We spent last weekend at Joshua Tree National Park, hiking among the giant yuccas and granite tors and  photographing blooming cacti and Mojave wildflowers that were new to me.  The park is not grazed, so desert plants are astonishingly abundant, diverse, and healthy:  wildflowers, flowering shrubs, cacti, desert trees, and of course the famous giant yuccas.  I put a few photos from our trip on this page:

http://www.mineralarts.com/cactus/JoshuaTreeNP.html

I especially enjoyed the hike to the 49 Palms Oasis.  The trail wanders over rocky desert hills covered in brittlebush and barrel cacti, offering occasional tantalizing glimpses of a cluster of native Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) glittering green in the morning light.  Once among them, I was amazed at their size.  This tree is cultivated throughout the Southwest, but the wild ones have much more presence – they are taller and their trunks are more supple.  The huge leaves create a cool wind that constantly stirs them with surf noises, yet their shade holds the same ancient peace that I found among the tiny palmettos on the North Carolina coast.  On the way home, southern California’s blasted emptiness (largely man-made) hit me full force, and the memory of the tiny, fragile palm oasis became all the more precious.

The golden glow of this Blazing Star (Menzelia involucrata) captures the Mojave desert light very well:

Blazing Star

Stones Oracle: Eye Agate

April 17, 2008

It’s good to be working on the Moon Oracle again.  Finished the first of the eight Stones drawings.  These will depict various round white quartz and chalcedony pebbles in the geological environment where they are found (which is sometimes, though not necessarily, the environment where they form.)  This one is for the First Quarter Moon and was drawn from one of my photos.  There are several similar archaeological sites near my house, with grinding holes/bedrock mortars in granite outcrops along major washes.  When the Hohokam lived here, these places would have had mesquite bosques where people came to collect and grind the sweet pods for food.  The holes almost always have nearby petroglyphs depicting spirals or concentric rings, perhaps associated with water or the with the work of grinding.   

I found the two pitted and “eyed” chalcedony pebbles on the bajada near my house.  The pits on the pebbles reflect the grinding holes, and the concentric chalcedony layers that are revealed in the broken pebble mirror the ancient weathered petroglyphs.

STONES First Quarter Moon

Owl Eyes & Drum Bells

April 16, 2008

The two great horned owl nests that I pass on my morning walk are active now, with three young birds in each.  I feel honored to have two nests so close to my house, and watching them has become a wonderful spring tradition.  The young birds watch us with suspicion:

great horned owl baby

Even this Needlespine Cactus (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. erectocentrus) is a reminder that this time of year belongs to the owls:

owl eyed cactus

April marks the first anniversary of our exploration of the Empire Mountains.  This is a small mountain range (geologically, the northeastern extension of the Santa Ritas) and the highway passes very close to it, but access to the interior is only by hiking and (to a limited extent) by 4WD vehicle.  We have found unique plant communities, several rare plants, and a great diversity of common desert, grassland, and mountain flora.  I have been developing a plant list for the area (as far as I know, this has never been done).  

http://www.mineralarts.com/cactus/EmpireMtsFlora.html

Although not intended to illustrate every species, the webpage includes photos of some of the showier flowers, and will eventually include photos and descriptions of typical Empire Mt. plant communities. 

Here’s a new set of six forged iron cone bells that are designed to be tied onto a drum, a bag, or anything that needs some earthy metallic rattling energy.  The three small cones have a very high, tinkly sound, and the larger ones have a more assertive clank. They are photographed on a copper/iron ore boulder in my yard.

cone bells for a drum

Silver Hoard

April 6, 2008

silver hoard

I’ve been refining my forging skill with the Moon Metal.  Silver holds more tension than my “comfort metals”, iron and copper.  So working with it requires a mix of emotional intensity, fearlessness, and desire for change.  In other words, I do it when old attitudes or routines don’t work anymore.  I’m not really “at home” with silver, but I’ve learned to greet it as an old friend and challenger on the road.

The wand/hairpin is 5.5″ long, hot-forged from a sterling silver rod with the same techniques that I use for iron wands.  The pod knife is a work in progress, since it still needs a chain and a bag.  The blade is high-carbon steel.  The pod is heavy silver sheet with a “spine” of forged silver and a copper wire rivet.  The earrings are turquoise (natural nugget from Mexico, bead from Tibet) with Mexican pink ceramic beads. 

Rainbow Lion

April 1, 2008

Rainbow Lion was my big project for March.  The magic in this one is a bit more “white light” than my usual work, and it will be reassuring for me to get back to my stones and knives.  But I found this colorful yarn when I was working on the Snow Lion, and it was an irresistible match for the white silk/hemp fabric.  This is a particularly cuddly lion (though very sturdy, like the others) with a very thick, soft mane.  The yarn is a cotton/silk/rayon blend.  The blanket adds a lot of color, but (unlike the other two lions) he looks just as good without it.  Description and more photos are here:

http://www.mineralarts.com/artwork/greenliontoy.html

I hope this lion provides comfort after a storm for somebody.  This was a difficult month for me, but I’ll wait until after the New Moon to look for my own sign of celestial renewal.

Rainbow Lion