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Archive for the ‘Arizona’ Category

A few days ago, we noticed our Halloween pumpkin had disappeared from our back step. Hummm…

We live in a densely packed over-55 community and it’s been weeks since Halloween. What the heck could some retired person want with our pumpkin? It was big, heavy, not carved. Barely moveable.

Original Pumpkin: A Simulation

BEFORE: Original Pumpkin:
A Simulation

The rhetoric quickly heated up:

“If somebody needed a punkin that bad they could have asked!”

“Can you imagine some old geezer walking away with that thing, quietly no less?”

“I mean really, what’s going to happen next? Is anywhere safe anymore?”

An immediate scan of the area yielded nary a clue. Maybe the pumpkin-napper had taken it away in an SUV? We were stumped.

Then yesterday Stan happened to notice something semi-round and orange laying on its side beneath a nearby Arizona rosewood tree.

AFTER: Our Pumpkin!!

AFTER: Our Pumpkin!!

Our Pumpkin! Now a mere shadow of its former self, cleaned out through a hole chomped through its side.

I wonder: What will the neighborhood javelinas eat next?

All That's Left is a Few Seeds

All That’s Left is a Few Seeds

I guess our pumpkin wasn't singled out

At least our pumpkin wasn’t singled out

 

 

 

 

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The Song of the Lark. Willa Cather. originally published in 1915. For this review I used: Early Novels and Stories. Library of America. New York. 1987. pp. 291 – 706.

b7864763c8b7f89da30ba6e7bfb3beb0The Song of the Lark was the middle volume of Willa Cather’s Prairie Trilogy. In many ways, it’s surprising that it should be book-ended between O’ Pioneers and My Antonia. Where those two books were both set in Nebraska and firmly planted in the pioneer farmer tradition, Lark begins in a railroad town on the northeastern Colorado sand plains. And the central character, a prairie girl at heart, is no farmer; she’s an aspiring artist. While the telling of Alexandra Bergson’s and Antonia Swoboda’s stories are spare, straightforward and deeply rooted in the prairie, Thea Kronborg’s story develops much more slowly with many more words, characters, settings and drama. Of course, Kronborg is destined to become a world-famous opera star, so it hardly seems inappropriate to take her to Chicago, New York and Dresden.

Kronborg is also a more complex person, at times amazingly self-centered and ungrateful for the many people who help her along the way. And yet, she grapples throughout the book with questions about what makes an artist and what makes a life. When the reader sees her through this lens, it is easier to accept her seeming self-absorption, perhaps more understandable as a dedication to developing her art, rather than herself. This is a fine distinction I know, and it seemed to me in some places she oversteps. Still, it is a fascinating glimpse of how artists perceive themselves and their “calling.”

To me, this is one of Cather’s finer books, in part because she is using a different style than her trademark spare prose with little expressed emotion. And yet, while we readers may feel we know these characters more deeply than some of her others—making it feel perhaps recognizable as a more standard novelistic style—I still come away with that sense that Cather has remained firmly in control her words, adroitly telling the reader this remarkable story in exactly the way it should be told.

“Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. The stupid believe that to be truthful is easy; only the artist, the great artist, know how difficult it is.”

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And not a moment too soon. This winter has been too long, especially in the east. Even though Southern Arizona’s temperatures are running 7 to 10° above average, (see: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/21/1372266/-Cartoon-Animal-Nuz-243-Climate-Hope-Edition) I’m glad to have moved my sweaters to a less accessible place in our little casita.

The heat has also brought spring in an early rush. The fig trees have burst open leaves. Our patio poppies (volunteers from last year) are lush with golden orange flowers. The ocotillo are wrapped in their green cellophane-like leaves and their red bud tips are already providing food for verdants and goldfinches.

Our ocotillo provided cover for a clay pot in which ground doves built a nest. The fledgings (2?3?) left yesterday. All that remains is an untidy mix of twigs, feathers and bird droppings.

Yesterday’s Spring Equinox was a triple treat. Besides the arrival of spring parts of the globe were treated to a full solar eclipse as well as super big moons as it comes closest to the earth for the year.

So, if you’re still digging out or beginning to dig in the garden, here’s a glimpse of the Sonoran Desert’s spring. (All photos © SR Euston)

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We often visit Tucmacacori on warm spring days.IMG_1963 - Version 2

Last week when we visited the monument was quiet. No school groups or elder hostel outings were happening. The lovely woman who demonstrates tortilla making served with beans and salsa in a central courtyard wasn’t on hand. Too bad, I’d been looking forward to her hot sauce.

Still, this gave us a better opportunity to study the church itself. In the dark quiet of the sanctuary there is a sense of sacredness still and although ravaged by time, exposure to the elements (it lacked a roof for over 60 years) and bounty hunters, the church still shows some of its original glory. Faded walls and ceiling retain painted decorative motifs, especially in the sanctuary and around the altar beneath its domed apse. Originally founded by Jesuits in the 1690s, it was Franciscans who ultimately built this large church, completed in the 1820s, except for the bell tower whose dome was never finished. It became a part of the National Park System in 1916.IMG_4798 - Version 2

It’s fascinating to compare some of New Mexico’s mission churches with those here in Arizona. Franciscans founded New Mexico’s missions in the early 1600s. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 finished off what was left at Salinas National Monument, while Pecos continued, at first thriving but then declining until its abandonment in 1838. These churches are built on a massive scale (especially Pecos) and show the standard pueblo-style architecture of adobes with unadorned brown stucco coverings, and buttresses to support the giant walls.

IMG_1966 - Version 2Nearby Arizona missions, in contrast, were, it appears, blinding white as San Xavier de Bac remains. The front of the Tumacacori church is said to have been painted in colorful red, yellow and black. The front columns appear to be Egyptian-inspired and, in fact, they were, influenced by the Moors who imported them when they arrived in Spain. Both were situated next to a then flowing river: the Santa Cruz.

And both these missions must have been in plain sight for miles, situated as they are in the Santa Cruz river valley. In contrast, New Mexico’s missions (especially at Salinas) seem to have been more hidden, perhaps in light of the marauding plains Indians just to their east.

Park brochures always invite the visitor to “imagine what it was like” when the missions were vibrant with life. Honestly, for me, it’s almost impossible. A life lived cramped in tiny rooms with no ventilation, being introduced (and pretty much forced to accept) alien religions from people who displayed little knowledge of the landscape, who brought guns and unknown diseases to tiny cities of people with too little food and no sanitation. With the luxury we live in, this is a scene just too difficult for me to place myself. I leave that to those with more imagination, or at least romantic visions.

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Just Askin" thanks to Daily Kow

Just Askin”
thanks to Daily Kos

Here’s a Voter Lookup Site:

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The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry. Liveright, 2014. 196 pp. and

The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral—and How It Changed the American West by Jeff Guinn. Simon and Schuster. 2011. 392 pp.

18379039Larry McMurtry’s new novel The Last Kind Words Saloon is the latest take on Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the shoot-out at the OK Corral. The short novel of brief movie-scene-like chapters follows Wyatt and Doc through a series of escapades involving other Earp brothers, various “wives”, even Charlie Goodnight, eventually arriving in Tombstone. The famous “shoot-out” is dispensed with quickly, beginning with Wyatt remarking,“This is a damn waste of time” and ending 120 words later with three dead, two wounded, and Wyatt and Ike Clanton (who ran away) unscathed. Life went on. Dark humor prevails throughout; in the end we find Wyatt with wife Jessie broke in San Pedro.

McMurtry, with short and sweet completeness, creates an ironic, myth-busting take on “heroes”, who really never were. There are plenty of reviews out there—labeling the book everything from disappointing to  great. It’s sure a book worth reading, (one gratuitously grim recounting of an Apache raid  and a problematic cover notwithstanding) but not worth extended analysis. Although there is the skeleton of truth, 100 years and Hollywood’s extensive spin later, in The Last Kind Words Saloon a great storyteller appropriately re-tells the now mythic tale as a novel, where it feels it really belongs.9587101

Not so The Last Gunfight, a extended non-fiction wade through the “literature” and records of the Earps, their friends and enemies. The title immediately sets out an enormous challenge that Mr. Quinn spends almost 400 pages attempting to meet. While trying to make compelling arguments about Wyatt and Doc’s respective psychological motivations, Quinn ends up with an overzealous “deconstructed” remake of the same old story. By the end, it seems he’s presented  every detail short of dental records to make his point. By page 205 when readers arrive at the OK Corral shoot-out, I found myself rooting for a truly “deconstructed” result with everybody dead, not just the two McLaurys and Billy Clanton. Alas, the book has to complete the story which takes another 150-plus pages.

Still, if you’re a commited Tombstone aficionado, you may find some new nuggets of information (especially slang) in The Last Gunfight. Otherwise, if you only read one, make it McMurtry’s.

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Border Insecurity: Why big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer. by Sylvia Longmire. Palgrave/MacMillan. 2014. 250 pp.

Since traveling and living in the deep Southwest, I’ve often been stunned by the front and center role border issues occupy here. No mere distant possibility, close encounters of the border kind happen here with startling regularity. Our first sighting was in Imperial County where Interstate 8 dips almost to touch the border. There, in the late 90s, we watched as a old white beater Yugo pulled into the break down lane where someone scrambled from the drainage ditch into the back seat and off they went. Another time while in a Nogales, Sonora border crossing line I watched a teenager climb over the steel fence into Nogales Arizona. In the local Safeway parking lot I saw men handcuffed then pushed into the back of a Border Patrol van. This spring, again on I-8, off the roadside we saw five camouflage-clad men carrying assault weapons crouched and running through a boulder field. Just last monthBorder Patrol agents shot dead an alleged drug smuggler on a local golf course after he fled his SUV containing about 500 pounds of baled marijuana. Right now over 1000 illegal minors are being warehoused in Nogales about 30 miles south.

Border Insecurity CoverSo I was led to this brand new book, Border Insecurity for some  on-the-ground information.

Tucsonian, border security expert and consultant Sylvia Longmire does an admirable job of bringing readers up-to-date on the current situation at the border. Dense with facts, light on rant or jargon, Longmire’s book offers a cogent, non-partisan contribution to the ongoing conversation on border issues. Longmire divides illegal border crossers into three general types: drug smugglers and the drug cartels behind them; potential terrorists; and those seeking work. Recently Mexican drug cartels have taken over “coyote” operations and now use economic migrants as “mules”— slaves forced to carry drugs over the border or else. And as cartels become increasing violent, spillover effects plague Arizona’s border, placing additional burdens on already overstretched state, county and local law enforcement as well as the 5000+ Border Patrol agents who now cover the Tucson and Yuma Districts.

Topics range from the border “fence” (real and virtual) and other technical fixes, to dogs trained to sniff out drugs in cars, to the barbaric actions often involved in crossing, to money laundering, to what’s happening at the Canadian border.

Her major conclusion is that tough decisions must be made to develop realistic Federal policies, plans and benchmarks, rather than having a frustrated Congress impose strict but unrealistic legislative metrics to measure border control “success”, for example the pie-in-the-sky 95% reduction in illegal crossings currently proposed. Since the vast majority are crossing for jobs she posits they do not pose a direct threat and should be dealt with separately from the obvious homeland security risks posed by lawless drug cartels and potential terrorists. She also recommends closer scrutiny of the real value of costly high tech “solutions”—now deployed or dreamed of. It’s an eye-opening synopsis of our current situation which also offers some hope for the future.

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