Tag Archives: cactus

Have a Sweet Summer

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Yeah, and, um…bee good, OK?

All week I believed I was going to make a bulletin board featuring a picture of a date palm, but somehow when I got to school, I made a bee on an opuntia flower. Admittedly, it’s not my absolute best work. The school ran out out of black paper and it was about 100° outside and I just wanted to finish because it was 5 pm everyone had gone home and I still had 3 more engagements for the evening. But it’s not a bad bee. Or a bad flower. Still, whenever I do anything, I immediately see how I could have done it better. But this is better than not doing it.

Anyway, school’s out on Thursday, both my district and the Kids’ district, and the pool water should hit 80° this week, so it’s as summer as it can get. Summer I, I should say, since, of course, we have 2 summers in southern Arizona. But I like them both. There’s nothing like a summer sunset in the desert, especially if you observe it from your own back yard, next to your own pool.

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The Luscious Saguaro Flower

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Any feedback from professional photographers on how I could have captured this image even more clearly would be greatly appreciated.

This macro showcases the 24-hour saguaro flower. The flower usually appear in June, but what with all this wacky weather here on planet Earth, they’ve blossomed 2 months early. Saguaros, for the initiated, are those iconic Sonoran cacti, tall and long-armed, like a green army marching over the hills. They are only native to this small region of the planet, although they can thrive in other deserts. The buds are about 6 inches long, and appear on the end of mature arms, and on the very top of the cactus, in clusters of up to a few dozen.

Bats with long tongues pollinate these flowers, which have a delicate but delicious aroma. You can see how deep the flower goes here. Each flower blooms for a single day, but only some of the cluster bloom on any given day. When the flower shrivels, a red fruit remains, but I’ve never tried one. They are generally difficult to obtain, often 20 feet overhead, and the birds usually get at them first.

I’m sort of pleased with this image, which was the best out of a dozen, but it could still be better. Maybe if I’d had the tripod with me. I can never figure out how to line up macro shots of thing that have various levels of depth, particularly is the center is the bit that’s farther away from the camera. I’d like to go back to this particular cactus (it has a very low-hanging arm with a huge cluster and it’s very close to the road) and try to get a sharper image, but I’m not sure that I’ll have the time.

Prickly People Need Love, Too

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Slightly more enticing than the average guy wearing a “FREE HUGS” sign around his neck.

A couple years back, The Man took me to see some a friend perform standup comedy at a local club. One of other comedians doing a set that night was from out of town, and it might have been his first time in the desert. He tried out what was obviously a joke he had just thought of on his way into town, about the saguaro cacti and how they held their arms with a pugilistic attitude, making them all look like they wanted to fight.

He didn’t get any laughs with that joke, and I think it was because it was too easy, and it didn’t go far enough. Those of us who live here know that they don’t all look like they want to fight. Some of them do, but some of them look like they want to shake hands, reach something off a high shelf, or push people away, or hold them tenderly. A lot of them look like they want to hold you tenderly.

A lot of them look like they’re really proud to have sprouted arms that resemble genitalia, and then want to show those appendages off to you.

The point is, saguaros all have a lot of personality, in a way that can’t be said for every type of plant. They’re distinguishable, and while there are some with a particularly classic shape, no 2 are alike, and they’re easy to anthropomorphize.

Hard to hug, though.

Not impossible. But difficult.

Summertime and the Cuttin’ is Easy Bulletin Board

Summer sunset bulletin board

Summer sunset bulletin board

It’s the last week of school for Arizona kids, at least the ones attending TUSD and Amphi, and I put together this dazzling summer sunset bulletin board to send them off (and for the summer staff and camp kids to enjoy). Up until about 90 seconds before I started making it, I had no idea what I was going to do.

This one took 2 days; the first day I just put up the background. There was nobody else around and I had a couple hours, so I thought I’d attempt a rainbow sunset. If I were to do this again, I think I might try to cut all the layers of paper at the same time. It felt a bit lopsided to me. For whatever reason, the school doesn’t stock purple butcher paper, so I had to tape a few pieces of construction paper together to do that layer, and it was harder to work with.

Day 1: just the sky, mountains, and sun

Day 1: just the sky, mountains, and sun

The next day I sketched out the cactus and the birds on black paper and cut it all out as a single piece, mostly using scissors, but getting the scalpel in there for some of the fiddly bits. I used my wedding invitations as a reference. A designer put the image together for me from a few pictures; this was before I knew Photoshop, or I probably would have done it myself and been even more impressed with the result, but we were pretty happy to get invitations that more or less looked the way we wanted.

Detail from our wedding invitations.

Detail from our wedding invitations.

The next day I sketched out the cactus and the birds on black paper and cut it all out as a single piece, mostly using scissors, but getting the scalpel in there for some of the fiddly bits.

I used my wedding invitations as a reference. A designer put the image together for me from a few pictures; this was before I knew Photoshop, or I probably would have done it myself and been even more impressed with the result, but we were pretty happy to get invitations that more or less looked the way we wanted.

Anyway, the silhouette was simple to draw; the hardest part was actually making out the pencil marks on black paper so I could accurately see what I was cutting. It all came out nicely and actually took a lot less time than many of the less complex bulletin boards take, about 4 hours max, although part of that is because there isn’t any text on this one. As per usual when the bulletin board is cactus themed, I used a lot of staples for spines, and also to keep the thing in place. It needs to be extra durable to last through the monsoon.

The silhouette.

The silhouette.

Last I did the stars, which would have been a lot easier had the principal not kicked me out of the library so she could hold an interview there, because it was super windy in the breezeway and I spend half my time chasing bits of paper around, but in the end it seems to have worked out pretty well.

The Past is Pointy and So Is This Mandala

Mistakes were made.

Mistakes were made.

Without notes, it’s hard to remember some of the details, but I have a pretty good idea that this mandala is about ill-advised relationships, about feeling tied (or in this case, sewn to) to a person who is emotionally dangerous to you. Sometimes things can feel good or right in the moment, but all the while they’re slicing you up and leaving scars. Sometimes, those are the hardest relationships to get away from.

Speaking of things that slice you up and leave scars, the detail I was too tired to write about yesterday concerned thorns. In my hands.

As many readers know, I live in the desert, where much of the local flora is extremely pointy. Even the trees can be insanely dangerous. Before we bought our house, The Man and I lived on a property where the mesquite trees had 4-inch thorns. I’m not even exaggerating. Every person who ever lived there had, at least once, the experience of going outside wearing shoes and accidentally stepping on a thorn so long that it penetrated the sole and pierced deep into their foot.

We have a mesquite tree here, but it’s not quite as dangerous, and it’s at the very back of the property, where its calculated unruliness helps stem the flow of traffic from the utility easement into our yard. We also have a palo verde tree that is very close to the house. Probably, it should be removed, but I’m sort of fond it it, even though it’s considered a weed tree. They grow so fast that this one has begun to take over our roof.

Palo verdes are also thorny, and while the thorns are much smaller, to my mind, the small ones are much more insidious. This did not deter me; once up there, I could see that the tree was compromising the roof. There was a 3-inch mat of the needle-like leaves, which were trapping water and causing the insulating foam to decay. It took me 4 hours, spread out over 2 days, to clear them off and cut back as much of this tree as I could reach, and I was so intent on the job that I didn’t even notice my hand filling up with little tiny thorns.

My right (dominant) hand took the brunt of it, with the first knuckle of my index finger being severely compromised with three piercings. I could barely straighten it for 2 days, and the first knuckle of the left index finger also had one thorn stuck in it, which made simple tasks like putting on pants pretty painful. The Man dug around in my flesh with a needle to the best of his ability, but the thorns were too small, too deep. They’ll just have to work themselves out on their own.

So that’s what I was contending with last night. The pain is greatly receded today.

A few years back, The Man and I were trimming a date palm out front. Most people don’t realize that palm fronds can be incredibly sharp. Both of us took a pointy piece of frond deep into the hand, so far in that there was no extracting those pernicious little slivers. Six weeks later, within 24 hours of each other, we both were surprised to find our bodies expelling tiny, woody spear tips that we had forgotten were inside of us. So I expect that sometime around the end of March, I will be reminded of this experience on a strange day when my hands eject a dozen tiny minuscule palo verde thorns.

The Desert in Bloom!

I was raised surrounded by cacti; although we lived in the midwest, my father always had a soft spot for the prickly plants. Their periodic flowering in such an unlikely climate was always a cause for celebration. Conditions being, as they were, so wildly inappropriate, we rarely saw more than 1 or 2 cactus flowers a year.

Now, as an adult, living in the desert, I’m surrounded by cactus blossoms from early spring to late autumn. The end of summer/beginning of fall is the time of the barrel cactus, both the native fishhook barrel and the ornamental (transplanted from central Mexico) golden barrel, both of which produce astonishing blossoms (red and yellow, respectively). I’d like to think I’ve done justice to the golden barrel. I wanted to do the fishhook, too, but I like to work from my own photos, and none of the ones I took on my last Botanic Garden trip felt quite right.

Without any further ado: The Golden Barrel Cactus Flower! This one is featured on a lovely throw pillow, but of course you can get it on any of my products.

If you think this is beautiful, you should see these flowers in situ.

If you think this is beautiful, you should see these flowers in situ.

If you do buy a throw pillow, be aware that RedBubble sells pillowcases with or without actual pillows inside them; you have to select the option of receiving a pillow, or you will just  purchase the case, as was the unfortunate discovery of one customer. Click to buy!

Too highbrow for you? How about a “Glitter” T-shirt from the Dragon Comics Collection?

You know what makes me feel like my house will never be clean?

You know what makes me feel like my house will never be clean again?

The T-shirt reads, in full, “You know what helps me feel more magical? GLITTER!” and features a cat throwing glitter in the air, while a dragon marvels at the magicosity. Perfect for magic-loving cats of all ages.

The Breezeway Part 1

My first completed bulletin board, Halloween 2009.

My first completed bulletin board, Halloween 2009. I made up the bone letters. The other font came from a book in the library’s collection.

There’s a bulletin board outside the elementary school library where I volunteer, a scabrous, peeling wreck of old cork, exposed to the elements (this is Arizona, where year-round outdoor living means we keep a lot of things outside that northerners would never consider subjecting to the wind and rain) but prominently positioned in a breezeway through which most students and teachers regularly pass.

Winter, 2009 (I think)

Winter, 2009 (I think). These snowflakes are all hand cut, of course. The big one was a lot of fun to cut, but not that easy to affix to the wall.

Due to unconscionable budget inadequacies (this is Arizona, where certain people don’t understand the connection between funding education and creating a healthy and robust standard of living) I’ve held various degrees of responsibility in this library, including, for certain periods, being the only person to staff it in any way and basically completely in charge, with the principal’s blessing.

 

Summer, 2010. Even though school's not in session, I like to put something up for the kids and adult in camp and summer school on this campus.

Summer, 2010. Even though school’s not in session, I like to put something up for the kids and adult in camp and summer school on this campus.