Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
—Leonardo da Vinci
“Have you seen the spoonbill who lives here?” asked a man with a camera.
“No, I’ve never seen the spoonbill, but I see you’ve brought the big gun,” I said, pointing to the huge telephoto lens on his camera.
The Gilbert Riparian Preserve is a popular local venue for nature photographers. I posted about it in 2016 and 2017, but I hadn’t been back there since, so the other day I drove to the 110 acre park that boasts a lake, seven ponds, hiking trails, a playground, and an observatory. I wasn’t expecting it to be so busy on a weekday; I was lucky to get a parking spot. The park was full of senior citizens and parents with young children. And also lots of ducks.
When I was a little girl, we’d go to the local pond with a bag of stale bread and tear it up to feed the ducks. Bread is no longer a recommended duck cuisine. At the Preserve, only at the lake (not at the ponds) are you allowed to feed the ducks, and only birdseed, corn, and whole-grain cereal are permitted. (Most people, like the kids above, bring baggies of Cheerios.)
As I wandered around from pond to pond, I found lots of things to look at and wonder about.
Benches appear throughout the preserve. This one had a placard that particularly touched me:
In one of the ponds I noticed some wading birds fishing for food.
And further on, another turtle:
I noticed a painted rock nestled in the V of a tree trunk:
A gambrel’s quail sprinted across the trail in front of me, and I was barely able to snap a shot before it disappeared into the brush:
I won’t let another four-and-a-half years pass before I make another trip to the Preserve. Maybe I’ll see you there. . .
Lots of quilts and artwork.
- Gorgeous engagement photos. (I don’t know this couple, but I love the photographer’s blog.)
- Free patterns for Southwest-inspired quilts.
- How an octogenarian artist saved a village from destruction.
- Glorious travel photos.
- An essay by Susan Orlean for people who love chickens.
- Quilt inspiration in nature.
- Masterfully embroidered portraits.
- Websites where artists can find reference photos. (I’ve used some of these sites for free-use photos for ARHtistic License.)
- Christmas quilts that you could totally use year-round.
- I have friends who swear their bullet journals keep them organized. I don’t get it—they seem very time-consuming to me. But if you’re into them, this article is full of ideas.
- I enjoy the artwork on this Instagrammer’s page.
- I love looking at this artist’s sketches.
Less than eight minutes. You’re welcome.
Katie and Michael have been together for twelve years. Just before Christmas 2019, Michael asked Katie to marry him. They planned to get married in Fall 2020, but, you know. . .
Covid. No big indoor gatherings. No traveling.
When the number of infections dwindled, they began brainstorming—they could have a small, intimate, outdoor wedding. They even tried to contact a venue to get the ball rolling, but no one responded to their inquiry. As infections spiked again, they put everything on hold. No wedding in 2020. But I thought, surely the pandemic wouldn’t last much longer.
Ha. On and on it dragged. Finally, they said, “We’ve waited long enough. We’re getting married before the end of 2021.”
Katie discovered the gorgeous outdoor wedding portraits of Cassy Arch Photography on Instagram, and contacted her about her availability. She was free on December 28, and Katie booked her for an “elopement” session.
Cassy recommended several locations, and Katie invited me to scout them out with her. One with incredible mountain views would have been hard for my disabled husband to navigate in his wheelchair. But at Usery Mountain Regional Park where Katie and Michael often hike, we discovered that near the Visitor’s Center is an amphitheater with a paved path that is wheelchair accessible. Katie and Michael reserved it, planning to have the ceremony in the late afternoon, just before “golden hour,” so they could have their outdoor portraits taken as the sun began to set.
One of the advantages of living in the desert around Phoenix is that it almost never rains. We average about 9 inches of rain per year. Other parts of the country regard an accumulation of less than an eighth of an inch as a “trace.” In Arizona, rain is measured by hundredths of inches. We were confident rain wouldn’t be an issue, though as the holidays approached, they brought with them clouds and winds.
It started raining on December 24. On Christmas Day, it rained a whole inch. The next day we had cloudy skies and showers. On the morning of December 27, Katie called me in tears. The weather forecast for the 28th predicted a 10% chance of rain at 10:00 AM, and a 50% chance at 3:00. Could we possibly host the wedding on our covered patio?
Now, for most people, this would not be such a big inconvenience. But years ago my husband converted the patio into his workshop. His woodworking and welding equipment were there, as well as work tables and heavy machinery and junk. So I said, sorry, no.
Long story short, I had a change of heart. Katie and Michael came over and we spent the next few hours clearing and cleaning and setting up Plan B.
The next morning, Katie and Michael met the photographer in Usery Park for their photoshoot in the desert.
Meanwhile, I picked up cupcakes and flowers and did some last-minute housecleaning. In the afternoon, family and a few friends arrived. Counting the bride and groom and the photographer, our happy little wedding assembly included 15 people.
We settled into assorted lawn furniture and dining room and kitchen chairs arranged on the patio. I was beat, and prepared myself to listen to the standard “Dearly beloved” ceremony.
I should have known better. Our middle daughter, Erin, got herself certified to perform weddings, and she and Katie and Michael crafted a service that was beautiful, personal, and included everything I would have wanted said at a wedding. Erin is a remarkable speaker, and her delivery was flawless. The couple exchanged vows that they wrote themselves.
Katie and Michael had their vows written out on their phones, but they barely looked at the words; they knew them by heart. At one point, as Michael was telling Katie how much he loves her and wants to spend his life together with her, he broke down. There was not a dry eye on that patio, even though we were sheltered from the raindrops that periodically sprinkled down.
When the ceremony was over, I had to admit it was the most beautiful wedding I’d ever attended. (Okay, maybe I am a little prejudiced.)
Erin’s husband, Dave, was the man-behind-the-scenes who facilitated everything and made the ceremony go smoothly. He started the music when Michael came out to take his position; he held onto the rings; he even FaceTimed our other daughter, Carly, who lives in New York so she could see the ceremony.
Afterward, we all went out to dinner together. The best day of 2021.
All images by Cassy Arch Photography.