My offerings for this week’s challenge are from a 2014 installation of hand-blown glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix:
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona, that is. My daughter Katie recently invited me to be her guest there. We saw loads of gorgeous cactus (click on smaller photos to enlarge and see captions):
And lots of wildflowers (at least, I think they are wildflowers; if I’m wrong, please tell me):
I think these are orchids:
This is called desert rose:
Closeup of desert rose:
Parts of the garden are sort of wild and natural; other parts have paths and lighting.
Beautiful inlaid tile mosaic in a garden wall:
We were there on a Friday morning. It was so peaceful.
One section of the garden features vegetables and herbs. I thought the squash blossoms
and the Korean chives were especially lovely:
Phoenix enjoys a Sister City relationship with Himeji, Japan. In 1987, the mayor of Himeji proposed building a classic Japanese garden in Phoenix to celebrate its friendship.
The garden is an oasis of serenity and beauty in the midst of the desert metropolis. Despite its location near a busy interstate freeway, bustle and stress are banned from the garden. Their photography policy forbids professional photo shoots during regular visiting hours. Casual photography is permitted, with the condition that it does not detract from the enjoyment of other patrons.
I did take a lot of pictures when my daughter Katie and I visited there last Friday evening, but I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.
The structures in the park bring to mind Japan’s rich history and culture. I especially admire the way the trees and bushes are pruned, like bonsai. They remind me of the artwork on Japanese scrolls. (Click on the smaller pictures to enlarge.)
And the pond! So carefully landscaped with plants and boulders and waterfalls!
But the stars of the pond are the koi who thrive there. Some are more than 18 inches long.
Below is the Tea House. Traditional tea ceremonies are offered monthly.
This sculpture represents the Shachi, a mythical creature with the face of a dragon and the body of a fish:
I have no idea what these plants are, but I found them lovely and interesting:
The Japanese Friendship Garden is closed during the months of August and September, so I was glad we got to see it last weekend. It will be an especially lovely and tranquil spot to bring visitors from out of town.
My daughter Carly spent seven and a half weeks in Israel last year, six of those weeks in Hebron (I guess, technically, in Palestine) studying Arabic. She wants to go back this summer, and suggested I go, too. It’s been on my bucket list for thirty years.
Carly warned me, “I don’t understand how this is possible, but I swear every street in Bethlehem is uphill.” I promised her I’d train. I’ve been walking the treadmill at an incline, and I will gradually increase my speed and my height. A friend who’s been to Israel recommended bringing a trekking pole for uneven ground and cobblestones.
Working out on the treadmill is nice, but maybe it’s not realistic. I bought some hiking boots and a trekking pole and headed out to South Mountain Park.
South Mountain Park/Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. It encompasses more than 16,000 acres at the southern edge of Phoenix, Arizona.
I used to drive up to the summit of the park with my children when they were young. There’s a cabin-like structure at the top where you can sit, eat a picnic lunch, and enjoy a panoramic view of the entire “Valley of the Sun.” But I’d never hiked there, except for one brief excursion with my kids when they begged to go home after 15 minutes.
So, now I’m a sixty-six year old beginning hiker with two artificial hips. With the help of Hike Phoenix, I determined that the Kiwanis Trail would be a good place to start.
Thursday late morning I parked my car at the trailhead and looked around. If you follow ARHtistic License, you may have caught on that I love the desert. It’s so much greener than I’d expected when we moved here from New Jersey. I love the rugged rockiness of the desert mountains.
There’s a profound silence in the park, except for the chirping of birds. And the sounds of the jets en route to and from Sky Harbor International Airport, not too far away. And barrages of gunfire from a nearby shooting range. And the disconcerting buzzing of bees busy pollinating the yellow brittlebush and taking detours around my head.
In the 1990s, Africanized honeybees invaded Arizona, and from time to time we heard reports of people and dogs being severely stung and even killed by swarms of the bees in Arizona, and at least one in South Mountain Park. Not so much lately, though.
I discovered I really like the trekking pole. It helped stabilize me on the steeper sections of the trail, and even a gentle push on the pole helped boost me up a big step. I will definitely take it to Israel.
Even though there were quite a few cars in the parking lot, I didn’t see many people on the trail. Part of that might be due to the fact I was there on a weekday; also, I brought my camera with me, and I stopped every few feet to take another picture. The desert looks different every time you change your perspective.
At one point, all I could see ahead of me was a jumble of rocks. Uh oh, I’ve lost the trail. But a couple steps later, I saw it again. I guess my stature of five feet nothing was to blame for my limited vision.
I never reached the end of the trail. After forty minutes, I decided I’d had enough for the day and turned around.
I found coming down the trail more challenging than going up. Again, my trekking pole helped me keep my balance while stretching beyond my normal stride, and kept me from stumbling when my heel caught an outcropping or I landed on a lose rock and almost twisted my ankle. I made it back to the car in twenty-five minutes, taking few pictures on the way down because I needed to concentrate on my footing. (I ended up with a total of 95 shots!)
I will definitely be going back, without my camera next time. I want to enjoy the hiking without any distractions. I am so blessed to be able to immerse myself in the beauty of the desert.
Like an oasis in the desert, Canaan in the Desert offers refreshment, though of a different kind. Yes, there’s water, but also quiet, and beauty, and reminders of God’s great love for us. Canaan in the Desert is a prayer garden in northern Phoenix, Arizona, run by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, an order of Lutheran nuns started in Germany in 1947.
The deserts of the Holy Land and of Arizona are situated on different continents, but at similar latitudes, so the climate and the vegetation are somewhat similar. It’s possible to pretend you’re walking where Jesus walked as you visit the garden. (Click on the smaller photographs to enlarge them.)
The first stop is the Bethlehem grotto, recalling Christ’s birth.
But Bethlehem was soon a dangerous place for the Baby. His foster father, Joseph, received a warning in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt.
Perhaps they traveled along terrain like this:
We fast-forward to end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After His last supper with His disciples, He invited them to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray with Him.
But the disciples could not stay awake.
Gethsemane is also known as the garden of olives. Fittingly, an olive tree overhangs the sculpture of the praying Jesus.
While Jesus is praying, Roman soldiers enter the garden. After Judas betrays the Lord with a kiss, the soldiers arrest Jesus and take Him to Pilate.
Pilate orders Him beaten. . .
. . . and the soldiers mock him and crown him with thorns.
Though Pilate tries to convince the Pharisees to let Jesus go, they demand His crucifixion.
But the Good News is, His death is not the end of the story.
At each location in the garden is a bench so you can sit awhile and meditate on the scene before you. Also, scattered around the garden are little boxes filled with devotional materials to help lead you into prayer:
Plaques quoting scripture and sayings of M. Basilea Schlink, one of the founders of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, dot the garden.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd:
And a little more of the wild desert beauty:
Canaan in the Desert is a lovely place to rest and pray. I enjoyed my time here last week, my second visit; I plan to come regularly.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever been to Canaan in the Desert or another place that drew you close to God? Share in the comments below.
If it weren’t for the cacti and other vegetation, you might think you were on the moon, due to the unearthly sandstone formations scattered about Papago Park, a unique hiking destination minutes away from downtown Phoenix.
The property that is now Pagago Park was designated a reservation for the Maricopa and Pima tribes in 1879. In 1932, a bass hatchery was located there as part of the Works Progress Administration projects following the Great Depression.
From 1942 to 1944, Papago Park housed a World War II prisoner of war camp, where over 3,000 mostly German soldiers were detained. On December 23, 1944, 25 prisoners escaped. After a few days trying to survive in the desert, they turned themselves in.
One of my biggest surprises, when we moved to Arizona nearly 30 years ago, was that the desert is quite green. Not only do cacti grow there, but also bushes and trees.
Haze hangs over the city (just barely visible on the horizon, below) due to “inversion,” which causes particulates (dust) in the air to be trapped near the surface because of the surrounding mountains.
Throughout the park, scattered ramadas shelter picnic tables.
How does a bush grow right out of the rock?
The roads and parking in the park are well-planned and partially hidden by vegetation in some places. You don’t have to walk very far to feel all alone in the desert. Two other major attractions, the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden, are also located in the park. Literally hundreds of people come to the park every day.
Hmm. Fred Flintstone’s couch?
The trail up to Hole in the Rock. I have hip issues, so I didn’t go all the way up. It’s not too hard, but it’s a little steep for an old lady not at her best.
Remember about ten years ago when everyone was worried about the killer bees coming north from South America? Guess where they settled. Yep. Arizona became home to a large percentage of the unwanted immigrant bees. They’ve interbred with the local bees and are less threatening now than they used to be. I haven’t heard of a death in a long time, but for a while, a few people and dogs were severely stung every year.
See the little triangle shape at the top of the hill below? George Hunt, Arizona’s first governor, is buried in the pyramid-shaped tomb.
One of the favorite attractions in the park is Hole in the Rock, pictured below. The ancient Hohokam people who lived here before the time of Christ used this structure as a solstice observatory, keeping track of the sun’s trajectory by making marks in the sandstone. Two and a half miles to the southeast are ruins of a Hohokam village know as Pueblo Grande, where there is a ceremonial mound. Atop the mound is a building with a door in the southeast corner which lets in the rays of the summer solstice sunrise, and the last rays of the winter solstice sunset. The door also is in perfect alignment with the Hole in the Rock. Coincidence, or a sophisticated feat of engineering?