Desert Wildflowers

February 26, 2008

Ragged Rock Flower

Wildflowers are beginning to bloom under the saguaros – golden poppies, purple larkspur and lupine, dark blue chia, yellow corydalis, and others.  Many of them have close relatives in the eastern deciduous forest.  In the desert, the show of color is all the more welcome because it happens only when there is sufficient winter rain, which is about once every three years.  The photo is Ragged Rock Flower, Crossosoma bigelovii.  It is a flowering shrub that grows in vertical cracks in cliffs and outcrops.  For most of the year (or all the time in dry years), its thin, arching silver twigs and small, sparse leaves may go unnoticed.  But when it blooms, the white flowers sparkle against the dark rock, and their heavy fragrance smells like honeysuckle – a sweet contrast to the musky-medicinal jojoba flowers and bursage plants that grow all around them.


Lunar Eclipse

February 20, 2008

Mostly cloudy today, but cleared up in time to view the first half of the lunar eclipse.  Cloud veils are drifting in now, obscuring the red moon at totality, but we got a clear photo first, just as the coyotes began to howl.

lunar eclipse at totality

Molten silver in the moment before melting, when the metal is still reflective, yet glows red from within…

Old carnelian bead, with the ghost of a white hydration rind from long burial in the earth…

Hammered copper vessel, riverworn, washed up among rocks, filled with glowing coals…

My moon oracles will need eclipse pictures – maybe Sarcographa tricosa or S. labyrinthica for the lichen oracle.  For the Sticks and Stones, perhaps a picture that combines both.

Slag Baubles

February 14, 2008

Last weekend we hiked in the hills south of our house, where grass, cactus, and thorny shrubs give way to agaves and desert oaks.  A hundred years ago, there were several active copper mines in the area, and while hiking we see glory holes, ore piles, old dirt roads, and a shiny black heap of slag that looks like a small mountain of obsidian.  I can imagine what it must have looked like at night, through the dusky coal smoke of the smelter – the molten metal glowing white, then darkening to red as the copper bars cooled; the fiery orange slag splashing onto the pile, reeking of sulfur – until one night around 1910, when the inevitable happened and a forest fire destroyed the smelter, and gave the land back to the yuccas and oaks.  But we have the collector’s instinct that drew the first miners here, and we pick through the slag and bring home a treasure trove of tiny glass drips that look like bones, twigs, or strange machine parts.  Some may find their way into jewelry, but I’ll just put most of them in a small copper bowl.

copper smelter slag drips

Amulet for the New Moon

February 6, 2008

Tri Metal Pods

I don’t have a lot to say about this amulet.  Four inches long, four hot-forged pods – two copper, one steel, and one sterling silver.  It started out as something entirely different.  When the original idea didn’t work out, I nearly abandoned the pieces until I discovered how neatly the iron and silver pods fit together.  I knew that I needed to finish it that way, so I made the copper pods to go with it.  It seems appropriate for the dark moon.

Pallasite Meteorite Pendant

February 3, 2008

Esquel Pallasite with Native Iron
Pallasite with Terrestrial Native Iron

The top stone on this pendant is a tiny slice of the Esquel pallasite that I bought several years ago.  The other stone is native terrestrial iron from Siberia, which I bought as a small slab and cut to match the pallasite.  Together they are an image of the boundary deep in the earth where the iron-magnesium silicates of the lower mantle give way to the pure nickel-iron of the core.  The iron hook is strung on a leather cord at the moment, but I plan to make a silver and iron chain for it.

Pallasites are rare meteorites that contain glassy transparent pale green or greenish-brown olivine crystals in an iron matrix.  They are some of the most spectacular of all rocks, and probably represent fragments of the interior of an ancient shattered proto-planet.  Each pallasite is unique in appearance.  Some have many olivine crystals, others have very few.  Some have large olivine crystals (the Esquel is especially notable for these) and others have tiny dustlike particles.  The iron matrix may be smooth and shining (as in Esquel) or it may reveal complex interlocking crystal patterns when etched (these are called Widmanstatten patterns, and were first described from meteorites but are also seen in certain steels, such as railroad rail welds).  The drawing below shows a tiny piece of the Imilac pallasite.  This meteorite was found as a few large pieces and many small fragments, most of  them with only the iron “skeleton” holding the remains of highly weathered olivine crystals. 

Imilac Pallasite

The other stone in the pendant is native iron from Siberia.  Pure iron metal is very rare in the earth’s rocks, since iron is unstable when oxygen is present, and usually combines with oxygen, silica, sulfur, and other elements to form many common minerals .  Metallic terrestrial iron is known from only a few localities.  The Siberian iron occurs as irregular blebs in a rock that is made mostly of altered olivine.

Stick Oracle – finished

February 2, 2008

I finished the last of the Stick drawings.  This one represents the Third Quarter Moon.  For some reason, this is the most stylized and least realistic of the series, though that wasn’t intentional.  Minor changes will be made in a couple of the drawings before printing, but for now you can see how they all look together on the Moon Oracle page:

The 8 Sticks are only half of a 16-card oracle.  With the next moon, I’ll begin drawing the 8 Stones that will complete the project.

Stick Oracle - Third Quarter Moon