

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Take the Saguaro, a boutique hotel in Scottsdale, and its in-house restaurant/bar called Distrito. The restaurant sells itself on the notoriety of its celebrity chef, Jose Garces, an Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner, but what got me excited was the design of the dining and social spaces, in addition to the tasty fare, of course. Distrito’s decor is emblematic of a Southwestern mod fusion that elevates humble elements to high style.

Elastic Design Couture at Distrito in Scottsdale, AZ

My family—husband, our sons and their girlfriends—thought I was a bit obsessive with my photo taking, but really, elastic yardage? Seriously? Take a look at these iterations of the elastic-as-room-divider application. Brilliant!

Then, take the humble aluminum lawn chair with its plastic woven bands of webbing—the one that pinched badly if your hand was in the wrong place at the wrong time—and imagine using that webbing as fabric. Mind you, a better and tighter weave in a prettier color and made into whole cloth for upholstery purposes. As I’m a huge fan of purple in all its manifestations, I particularly loved the orchid/blue plaid of the chairs next to the warm wood tones of the furniture.

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Next, and my favorite detail, a wall of thousands of tiny colored yarn balls lined up cheek by jowl. I’ll think much differently about those bulk bags of yarn balls when I next visit a craft store!

Yarn Art Elevated at Distrito in Scottsdale, AZ

The other artwork was imaginatively curated as well. I got a kick out of this artist, Michael David Little, and his quirky portraits (Brian Claybrook Photography’s post of some of Little’s work). The spaceman was a particular favorite for my family of SciFi fans.

Painting Exhibited in Distrito

Oh, I almost forgot, a larger view of the painted skull display at the entrance to the restaurant, truly Day of the Dead on steroids.

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Before I close this installment, here’s a peek at something pretty I spotted while shopping in Scottsdale . . . sublime Oscar de la Renta couture. Boy, that dress takes me back to my childhood ballet dreams. I loved the Bluebird Fairy from Sleeping Beauty and fantasized about dancing in a flower bedecked tutu just like that dress. If only my typically down-home life had space and funds for such a dreamy dress.

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There you have it, a visual tour of Scottsdale, Arizona running from the rustic to high fashion.

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