Monthly Archives: January 2014


The last two days have taken me up into the mountains, a pleasant break from the freezing temperatures in Glenview, north of Chicago, where my wife and I spent last week end.
Ed and I walked in the Gordon Hirayabashi camp ground. As soon as we parked the car we noticed a plant that looked, from a distance, like a bladderpod, though we knew that it does not normally grow at this elevation. On closer look the “flowers” were actually leaves. Looking still closer we saw that these leaves at the tips of the branches were covered with yellow papillae. We have no idea what the plant is. From the woody stem, we decided it must be a perennial. We will enjoy checking on it from time to time to see how it develops.

mystery not in flower

The mystery plant, seemingly in flower










mystery not in flower3



The mystery plant showing that these are leaves, not flowers







False flower


A close up of the plant showing the yellow papillae





We had almost given up on seeing any flowers on our return journey when we heard a loud buzzing coming from the top of some of the cottonwood trees. These were the male trees, with their golden catkins. Some of the trees still had leaves left over from last fall. All of them had leaf buds developing at the end of the twigs.
We stopped for a snack by a little waterfall. It was actually running, though very slowly. We have had precious little rain this winter. There we noticed that the Alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) was coming into flower. They are not true flowers, but thousands of little brown buds containing pollen. They are called pollen cones. I managed to get a close-up of one of them, and also of new fruit forming. It is red now but will turn blue as it ripens.



The Alligator Juniper pollen cones



Alligator FR







New fruit on the Alligator Juniper







The next day Dave and I went to Bear Canyon and found that the great Arizona cypress trees (Cupressus arizonica) were also coming into flower. I managed to get a close up of the pollen cones, including some that evidently had finished releasing their pollen. Then for the first time Dave found what seems to be a seed cone (the female part of the plant.) Cypress FLm

Arizona cypress pollen cone






Cypress FLf



We think this might be the female, seed cone of the Arizona Cypress






Dropping down into the canyon we came across a large dried up plant which we think was a Pokeberry (Phytolacca icosandra). It had lots of last year’s fruit on it. The ones on the tips of the branches were deep red. Lower down they were grey and white. I love the close-up pictures we were able to get.

Pokeberry FRred



Pokeberry FRgreyLast year’s fruit on the Pokeberry






Lower down the stalk the old fruit turns grey








We also saw lots of willow in bloom, possibly Coyote willow (Salix exigua). It seemed much too early in the year, but the bees certainly knew that it was in flower. This is another dioecious plant. With my new close-up camera I was not only able to look more deeply at the male flowers, but for the first time, saw the actual flowers on the female shrubs. They are the tiny pale yellow endings to the green spikes.

Salix FLm

The male flowers of the willow


Salix FLf7





Salix FLfThe female flowers









A close-up showing the actual tiny flowers on the willow







Tomorrow (Feb. 1st) Owen and I have the opening of our Father/Son art show at Contreras Gallery in Tucson – 6 – 9 pm. All are welcome. The show goes until Feb. 22.


In just a week my son, Owen, and I will have an opening of our art show at the Contreras Gallery. The opening is Saturday, February 1st from 6 to 9 pm, 110 E. 6th St., Tucson. This will be my fifth show at this gallery. Each year I have had a theme. Last year it was “Rocks and Water”. This year it is that great inspiration, the Grand Canyon. Here are two of the paintings.
Canyon highlights under painting


The unfinished painting – “Canyon Highlights”

(The darkness on the right side of the painting is due to the way it was illuminated when I took the picture)





Canyon highlights


“Canyon Highlights”



“Canyon Highlights” felt right almost the moment I put paint to paper. When I had finished blocking in the main forms I liked it a lot and was almost afraid to touch it again for fear of spoiling the effect. It wasn’t until I had finished all but three of the 24 paintings for the show that I returned to this one, and decided to take the risk of working on it more. In the end I was very happy with the result. Incidentally, during our Christmas vacation, I had used the drawing for this painting as an exercise in teaching some of my family members watercolor. There are now a half a dozen versions of this painting in various homes in our family. All the young artists did wonderful work.

The Drama of Evening

The other painting is a full sheet (22″x30″), called “The Drama of Evening”. I love the contrasts of sunshine and shadow in these sunset views. A scene like this can be very fleeting, lasting only a few minutes. The people in the painting help to convey something of the scale of the canyon. If you are in Tucson on the first Saturday of February I would love to show these two paintings and the other attempts to capture aspects of this natural wonder. The show will include two of my oil paintings, and 22 watercolors, plus works by Owen Rose.


Yesterday Dave and I felt we needed to get out in the fresh air. I had been cooped up with a cold for over a week, and Dave had been busy. We both needed the renewal that we always find in the mountains.
Pond w butterfly

Looking straight down into a pond of very clear water with a white butterfly floating on the top





We did not have much time, so we drove just over seven miles up the mountain road and headed toward Bug Spring. Then we looked up at the peak straight ahead of us and felt it calling. A deer trail took us to the top. We were just about a mile above sea-level, commanding a beautiful view of the valley. We could see part of Tucson, and distant mountain ranges. The temperature was mild. It was the middle of January, so we did not expect to see any flowers, but there they were, smiling bravely at us. We even found a beautiful pool in the stream bed, complete with a floating white butterfly. We saw a few live butterflies and even heard the rush of a humming bird, but never saw it.


Looking down at an “invisible” flower – possibly Spurge – euphorbia pediculifera

Euphorbia melanadenia close up






A close up of the spurge showing their gorgeous flowers

By the time we reached home we had been gone only a few hours, but felt as refreshed as if we had been away for a week.





Goodding verbena – glandularia gooddingii, in full bloom on January 20









One of the lotus plants in full and glorious bloom





Manzanita jan

The manzanita shrubs are starting to bloom, with their white bell-like flowers, tinged with red


On New Year’s Day Dave and I had a wonderful hike in the mountains, as reported in my last blog. The next day I started to feel bad, and knew that trouble was coming. Within hours I was into one of the worst coughs I have had for years. It is now six days later, and I still cough a lot (so much so that I have moved into the guest room so that my wife can get some sleep.) The last few days I have managed to get a few hours of work in. I am sleeping  8 to 10 hours a night, and take two-hour naps during the day. Then I watch old movies, etc. I just hold still to reduce the danger of coughing, and count on my body to do its work in getting rid of the invisible enemy.

One lesson I have learned from the movies. Not only do heroes fall for beautiful women, but, amazing as it may sound, some beautiful women are really ugly inside! It is quite disillusioning. And it helps to pass the time.


More later when I feel up to it.


We are already into the New Year. This blog has been quiet, since my wife and I went to Minneapolis/St. Paul for Christmas. The drawing card was family – altogether 21 of us at one time or another. That included my wife, Louise, and I, three of our children, (Alan, Elizabeth and Jeremy), their spouses (Lesilee, Mike and Carol), 8 Grandchildren, one of whom had a spouse, and another a boy friend, and three Great Grandchildren. What a wonderful time we had. The snow and icy cold weather were difficult at times, and a treat. Some of us took a one mile walk in the -4 degree temperature, two took a longer hike in a nature center at about the same temperature, three of us walked out onto a frozen lake, complete with ice-fishing holes, trucks and huts. One very cold night, -13 degrees, we tested the suggestions as to “how to enjoy cold weather” first by freezing water filled balloons, then by blowing soap bubbles and watching at least some of them freeze enough to land on the ground and roll around, and throwing boiling water into the air to watch it instantly turn into fine snow.

I guess it was predictable that the most entertainment was provided by Isha, less than two years old, with her impish grin and endless antics.

It seemed a little foolish to travel in such wintry conditions. Our flight were delayed both ways, but we did arrive safely at both ends, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

After only a few hours sleep, I woke fairly early on New Year’s Day and persuaded my friend Dave to go hiking with me. We went to Molino Basin. On the way up the mountain I suggested we visited “our” Rosewood tree. This was a fairly ambitious suggestion, since it involved going off the trail and up a steep hill. I was particularly interested to revisit the tree. It is featured in my book. “Mountain trees”. In lectures I have pointed out that although the tree is less than fifteen feet tall, its trunk suggests that it might be very old. So far I had not actually measured it.

Here Dave, (who is 5″ 4″) has his hiking stick on his head (another 5′) and the top of the stick does not reach the top of the tree, which we think is over 14′ tall.

Rosewood height

It is hard to see clearly in this picture, but the trunk is very complex, and very wide.

Rosewood trunk

We arrived at the tree and realized that we did not bring a measuring tape. Gathering various straps we linked them together and constructed a line that we could wrap around the base of the tree. As you can see from the photograph, this was no mean feat. The trunk is complex with two main trunks and some smaller ones. Dave marked our make-shift ruler so that we could check it when we got back home. We guessed from looking at it, that the base of the tree was about eight feet around.

As we sat and enjoyed our refreshments I kept looking up the hill and to the right. Above us there was a fairly level arm of the mountain, and it seemed to be calling to us. Finally I suggested to Dave that we might want to climb up there. Well, once such an idea is in the air it is hard to resist, so we left our packs and extra gear by the Rosewood tree, and scaled the hill. It was well worth it. We eventually found ourselves on a ridge commanding views from both sides. We could look down, way down, into the Molino Basin, and turning around, to the Tucson Basin even as far as Mexico and New Mexico. What a thrill it was to sit there high in the mountain on a perfect day.

Looking down to our Rosewood tree from our first trek higher up the mountain
MB look down at rosewood
Then I found myself looking up again, and finally mentioned to Dave that he might want to see if we could go higher. Soon he was off up the hill, and then beckoned me to follow. It was steep in some places, but gentle and easy walking terrain in others, ending in a magnificent pile of rocks. We had reached the top! Years ago we had wondered what that would be like. Today, by going in stages, we got there. There was something very wonderful about sitting on those flat rocks and scanning the view. The only jarring notes came from the rumble of cars and the roar of motorcycles driving 500 feet below us.

Dave at the very top of the peak. Snow is visible on the Rincon Mountains in the distance.

MB David at peakMB peak













When we got down we looked back up. The highest point in this picture is the peak.


As usual we kept our eyes out for flowers, and found two species in bloom – spiny aster and wiry lettuce.

Returning to Dave’s we took out our make shift measuring device, placed it alongside a measuring tape, and found that it was exactly eight feet long!