Monday, February 27, 2017

Some First Sightings at Sabino Canyon Today

Last evening's pink clouds dissipated by morning and we started off golden

It must have been a good omen because, after almost two months, we saw a nice white tailed deer today on our Sabino Canyon walk. 


It is also evident that the flowers will be popping out in the next week or two.

The Creosote bushes will soon be full of yellow blooms.

The Ocotillo have sprouted their green leaves and many now have buds at the tips

Fairy Dusters are trail side in a lot of places.

We have also seen some of the smaller flowering plants showing green leaves and flowers. They are starting to show up underneath Mesquite trees and Creosote bushes. This is a Caliche Globe Mallow

Fiddlenecks are really little.  They have hairy leaves and stems and tiny golden flowers that are smaller than the head of a pencil eraser.

The Cryptantha are similar with white flowers that are almost like little dots. I will need to bring a better lens to get them in focus.

This is a larger one called a Blue Dicks and is the first one we've seen this year.

Then there are some that we can't quite identify at the moment.  We are going on a nature walk on Wednesday and will have some questions for the naturalists.  Or maybe you can help.



One thing we are sure of is that with the flowers blooming we will also start to see more butterflies.  This fellow is the first one that has stayed still enough to photograph this year.  It is about an inch across and we think it is a Tiny Checkerspot. 






Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hopi Katsina Carvings at Western Parks Store

Great day beginning with a Katsina show and lecture at the Western National Parks store. 

Our speaker showed several carvings and explained the stories behind them.


Lots of other items up for sale as well.





Then a nice light lunch at Panera with my cousin and her husband. 
That took us to the afternoon and the Rogue Theatre for a preview of next week's production of a play called Penelope by an Irish playwright named Enda Walsh.  We attend next Sunday and it looks to be a challenging experience.

 Ice cream at the Coldstone Creamery on way home.  Now time to settle down with a book and some dinner.  Could be a nice sunset tonight.  We'll see.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Having a Squirrely Time

 There seem to be two main varieties of squirrel in Sabino Canyon based on what we have seen on our walks in the last month.    The Harris' Antelope squirrel does not hibernate and apparently likes prickly pear fruits.

The Round Tailed Ground Squirrel is more common and is a hibernator.  We have seen him more often in the last week so am assuming they are now getting out and about.

They don't stay still very often in the open and I just caught this guy high tailing for cover.  Gotta look close.

 About a  minute later he popped his head out of a hole a couple of feet away and started to survey the realm.

And that's our squirrely entry for today.



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago (in their own words) a book by John Mayer

I am more than pleased to recommend this history of Steppenwolf, one of America’s preeminent theatre companies. The author,  John Mayer, is in a particularly apt position to tell the Steppenwolf story. He knew the initial founders and acted in a few of their early productions though he did not become a continuing company member.  This has given him a certain sense of objectivity and enabled him to be an honest broker rather than a publicist. Mayer went on to become a fine performer in his own right and an exceptional and thoughtful teacher.  Might I also say that anyone who was active in the theatre during the 60’s 70’s and 80’s will find that this volume will invoke plenty of personal  memories.  
Near the beginning Mayer cites the following passage from John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie.  “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”   Most of us who have labored in the arts over the years will willingly and joyfully attest to that. 

This statement also leads us to one of the key points of the book. The founders of Steppenwolf were small town or suburban Midwesterners who had a consuming passion for theatre making.  They were stoked in their cause by dedicated mentors in high school and college theatre programs.  Once ignited, their passion and talent turned Chicago inside out and then quickly lit wildfires on both coasts.  One only has to mention a few of the recognizable names whose words grace the book--Gary Sinise, Jeff Perry, Joan Allen, John Malkovich, Amy Morton, Frank Galati, John Mahoney, Martha Lavey, Laurie Metcalf—to appreciate what the Steppenwolf  experience has meant to our country’s theatre and film community.

Frank Galati  continues this assertion when he notes that there was something in Midwestern high schools and colleges in general (not just at Illinois State) that  generated an atmosphere of theatre creativity and  “never ending in striving towards total honesty, committing oneself to taking risks, and being brave…”  A  few  pages later he states again that fiery creativity can be found on a Midwestern farm just as well as in a big city.   He goes on to note that the singular ethics of working class Midwesterners made for “uncompromising commitment to the value of honest labor.“  All of this is nicely put into context by Gary Sinise as he humorously tells of an early conversation with a New Yorker and says to her the company would like to bring the play  (Balm In Gilead) out there.  The woman replied sneeringly, “My dear man, this is New York.  You are out there!”  She, of course, had it wrong.  They weren’t out there; they were on the cutting edge and ready to move in and take over.

Mayer’s skillful melding of the pertinent company member’s stories hit home to me repeatedly as memories of my own experiences and career in the theatre appeared.   I had a mentor in a small Midwestern college, went to graduate school, and on to teach and direct plays in a small Midwestern college for forty years.  My labors never produced a Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, or Laurie Metcalf, but I would like to think that the light burned in a similar fashion if only more dimly.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to have seen a number of the productions mentioned in the text and have actually directed a couple of them myself. The story about how Sinise and Perry traveled to see the Guthrie Theatre’s production of Of Mice and Men brought up several memories for me. They were “overwhelmed” by the show and mentioned seeing Peter Michael Goetz at the curtain call.  Bingo  for me.  Peter was initially a McKnight fellow at the U. of Minnesota and I had several classes with him while I was working on my doctorate. One was called Movement for the Theatre and taught by Professor Robert Moulton.  We called it Prance and Dance and I still remember big grizzly Peter as we valiantly attempted to execute balletic interpretative movements to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I saw a lot of Guthrie shows in those years including The Cherry Orchard with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy and two of my Beloit College classmates worked at the Guthrie in the 70’s and 80’s.  In that sense the Guthrie was my Steppenwolf including a less than memorable appearance in Thornton Wilder’s Pullman Car Hiawatha directed by Sir Tyrone himself in a graduate class he taught at the University of Minnesota.  But this review is not of my career, but of how various elements of this book might stir the kind of emotional memories for you that they did for me.

At the very end Jeff Perry quoting from his eulogy for Sheldon Patinkin says of Patinkin and by extension to Steppenwolf itself that the key for them was to:

“throw the spotlight on the work not yourself.”

 What an ideal place to draw the curtain down. Find good work and do it with truth and passion to the best of your ability.  From a fellow laborer in the trenches thanks to John Mayer for creating this testament and to Steppenwolf for lighting a torch for so many of us.

Jim De Young


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Fred Wackerle Art Opening in Tucson

Had a lovely time at the Jane Hamilton Gallery in Tucson yesterday when we visited the opening of a display of Fred Wackerle's paintings.  Fred is an esteemed Monmouth College alum and a long time supporter of his alma mater on all fronts.  A nicer and more generous man you could never hope to meet.

When we arrived they were just putting up the balloons.  

Inside the room was lit up by Fred's smile

and our appreciation of his colorful work.

 Thanks Fred for the invitation.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Prickly Pear Pad Parade

The Prickly Pear cactus is a common low level inhabitant at Sabino Canyon.  Large stretches of the bahada are covered with them.  They are food for many desert mammals and can also produce  consumables for humans such as jams, juices, liquors, teas, medicines, etc. What I have noticed, as we walk on a more or less daily basis in the canyon, is an extraordinary variety of stages in their life cycle.  

I am not a scientist so we shall leave it to a simple explanation of why they are this way.  As the plant is stressed (eaten, squashed, uprooted or gets diseased or old), the chlorophyll in the pads disappears and the various other elements that have been obscured begin to show through. Each decaying pad seems to have a different pattern and its own beauty.

We start off with a mature and healthy pad.

Then some various stages of decay. There are blotches.

There are holes.
White can speckle the whole or move from the center out. 
The center can turn to a kind of yellowish tan

                                         In many cases the dominant color goes toward pink

And rarely we can find three colored pads. I have seen only two of them this year.

Finally the skin of the pad begins to erode to reveal the understructure

 just as in the saguaro.


 To some the desert seems lifeless, colorless, monotonous, but if you look you will see that it is as rich and varied as any other landscape. I know it keeps me looking and seeing new things as we walk each day.








Monday, February 13, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

“It's your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”
~ Rumi

Having heard Mr. Vance speak at Monmouth College in December, we were prompted to read the entire book.  It is mainly a deeper elaboration of his talk, but it does reinforce the obstacles he faced several fold.  Over and over each chapter spins the story of poverty, constant exposure to violent behavior, a revolving door of parents and step-parents, and all too prevalent alcohol and drugs. How he not only got to Yale law school and then succeeded there is a compelling and miraculous story.        

How many of these heroes like Vance are out there?  That is the big question.  Many face the obstacles; few clearly can surmount them. Unfortunately the proof of this point is that many if not most of his friends and relatives remain back there in the “holler”  and not on the gravy train 

How did Vance do it?  Where did his desire to get out finally break the pattern of no jobs, mediocre schools, failed rehab and social programs, etc.?   The answer appears to be you have to have at least one person above you in the hole who will hold the lifeline for you and keep you from slipping to the bottom.  For him it was a grandmother,  a sister, and then a loving wife.  They kept him in the game until he found the personal courage to break the chain and get out to the Marines where he found discipline, faith in himself, and the knowledge that he could function as a leader not a victim.  The challenges continued after his military service. It was a fight to get a college degree and then into law school.  Poverty stalks him at each turn.  

Ultimately, he seemed to say in his lecture and in the book that the first and most important step is the decision that you must change yourself to get out of the downward spiral. You must admit to yourself that the world you have grown up in is not the one you are going to acquiesce to.  Grandma, your sister, the schools, the military, or the government will not do it for you.  

What can I say? The book has once again made me realize that coming from an intact two parent family who never lost a job and who never had addiction issues and who never in my memory screamed and hollered at me or each other was a blessing that has not been appreciated enough.


Monday, February 06, 2017

Seeing the Sandhill Cranes in Wilcox Arizona

Whoopee!  Field Trip!

My wife and I are not birder beagles, but we do like to travel and we do love nature. A day trip from Tucson to Wilcox, AZ and the Sulphur Springs Valley to see the Sandhill Cranes fulfills both desires.  These splendid birds migrate into the area in the fall and stay until late February or March.
There are a number of viewing areas in Cochise County, but Wilcox is the closest to Tuscon. It is a little over an hour and a half  (85 miles) from the city and almost all of the driving is on Interstate 10.

Wilcox was originally a whistle stop on the Southern Pacific RR.  The trains still go through, but they don't whistle any more--much less stop. The old station is still there

as are some older buildings along the right of way. 

You can find a historical movie theatre that is actually still open

 and a museum honoring  local dignitary movie cowboy Rex Allen

 So even without the birds there are things to see.

But birds are our business today and  Business Interstate 10 takes you into Wilcox on Haskell Ave. See google map.  Turn right at the Hwy 186 (Maley Ave) intersection and drive out over the RR tracks and turn right again at the Golf Course sign on S. Rex Allen Drive. Drive up that road past the border patrol station and keep going past the golf course pro shop.  One dirt track to your right will lead you along the side of the golf course and has a nice observation point with a free telescope.  Straight ahead is another circle road around a pond that also has periodic observation stands and telescopes. 

Basically this is what you can expect to see?   The birds leave their roosts around sunrise, spend three or four hours feeding in the surrounding areas, and then return. Some may also go back to feed in the afternoon, but everyone is nicely bedded down and tucked in by sunset.  To catch the sunrise takeoff  (which is supposed to be spectacular) you would have to plan an overnight stay in the area or a very early departure from Tucson.  We decided a better plan was to leave at a reasonable hour and try to catch the returning flights in the noon to 2 window. That leaves time for an early or late lunch in Wilcox and a return to Tucson before dinner.

As they return from feeding the birds start to appear in high flights and so far away that they look more like spots in the sky.

 As they get lower you will start to hear them.
Then they will  separate into smaller groups and begin to search out their landing zones. 
Whether purposeful or accidental their movements often seem almost balletic.  

And finally it's flaps down for landing.

After they settle down it seems like many of them will take a well deserved rest. Though it does look like they post at least one guy to keep watch.
They are big birds. They weigh between 10 and 14 pounds and may stand up to 5 feet tall. They are mostly gray in color with black feet, legs, and tails.

  All told it is an ideal day trip.