A Most Extraordinary Gift

Only 2 years apart, G grew up with his Uncle O with G’s older brother in between. Their mothers provided the three tiny children with a frying pan, some bacon & eggs,  and watched as the very young boys climbed the side of the mountain behind their side by side houses. Soon there would be a small glimmer of a fire and the boys made their own breakfast.  All day the boys would be immersed in their cowboy existence on that Phoenix mountain. mountain (2) By today’s standards the boys would be considered too young to be making a fire, climbing trails, staying on a mountain all day, shooting 22’s at an imaginary enemy.  It is their experience to share and their memories together.

G’s Bronzed Boots from those days.

This week O presented G with a most extraordinary handmade knife. Using an antler and a piece of steel, he forged and polished to such a sharp edge it slices through a piece of paper so easily, sharper than a razor.img_9926When someone shares a piece of their artistic soul, their art, you just KNOW that you are holding a piece of their heart in your hand.img_9927Thank you Uncle O for such a memorable gift.

Wait up guys! 



I’itoi Cave

Since I was a young girl I heard about a mysterious sacred cave in the Baboquivari Mountains on the Tohono O’Odham Reservation southwest of Tucson, AZ.  I have always been fascinated by the sharp contrast of the Baboquivari Mountain Range against the sky.Rising high above the desert Babo Peak  has been written about for centuries as a beacon for those who travel through the valleys.  Unfamiliar with the permits required for hiking  on the reservation, and not knowing the trails, I  searched and found an archaeological tour group heading to I’itoi Cave.  I was thrilled to finally climb that famous peak. The archaeologist and guide is Al Dart from Old Pueblo Archaeology .  The tour was so well organized and we felt like we were hiking with friends. His knowledge and passion  for sharing information exceeded our expectations. Highly recommended for a first look at any area one is interested in exploring! Traveling by SUV for12 miles on an un-maintained road, our group arrived  at the Baboquivari Campground Area to find campers taking down a tee pee from the previous night’s birthday celebration.  Al was quick to point out that the tee pee is not part of the Tohono O’Odham culture but had been used for this particular ceremony and overnight stay.  He went on to describe the history of the area in great detail.   Even at this early stage of the tour we could tell this would be a wonderful experience.

The campground area is beautiful and worth exploring.    Above us and surrounding us like a giant hug stood Babo Peak. The hike to I’itoi Cave is a little over mile on a trail rated difficult.  Fortunately our guide made frequent stops along the trek  pointing out both man made  and natural wonders along the way.  He included reading excerpts of  early European explorers during our rest stops.The views are spectacular and unspoiled from this vista. What a perfect day to hike.The cave has a tiny triangular entrance behind an outcropping of rock.  It’s a wonder anyone found it at all.  It is said  I’itoi  still lives there as protector of the Tohono O’Odham people.   Iitoi is sometimes referred to as “Older Brother”.  Some traditions have him entering the cave through a labyrinth and others refer to  him as the man in the maze.

We were met by the caretaker/shaman of the Baboquivari Wilderness Area who was waiting by the entrance.   He is said to be over 60 and makes the climb three times a week.

He told us stories about I’itoi and Eagle Man who had been sent to earth by the creator. Both of them were tasked with making  people so they each set out to  make people of different colors.  Eagle Man’s people did not survive but I’itoi’s purple people were strong and became the Tohono O’Odham.

When someone asks him the best way to enter/exit the cave, he laughed and said you can go in however you want, but  “there’s only one way out, head first, like being born”.

We took turns, 6 at a time went in.   G and I waited our turn and watched as each person came out of the cave differently… and yep, we all looked just like a birth.  Everyone re-entered the world differently.  Some  needed assistance to which helpers joked about needing forceps.   Other than the occasional awkward exit from the cave, it was quiet and peaceful, everyone speaking softly.The shaman/caretaker was asked why he let non natives enter the cave.  More specifically, why he would let Catholic or Christian symbols be placed as offerings. His answer was beautiful.  He said he had thought about it many times, and had meditated about it for a long time here in the cave.  He said he believes that there is one god, different to the different cultures, but still one.  He said their story is similar to a Christian story.  They share a flood story, and I’itoi died and rose again.   As long as people are respectful, he wants to share this sacred cave with the anyone seeking it’s peace.Finally our turn came. We aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the cave and I can see why.  Whether or not one believes in I’itoi as a deity or not, there is a unique reverence entering  the darkness.  A shaft of light is just enough to see the uneven walls of the cave and shines deep toward the sloping back wall.  What lies inside are the prayers, hopes and dreams of those who had come before.   I noticed a  faint scent of incense as I knelt down to add two little purple flowers that I had brought from home. I gave them my own meaning as I placed them in the fine dust on the floor so they would  just catch the corner of the sunbeam.   My own experience was energizing kneeling there on  the soft dirt.  Following the sun I exited out the triangle hole and slid back to the real world.Refreshed we all headed down the mountain to the next stop….Petroglyphs.There is an outcropping of rock on the valley floor peppered with petroglyphsProtected by an overhang they have been here for centuries.Some of the red pictographs are dated at over 5,000 years old. The whiter carved petroglyphs more modern, around 500 years and have Hohokam influence.Some areas had holes used for grinding. A new tradition to toss coins into them as a prediction of future events.As the sun faded to a glorious Arizona sunset it was time to say goodbye.

Renewed and tired we headed back to Tucson holding the Shaman’s words in our heart, we are all one people.

I Wish Upon a Shrine?

This cool crisp sunny morning on the 2nd day of a new year is perfect day to visit El Tiradito  aka  the Wishing Shrine.I am not Catholic, nor do I believe in wishing.   However, I do believe in new beginnings and second chances.


This shrine happens to be the only Catholic shrine where a sinner is buried in unconsecrated ground.  Appropriate place for a visit reflecting on last year’s f’ups & hopes for next year.



It’s history is a classic tale of a love triangle.


All of that seems lost with the flickering saintly candles & memorial objects. Our shared pain is here in this place.

0e5abe39-8e0d-460e-8693-3ad0e27ea9b1Our sins exposed like the ruined adobe wall holding little bits of paper, our wishes.

90d90681-2a85-46cd-ab55-5e38c868cf64My wish is here too.  It  is a symbol of what breaks my heart leaving it here for a higher power to handle when I can’t anymore.119F6462-8AEC-4A9D-8F62-0F31DB91EEBF.JPGMy favorite story about this shrine is that it’s presence stopped a highway from cutting through this old part of town.  Thank you Juan Oliveras for your unknown contribution to the preservation of Tucson over 140 years ago.   Just shows you that even sinners make a difference.17fadf50-e44c-4215-907f-d0790651091e


Exploring further and one finds out that Tucson had a wonderful lakeside resort here in the 1800’s. Check out the picture below.

91f64e17-a376-42d7-8e28-2d8178165313Hard to imagine now while we struggle for decent ground water.  Lush and green many people enjoyed this area for health & entertainment. Now the area is dry as can be. Little touches everywhere.2cecd01b-1a46-4f54-afe2-a4fbb36b6957


The neighborhood was renamed Elyasian and this historic market remains as someone’s home.IMG_5134.JPGContinuing on through the neighborhood there were a lot of interesting textures.



3142c3d2-6581-4b51-801f-ff32fa0396d7This is the theater located off a side street.img_5137img_5136

I am grateful for this part of Tucson.  The Old Pueblo.  Grateful for this beautiful day to walk in the sunshine around this old neighborhood. Celebrating the new year by exploring the past. Acknowledging that we are just traveling through and life changes in an instant.







Friendships- The Rewrite

So the reflection of this year I am CELEBRATING the “ride or die’ crew.  Celebrate their love for each other.  Celebrate how no matter when things get bad, good, great, horrible, sad, fun that we are traveling together.  I want to SHOUT how wonderful they are!  Our TRIBE.



I often re-read books  but none more valuable to me as The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  I have shared and gifted this book over and over again.  She reached me in such a positive way.  There are layers in this book.  Each time I read I take away something different.  Today I am in a reflection of the past year and my attention is on her writing of her friendships.  Her “ride or die crew”.   Suddenly my eyes are opened by her description of a friend she deems as becoming more toxic.  To paraphrase; the author slowly realizes that she was being manipulated by this friend.  As she became healthier she realized she had actually created the friend’s kind persona. She described the sloth-like awakening to the real personality perfectly. I experienced something similar a few years ago it rang true to me today like a bell.








I had the same experience and was truly devastated by the cruelty of a friend. Like Shonda I had manufactured the reciprocal  friendship.  Their manipulation & betrayal  happened during a very bad year.  The year of the Smackdown.  The year I longed for  support. The year I almost lost G to a bizarre disease. I saw the friend as they truly were.  As G always said they were and I denied.  It is now my favorite year as I found my TRUE “Ride or Die” crew.

There are people in our lives that become family.  Our tribe. After that experience I check myself.  Not for the fake friends because we can always be fooled.  No, I now make SURE I am not rewriting the personality of the friend.  That I stand up to those who are manipulating. It’s more honest. It’s more painful.  It’s more joyous.


My experience was the toxic don’t go quietly.  To survive them is an accomplishment.

We are all part of a Tribe.  We find each other randomly and become like family.  I may not even see my fellow tribesman for years but when we meet it’s like we were never apart.   To those beautiful, funny,loving, crazy people in my life who I would “ride or die” with; you are loved beyond measure.





I spent last night upstairs on a couch outside my mother’s room.  All night long I heard an owl that apparently  perches just outside on the chimney.    Mom says the owl also  likes to sit  in the tallest Palo Verde tree next to the house because it can take off  better to hunt. Either way the owl is announcing his presence at the exact moment I think I am finally falling asleep. (Like it KNOWS)


The hooting of the owl into the wee hours of the night made  me think about my Dad all the more.  He had actually written a story in his book “Jackie” about an owl that sat outside he and his brother Jim’s bedroom window when they were children.

Below is an excerpt from his book :

In fairer weather the boys occupied the same upstairs bedroom.  A window was at the foot of the bed on one side with a large tree close by.  The night breezes and bright moon made shadows dance through that window.  A large Hoot Owl took residence in that tree, and for nearly a whole summer the boys hid their fears under the sheet pulled tightly over their heads. Earlier that summer  Jackie had won the argument to be called  Jack now that he was older.  He was admonished by his parents that if he was big enough to be called Jack then it came with the responsibility to be not afraid. Jack had to put up with the owl.  The critter was huge and noisy!  Well they got used to it after a while and when they called to Hooty,  he would answer.  After that it was kind of fun talking to “their owl”. 

So now I am thinking that  ~Life just gets curiouser and curiouser ~ and just like Scout  in To Kill a Mockingbird when she suddenly sees Boo Radley behind the bedroom door I whisper  “Hey Dad”.




Eating breakfast in Ranch county and “never met a stranger ” G admires this guy’s suspenders. IMG_4769.JPGMr DH proceeds to tell him exactly how they are made.


He says to go to the thrift store and get yourself a woman’s bra. They have the best eleastic. When I laugh he turns to me and says emphatically “They really do”.


Finally in the end DH points to me “she can help you”. He picks up his 2 cups of coffee (one for him and one for momma) and proudly walks away showing off the fancy suspenders he made.

Boots On The Ground In Patagonia

This weekend I  found a way to get my “boots on the ground” like my daddy said to me  the day he died. G  packed the truck with all the picnic & hiking supplies along with  gold panning, & first aid equipment ( just in case).  We drove past the city limit to find a place I knew Dad’s boots had been. He had taken our family camping all over Southern Arizona and once we broke away from the freeway I started to feel lighter.5742fb6e-b35c-463d-a723-86366424fee2

Finally the painful  gravity pulling my soul out of my body started to lighten up as the miles rolled by. I thought about my Dad. I thought about driving with him enough miles for the Chet Atkins 8 track to  repeat a few times. I hear his music in my head as the world rushes by.  Oh how he loved this land. This was healing as I allowed myself to feel the pain of the loss of such a great man.

IMG_3774.JPGSoon we pulled in to the tiny town of Patagonia, AZ and I saw this amazing tree. The proprietor says it’s over  300 years old.  I’m staring wondering how.  How did this tree stay? (Why couldn’t you stay?)   Daydreaming and  imagining the secrets this tree knows I touch it with the respect it deserves.  I highly recommend hugging a 300 year old tree.

Patagonia has a short street with a lot of cool old buildings. We decide to return when we feel like exploring at a later time.

Continuing south we know what we are looking for; Desert mountains, grasslands, fresh air, streams

We drop down toSan Rafael Valley and we are just a few miles from Mexico.  You can see Mexico  in the distance over G’s shoulder.9a2d730e-bed7-4ae1-9e67-2f75d93ad7f4

Finally the truck climbs high enough on forest roads to see my dad’s favorite tree, the Manzanita.  It’s my favorite too.  The world smells different here. Old, fresh, green, dusty…..manzanita-treeWe drive up  a long forest road to higher ground and find a good ol’ hollowed out tree to sit under for a picnic.img_3852I decide to crawl inside this burnt out tree for no other reason than to see what it feels like to be INSIDE A TREE. It was EASY going in but once inside I can’t figure out how to get out without touching one of the thousand spiderwebs.  There is no graceful way to exit and I am trying not to get eaten. G thinks it’s hilarious since he told me not to try it.

635a23df-77d7-46ee-8dcb-69cdcca6bfbbThere are many abandoned mines in the Patagonia Mountains. Some of the mining towns have disappeared completely but there are a few left to explore.  One adobe building and a graveyard remain here at Harshaw.


While I was taking these pictures an ant crawled up my pants leg and bit me.  Just so you know (and the campers nearby know)  why I was whooping and taking off my pants in broad daylight.

Harshaw Graveyard-

G read a book once about this area that took place in the 1800’s. A 9 year old boy had been thrown from a horse and died. Several years ago we found that young boy’s grave.  For years we would return to make sure his grave was clean and well kept.  We haven’t been back to this area for a while and were very happy to see that others have been taking care of it.  For some reason that feels oddly comforting. Families still live in this area and some return to maintain their ancestor’s resting place. Gone but not forgotten. That’s the comfort for me today.54f7ad4d-be6d-4159-9de1-0e1ff9ae67692941f265-22ec-46a8-acf3-08d6adad626ce671677f-e7b7-4198-9073-a358fd92ca78fc1d5d7d-20ed-4d89-b76f-94c5654306b5

64b27a34-381a-4c30-a00b-982f62292819acc6093c-9bd4-49a1-b3e1-9cfc094ccb3aPutting my boots on the ground made all the difference today.  I hugged a tree, smelled the fresh air, got bitten by an ant but NOT a spider, laughed hysterically, crunched through the fallen leaves, lost my sunglasses, brushed against the soft grass, touched my favorite Manzanita trees, imagined living in an old town, and mostly celebrated nature as my father taught me.  Thanks Dad.

In memory of Jack  born October 8, 1931 died October 14, 2016