Category Archives: Human stories

NO CRANES TO SPEAK OF

Sandhill Cranes winter in the Southwest. There is a wonderful nature preserve called Whitewater Draw just about 100 miles from our home. Chris Clark, married to my niece, Tryn, and he and their daughter Tryn Rose Seley, went with me for a visit early in January to see the cranes. There were patches of snow on the ground and the nature trails were wet and deeply muddy. We arrived at the time when the Cranes were due back from their morning grazing. A beautiful flock of Snow Geese entertained us in their complex flight formation, and numerous water fowl, and other birds were there for us to enjoy, but no cranes.

Not a bird in the sky

We would have stayed longer, but the deep mud kept accumulating on our shoes so that we gained a few inches in height and several pounds in weight as we trudged our way along the path. Gradually the waiting crowd thinned out until we were some of the few people left.

After two hours, we finally set off for home, wanting to get back to Tucson by 3:30pm. Not two miles down the road, we saw flocks of cranes, still miles away, making their way back to the preserve. We enjoyed seeing them from afar, and will have to return another time to witness the spectacle of them circling the ponds, calling to each other, and coming in to land.

My next book will soon be ready for the press. Catalina Mountains: A guide book with original paintings. In it I mention a little waterfall which I have dubbed Hidden Falls, because of the way much of the cascade is blocked from view by a projecting rock. I thought it was about twenty feet tall, but needed to check. It turned out that when my friend, Dave, puts his walking stick up against the bottom of his nose, the top marks ten feet. With the enclosed picture we calculated that the drop is just under sixteen feet. Now, I think, we may be ready to go to press.

NEW CAMERA

Some years ago my life was changed by the purchase of a new camera and lens. With it I was able to photograph even the smallest flowers, and this led me to write a book, “Small Wonders” many of the pictures being only possible because of the new camera.

And then came another change. Our son, with his wife and daughter, was here on a visit, bringing an unexpected gift – a new kind of camera, unlike anything I have ever seen before. It plugs into the computer and only takes pictures of things that are really small. Amcap – Digital Microscope 20x-800x Magnification 8-LED Mini Microscope Endoscope Camera Magnifier.

Right away I was struck with the difference between human made objects and living things.

I photographed one of my recent watercolors. The new camera produced a beautiful highly textured picture, showing the paper and the way the pigment settled into its peaks and valleys. Then I photographed the painting and printed a copy. The extra close-up camera showed that this print consisted of a series of smudges and dots.

A portion of the painting

Close up of the painting

Close up of a print of the painting

 

I suspected that living plants would be very different. To test my theory I photographed a spurge in our front yard (some kind of Euphorbia). With the naked eye and with my ordinary camera, I could not tell whether it was in bloom or not. Then I took a picture with my usual close-up camera and found that indeed it was. Finally I used my new Amcap camera, and found all kinds of detail I had been missing. With the new, even more powerful equipment I could go into more and more detail, and no matter how far I went, I would still be seeing new things until finally arriving at the molecular level. There is a kind of infinity in living plants that is quite astonishing and endlessly fascinating. And, by the way, it is in bloom.

 

Euphorbia seen from above

Euphorbia with my close-up camera – below, with the new camera

Fall Glory

This entry in my blog was written by my wife, Louise, telling the story of a recent trip up the mountain to see the fall colors.

“On Friday we decided to drive up the Catalina Mountains to see how the colored leaves were doing. Several earlier trips had whetted the appetite and seemed to promise more and better to come. With a free morning ahead of us, we climbed into the car and headed up the mountain.
We saw some beautiful trees with vivid yellow leaves near the bottom levels of the mountain, then miles of lovely evergreens and other trees.

As we approached Bear Wallow, at mile post 22, there were more and more trees in color, almost all of them shades of yellow.

We parked and walked down into the Wallow, rejoicing at the vividness and variety of the yellows. One tree in particular stopped us in our tracks with it high-impact golden color, which seemed to have a life of its own. Frank was taking numerous photographs. There were a good number of fellow-color-seekers on the trail, all ages, carrying children, cameras and binoculars.

Half way along we came to what our hearts were looking for – a bright red maple, a burst of flaming glory in the midst of the yellow and green. A whole flock of people were gathered in the clearing near the tree. When you looked up at the top of the tallest branches, the contrast between the glowing red of the leaves and the gorgeous blue of the sky was striking.

A smiling young woman kindly asked if we would like her to take our picture in front of this spectacular tree. We happily posed for her and she clicked this picture.

Along came a group of familiar hikers, calling out Frank’s name and waving copies of his book.
We feel fully blessed to live so near to a heavenly place like Mt. Lemmon where we can go for beauty, companionship and nature any day of the week. What a treat to keep us centered and balanced, with a taste of autumn thrown in.” Louise B. Rose

Thanks, Louise

LIFE ON THE ROCKS

With a dry winter, and rainless spring, we do not expect to see many wildflowers these days. Those we see come as a special treat, like this Bristlehead  (Carphochaete bigelovii). The flowers are both pink and white, and when it bears fruit the seed head looks for all the world like a brush with its bristles splayed as if it had just been crushed against a rock.

 

Here is the Bristlehead plant with a close-up of the flowers below it, and a picture of the fruit below that.

Bristlehead

Carphochaete bigeloviiFL

Carphochaete bigeloviiFR

Speaking of rocks, my friend Dave and I for the first time explored an area on the mountains we have driven past hundreds of times. It is an area alongside the Catalina highway, just past Geology Vista.

It just took a few minutes of weaving our way through some fairly thick brush before we came out onto an area surrounded by rocks weathered into fantastic shapes. It reminded me of Echo Canyon in  the Chiricahua National Monument. But the wind was fierce and chilly, so we did not linger long. Instead we drove down to Bear Canyon for our snack. What a treat to find this fascinating tumble of boulders.

Dave on the rocks

Here is Dave on the rocks. Then he took a picture of me.

Frank on the rocks

WILDFLOWER SEARCH

I had a wonderful time at the Tucson Festival of Books. I sold about 24 books and about 75 notecards. But the main joy was talking with friends new and old. It was especially fun showing people mock-ups of three new books I am working on:
1. Glorious Grasses (with Jim Verrier)
2. Small Wonders (tiny, nearly invisible flowers)
3. An illustrated guide to the Santa Catalina Mountains – using my paintings to illustrate various parts of the range.

Here is one of the paintings for the book. It is of Windy Point, 14 miles up the Hitchcock Highway, with a great view to the South and West, an ideal place to watch the sunset.

Sunset at the Windy point

Recently I had the pleasure of doing a plant walk with Bruce Homer Smith, who has developed an excellent website where people can easily look up wildflowers growing in California. Here is a link to his site, which has more than ninety-five thousand pictures, about 4248 of them taken by me (marked with an FR). Since it has been such a dry winter, we did not see many plants in bloom, but had a lot to look at and enjoy in Molino Basin.

Bruce Homer Smith and Rosewood

Here is his web site:
PlantID.net

AND THE RAINS CAME

Day after day the weather forecast had said that there was zero chance of rain in the next few days. And then the rains came. It has already rained for three days and now the forecast shows possibility of rain (if only 10% or 20%) for several days in the future. What a change this brings to the desert and the mountains! It also lifts our spirits.

Yesterday Steve and I headed for the mountains, undaunted by the forecast. As we drove north on Houghton Road, we saw something neither of us had ever noticed before. It was a cloud shaped like a rolled-up white blanket, stretching for almost twenty miles along the front range of the Catalina Mountains. You can see a portion of it in the center of this picture.

Cloud sausage

We drove up the highway and sure enough were soon in the midst of the blanket. We emerged after about three miles at Molino Canyon Vista. We parked the car and caught the view looking back at the cloud, as seen in this photograph.

Above the sausage

We then walked along the path and turned around to see the little waterfall running at full tilt. I call this “Hidden Falls” because almost as soon as the water goes over the lip, it drops behind a large boulder, splashing into a pool at the bottom. The falls have been bone dry for about five months, so this was special.

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls 3
Here is I one of the watercolors I have painted of this interesting little cascade.
In two weeks, March 3, our son Owen and I will be at the Contreras Gallery (110 E. 6th St., Tucson)  from 6 to 9 pm, for an opening of a show of our art work. The show runs the month of March, and the gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am.- 3:30 pm.

We are only three weeks away from the Tucson Festival of Books. I will be sharing a booth with the Arizona Spiritual Growth Foundation, and will be autographing five different books (Mountain Wildflowers, Mountain Trees, More Wildflowers, The Art of Effective Preaching and a book I illustrated, Bo and the Fly-away Kite.) I will also have a dummy copy of part of a book I am currently working on, which is a guide to the Santa Catalina mountains with my watercolors as illustrations.

Look for me at the Festival of Books at the University of Arizona Campus  – March 10, 11 booth 254. And enjoy the change in the weather.

Art and Life

It is still cool in the mountains, though the valley temperatures are close to one hundred degrees. On a recent trip I started on a trail out of Marshall Gulch only to find the trail blocked by four fallen trees. This was a reminder to me of how much we owe to those who maintain trails. Without maintenance, most of the mountain trails would be impassable in a few years.

MG trail blocked

On a recent walk on Oracle Ridge in the Catalina Mountains, Ed and I were struck by the beauty of the Parry’s Agave, sending up sturdy flower stalks. We also noted something neither of us had seen before, the male flower cones of the Ponderosa pine opened to release pollen. We had seen them in their tightly closed form, with their beautiful scales. On this trip we saw how the cones expand to release pollen, seen as pale yellow dots on the picture.

Agave parryi 3

Agave parryi 1 stalks

Pinus ponderosa 7 m

Pinus ponderosa 9 m

My friends Hilary and Andrea took me to Oracle State Park. One of the nature trails afforded a view of the historic Kannally Ranch House in the distance. I took a photograph and later did this little watercolor of the view.

Oracle State Park wc

Speaking of watercolors, on Saturday, May 6, 2017, the Bear Canyon Library in Tucson will feature a show of three nature photographers, Brian Gersten, Tom Trebisky and Leslie Eguchi, plus six of my plant portraits, done in watercolor. This one is of the Canadian Violet (Viola canadensis). The opening reception is from 3 to 4:30, and you are all welcome.

Viola canadensis new

SEEN ON NATURE WALKS

Recently our congregation in Tucson, Sunrise Chapel, celebrated the 30th anniversary of its building. All five of our children were here for the event, and even put together a musical combo – “the Band of Roses” – for our enjoyment.

Our oldest son had to leave early Monday, but the other four were able to join me in a walk in Catalina State Park. The flowers were magnificent, the buttermilk sky, amazing.

Catalina clouds

One of the group spotted this unusual saguaro. There are a number of crestate saguaros in Arizona, but this one was different. The crest was surrounded with arms, and protruding out of the crest were about a dozen new arms.

Nearing crestate

Crestate with arms

Ed and I were looking at plants in Saguaro National Park East, and saw a flash of yellow in the middle of a nearby shrub. We wondered what it was. “I think it is a yellow mustard”, I said. Ed reached in, and pulled it out. And this is what he had in his hand. It was clearly labeled: Heinz Yellow Mustard.

Yellow mustard

Every time we hike, we see new plants coming into full and glorious bloom.

Brittlebush hillside

Life in the Desert

Since I have taken an interest in “invisible flowers” it made sense for me to go to go to a talk called: “Desert mistletoe: A misunderstood, but beneficial native plant” given by Kelsey Yule. This was presented to the Tucson Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society. The following Saturday Kelsey lead a walk to look at these fascinating plants. She talked about their life cycle, and how their sticky fruits are sometimes stuck on the branches of a desert tree, maybe by a bird. For a while we wondered where our leader had gone, and then she came back with a short stick of wood. On it there was a tiny lump. We had to get out our loupes to see what it was like. Fortunately my camera has good close-up power, so I was able to get a photograph. In it you see the grey lump of the seed, and a tiny red tube arching up and down into the branch. She explained that the tube was a haustorium, which is like a root, but is different enough to have its own name. She said it would take five years before the plant developed to the point where it could grow and produce flowers and fruit. She also explained that the fruit is edible, but so far I have not dared to taste one.

phoradendron-californicum-1-m-and-f An Acacia with mistletoe in the foreground

kelsey-with-stick Kelsey with the stick

phoradendron-ca-taking-root The seed with haustorium on a Mesquite branch

phoradendron-californicum-8-cluster Mistletoe fruit

Our home was enlivened by the advent of granddaughter, Gillian, her husband Dave, and 3-year old Mae, and 9-month old Siena. As part of their time here we went to Agua Caliente Park in Tucson. The first thing that caught Dave’s eye was a thin snake curled up on the path, surrounding a little whitish ball of fur. It was eating a mouse, and we were able to watch until it was just a fat lump in its slim body. Later we went to the butterfly garden where the white milkweed flowers were being visited by about a dozen Queen butterflies. Mae was thrilled to touch one of them.

agua-caliente-park Agua Caliente park pond

snake-eats-mouse The snake holding a mouse

queen-butterfly-and-milkweed The Queen butterfly on a milkweed flower

dave-family-man Dave with Mae and Siena

gillian-getting-down-to-it Gillian getting down to serious photography

It is November, and there are not many flowers, but the Desert Mistletoe plants are full of fruit, much to the delight of birds and other animal life.

Correction

My wife kindly suggested that I had a senior moment when I said that the youtube program about Gardens that I am taking part in is 5 pm Eastern time. It is 8 pm Eastern time today, which is 5 pm here in Arizona.

Sorry about that.

Frank