August 1, 2010

Lammas – the solar cross-quarter holiday that marks the halfway point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox – also marks the transition to early autumn, and the eight-week period that I named “Gathering the Sun” many years ago.  We celebrated with a hike in the saguaro forest in the Rincon Mountains, listening to the trickling water that poured everywhere down steep canyons and tiny outcrops after yesterday’s heavy thunderstorms.  One of my favorite shrubs, Jatropha cardiophylla (Sangre de Drago or Limberbush) was in full leaf and flower.   This is a Sonoran Desert shrub that reaches the eastern edge of its range in the Rincon and Empire Mountains.   The sprays of thick, reddish brown twigs stand dormant for nine months, but with summer rains they grow shiny green heart-shaped leaves and tiny white urn-shaped flowers.  The picture below looks like a woodland scene, but it is really in saguaro desert.  The desert fern Cheilanthes wrightii is growing with a dryland spikemoss, Selaginella arizonica, in the shade of Jatropha cardiophylla (leaves on left side of photo).

Jatropha cardiophylla with Cheilanthes wrightii

Jatropha cardiophylla: Flowers

 The other important celebration happened here at home, when I worked in my newly-remodeled blacksmith shop for the first time.  The anvil, forge, and tools are in their same old places.  But we enclosed the area with a wood frame, perforated steel screen, and a security door, all painted white.  It’s very similar to the cat porch that we built a couple of years ago.  It’s bugproof and keeps out much of the wind and the sun’s glare, while letting in plenty of air and daylight.  I have great visibility but nobody can see me except at night if I have a light on inside.  The entire mood and character of the place has changed.  It’s no longer dark, dusty, windblown, and plagued by clouds of monsoon mosquitoes.  it’s now clean, airy, private, and shady but light – a perfect sanctuary for working.


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