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.

Respite

Last week, I was blessed with time for myself with three days of solitude (with my cocker spaniel) in a cabin in the mountains, followed by two days of camping with my sons and their families. It’s been far too long since I’ve taken pictures just for myself, without worrying about pleasing the client. These were pure pleasure to shoot (along with the 1330 other images I captured during my retreat/vacation).

Full Moon rising

Full Moon rising

Full Moon

Full Moon

Twilight in the High Country

Twilight in the High Country

Early Morning Solitude

Early Morning Solitude

Autumn in the Desert

It’s been a while since I’ve posted pictures just for fun. Her are a few from today’s walk through one of our state parks.

I always giggle when I see this cactus.

I always giggle when I see this cactus. Remember Cousin IT? Here’s his 2nd cousin once removed.

I love it when the sun is the "just right" position.

I love it when the sun is the “just right” position.

Autumn in the desert

Autumn in the desert

Spirit Trykes

I took a solo mini-vacation this past weekend, spending part of it in Jerome, AZ. A blessing of traveling alone is that you have the opportunity to meet people, which doesn’t happen much when you travel as a couple, because you tend to focus on each other.

Jerome is a ghost town. To be more accurate, it is an old mining town that became a ghost town, virtually bereft of inhabitants. Enter the artists, musicians, and enterprising restauranteurs. Jerome now is a destination for tourists and Phoenicians aching for an escape from the heat.

IMG_0341-Edit-EditSaturday night, I met Tim, who operates Spirit Trykes Rides. Tim built that bike (er, tryke) and gives rides around Jerome for tips.

I am not sure why I was so dense about this. On Saturday night, Tim said he’d give me a ride on his Spirit Tryke, and I thought, “Oh sure, like that’s gonna happen.” I saw him again on Sunday, chatted with him and some other bikers (owners of some sweet Harleys) who told me that I should let Tim ride me around town and I could get some good pictures. I commented that it didn’t look safe. When I got the images on the computer I saw some details I’d overlooked. Duh! He does this for tips (read: income). Had I realized, I would have taken the ride and tipped the guy (who really had some interesting stories to tell). Maybe next time.

Memories of China

I am thankful to be home in the USA, but I know that I will always have a special place in my heart for the people and places of China.

The city park is called "water park" in Feicheng.

The city park is called “water park” in Feicheng.

Click on any image for a better view.

Grandmothers

I did not spend much time with her. I wish I had. I wanted to tell her about my granddaughters back in the states and ask about her life in China. She looks as if she is about my age, which means that she probably lived through the Cultural Revolution. I wanted to find out what she was doing when I was capturing fireflies in the Mason jar and sitting on the crank ice-cream maker … the burlap bag covering the cold…ever so cold ice…while we awaited the sweet most delicious treat in all the world…….. Did she have that? Was there a time when she sat with her grandfather in eager anticipation of that fabulous reward? In those few moments, we shared an unspoken joy…a love of our grandchildren. IMG_9284