Symphony of Light on the Sacred Mountain

The mountains are calling,

and I must go!

~ John Muir

The December sky on the mountain gave a magnificent performance, constantly changing from soft grey mist to thick cloud cover, to gentle white wisps, and then to an occasional separation, revealing a blue so intense I could almost taste it. The air temperature was 23 degrees and I felt warm, captivated as I was by the glorious symphony at play around me.

Whenever I am blessed to spend time in the San Francisco Peaks, I am reminded that they are considered sacred by 13 Native American tribes, including the Navajo and Hopi. I personally find that there is a sense of the sacred here, and I can feel God’s presence. When I was on the mountain last week, I stood still. I watched. I listened. I was renewed.

The Peaks are located in the Coconino National Forest and are therefore managed by the USDA Forest Service, who permitted a ski resort (Arizona Snowbowl) to be built on the west side of Mount Humphreys in 1979. In addition to down-hill and cross-country skiing, the San Francisco Peaks provide a place where nature enthusiasts can camp, hike, bike, explore, or simply connect with nature. I have hiked (more rambling than hiking) the peaks in the fall, embracing and photographing the brilliant gold of the aspen and in the spring and summer, allowing the mountain to wrap me in the cool forests of Ponderosa Pine. I have driven the forest roads around the mountain, exploring this home to elk, bobcat, mountain lion, gray fox, mule deer, porcupine, tarantula, javelina, and of course, rattlesnake and the raucous raven.

The San Francisco Peaks are known by different names; the following are two of many. The Navajo call the mountain Dook’o’oosłííd, “the summit which never melts” or “the mountain which peak never thaws.” (History of the San Francisco Peaks and howthey got their names); the Hopi call the Peaks Nuvatukaovi, “The Place of Snow on the Very Top.” The Hopi believe that Nuvatukaovi is home for half of the year to the ancestral kachina spirits who live among the clouds around the summit and bring “gentle rains to thirsty corn plants.” (San Francisco Peaks)

Like many lands in the U.S., the Peaks have been entangled in conflict for decades over land use and mining rights. More recently, Native Americans, environmental groups, and activists have battled the Snowbowl Ski Resort in the courts and in the streets, claiming that when the resort received permission to use reclaimed water to make artificial snow, it was a desecration of the sacred slopes. (Snowbowl project made of wastewater on Indigenous sacred lands, San Francisco Peaks, Arizona, US)

I highly recommend The Arizona Republic article published on August 20, 2021, which presents an in-depth look at “the battleground between tribal cultural values and developers.” (San Francisco Peaks: A sacred place is imperiled by snow made with recycled sewage)

Silence

December 30, 2021 / Mount Humphreys in the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Arizona

My Midwest relatives do not share my excitement over a forecast of snow, but when I saw the weather report last week, I was eager to drive 2 1/2 hours north to fill my senses with this magical phenomenon. When I look at this image, I am immediately transported to the mountain, feeling the cold (23 degrees) wind on my face and listening to the silence of fresh snowfall.

Bear Canyon Lake

Twilight in the High Country

It’s not all dry, hot desert in Arizona. Bear Canyon Lake, one of several fishing lakes built by Arizona Game and Fish, is nestled back a series of dirt roads on the Mogollon Rim. The lake, with a depth of 50 feet and set at an elevation of 7600 feet, is accessible only by foot trail from the undeveloped campgrounds above.

Summer Peace at Bear Canyon Lake

Bear Canyon Lake is located just a few hours northeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

As if the earth reflects our lives …

The harshness of the desert landscape with the flat grey sky, dried grass, and formidable, imposing boulders hit me hard while I hiked through Boyce Thompson Arboretum a few days ago. This image is a visual representation of the relentless record-breaking soul-sucking heat (34 days of 110+ temps) and drought in Arizona, the bizarre nature of our world with pandemic isolation, unemployment, and online classrooms, raging wildfires, and the endless vitriol of this election cycle. I pray for rain, for healing, and for peace.

A bit further along the trail, I noticed this desert tree softening the jagged edges of the landscape. I stopped and gazed on the tree a while, taking into my mind and spirit the refreshing green life, and I was reminded to be grateful for all of creation … to be grateful for all that life offers. Without the difficult times, how would we recognize the good times? Without the sad times, how would we recognize the happy times?

While it shows evidence of Arizona’s drought, the arboretum is still a treasure of plants and trees from the Arizona and Sonoran desert as well as from around the world.

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is located east of Phoenix, AZ on Hwy 60.

Majestic Canyon Lights

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I took a friend from Shanghai to photograph our state’s treasure, The Grand Canyon. I was disappointed that I could not “give” her one of Arizona’s fabulous sunsets which would paint the canyon in a riot of colors and hues. When I viewed my images later, I realized that what we had captured might be as good as, or better than, the typical sunset photograph that is ubiquitous throughout the gift shops in Arizona and on the Internet.

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We had waited patiently for sunset, just sure that the clouds would shift ever so slightly to allow the sun to give us a show. We watched the rain as it moved around the butte to form a soft curtain which made its path steadily toward us.

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I’m sure that we looked absurd when we donned rain ponchos and held umbrellas above our cameras as we stubbornly stayed to capture the last bit of light and shadow in The Grand Canyon (and before the last shuttle departed).

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Throughout the day, I had wished for a break in the clouds for the dance of light in the canyon. We got a few glorious moments.

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Sunday Post: Unforgettable

DSC_0122Unforgettable? I’m 62 years old, and I have a lifetime of unforgettable moments; I had not truly appreciated that fact until I started to look for images to post for Jakes’s Sunday Post.

I now realize that I am blessed to have had far too may unforgettable moments to post on this blog.

Unforgettable: the first time I opened the blanket to touch Baby Elle’s little toes three years ago. (“Image by Mona” … nope my son/her daddy took this shot.)

Unforgettable: All of the incredible moments I am fortunate enough to spend with her as she grows into a remarkable little girl.

Unforgettable: If you’ve followed my blog for any time at all, you know that I spent the past two summers working and playing in China, part of it trekking about by myself. The first summer, when I was 60, I took a night-train from Shanghai to Beijing alone and toured the major sites with an English-speaking tour group. The second summer, I spent a week alone in Shanghai. This might not be that remarkable to those of you who are seasoned travelers, but it is quite UNFORGETTABLE and remarkable for me because this was my first time out of the United States.

Unforgettable: An invitation to dinner in a private home in Feicheng, Shandong Province, China. What’s even better is that we were allowed to “help” in making the dumplings.

New to Word press? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in my Weekly Competition to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in 2013 Lucky Snake Event. (It’s the Year of the Snake!) Everyone is welcome to participate, if your blog is about photography,Video, Graphic Artwork Or Writing.

1. Each week, Jake provides a theme for creative inspiration. Show the world based on your interpretation what you have in mind for the theme, and post them on your blog anytime before the following Sunday when the next photo theme will be announced.

2. Subscribe to jakesprinter so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS. GET THE BADGE FOR YOUR IMAGE WIDGET….

 

Make sure to have the image link to http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/ so that others can learn about the challenge, too.

Posted in: Sunday Post

Las Noches de las Luminarias

I’ve lived in the Phoenix area for more than 25 years, and each year I’ve promised myself that I would get to Las Noches de las Luminarias (literally, The Nights of The Lights) at the Desert Botanical Gardens.

The powerful saguaro appears to guard the adobe house decorated with luminaries.

The powerful saguaro appears to guard the adobe house decorated with luminarias.

Two nights ago, I kept my promise. At first I was disappointed that I could find no one to go with me, but, once there, I was thankful for the chance to wander alone through the paths lit with the soft glow of more that 8,000 hand-light luminarias and thousands of twinkling white lights.

I was delighted by the sounds of jazz, blues, flamenco guitar, didgeridoo, and a hand-bell choir, along with stories told by a Native American storyteller. I finished my evening with a hand-warming cup of hot chocolate and more jazz in the garden.

And of course, because this is a post about The Nights of The Lights and because I love taking shots of the moon, I must include the picture I took last night of the most magnificent Light of the Night, the last full moon of 2012. (Click on any image for descriptions and slideshow.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

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I require my students to reflect on their learning, to take their written pieces and describe their strengths and, more important, what they will do to produce better writing the next time. They also must reflect on the text they read, answering the question, “So what?” They need to determine, “What does this novel mean to me? What can I learn about life or the human condition by reading it? How can I make my life, and the lives of those around me, better as a result of reading this book (or article, or poem)?”

The great philosopher Socrates urged his pupils to reflect on their lives:

 The unexamined life is not worth living.

When I sit down with my journal, I reflect on my day, my week, my life, holding up a mirror, so to speak, to my words and actions, examining what went right and what didn’t. Then I make promises to myself and to God that I will do better. However, that is akin to my students writing, “I will work harder” in their reflections about writing. I try to figure out what I can do to make tomorrow better, much the same as when I ask the students to get specific (“I will use parallel structure.”).

Reflection

Now, don’t these two scenes just invite you to sit on a blanket at the edge of this mountain pond and quietly reflect?

Do yourself a favor, and check out more reflections and responses to this week’s photo challenge.

New to The Daily Post? Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, you’re invited to get involved in our Weekly Photo Challenge to help you meet your blogging goals and give you another way to take part in Post a Day / Post a Week. Everyone is welcome to participate, even if your blog isn’t about photography.