“Now that you have seen the desert, let’s go camping. You can see so much more if you are there for an entire day, and a night.”
Why not. I loved camping thirty years ago. How much harder could it be now? “Sounds like fun!”
When I was married we did car camping. There was a bathroom around, a table. But we slept in a tent. I could make a mean beef strogonoff with a camp stove. Water? There was a spigot at the camp site. One time I remember carrying two gallon jugs of water back to the site to wash dishes.
The late April evening before our scheduled trip Don gave me a few instructions. “Bring plenty of warm clothing. It gets cold at night. And food. We will have a fire to cook. You got a sleeping bag at Walmart. Bring that. We should have fun!”
Has it been only six weeks since Don Jones walked into the studios at the Jerome Art Center with a pick-up truck filled with manzanita wood? What a blessing Don has become in my life! He and I have talked at some length about angels, and agree somehow angels were involved in his decision to haul the manzanita to my studio. He freely states he is an angel.
For a year now I have been making art. I never saw myself as an artist. Yes. I am definitely a very creative person and a writer, but a visual artist? I could barely draw stick figures. I had never held a hand tool. But desert woods. Their intricate lines intrigued me. Put together into assemblages, they express a certain statement of shapes and lines I’ve found with my favorite modern sculptors.
This past year I made constructions with the wood and papier mache. My overriding challenge has been giving these pieces appropriate finishes and bases. Untreated desert wood shrivels. Shiny desert wood does not look appropriate. And joining one piece of wood to another using papier mache frequently looked clunky. I knew I needed to try new techniques.
Then Don walked in. Knowing the desert as he does, he finds the most amazing sticks. But it is the other materials he brings in which really intrigue me. Silverware left behind as pioneers trekked across Arizona becomes bracelets. Thousands of beads, some very valuable have been rescued from dumpsters. An unending array of everything from hand tools to clothing in Don’s size to chunks of turquoise and a functioning flatscreen TV sits in out studio now. He has over 100 sticks of cottonwood beavers have cut down arranged by size. They have beaver toothmarks on each pointed end. The bark has been stripped off. Don uses these for making walking sticks, Navajo ladders and intriguing three-legged stools with worn-down plow blades as seats. He also makes intricate jewelry, bends wire into tiny spurs and carves Alabaster into tiny bear and buffalo fetishes.
At a Passover Seder you learn
not to gulp down the first
glasses of wine. Friends might tell
you the wine’s honeyed sweetness
represents the promise of spring
or the joy of generations
gathered around the festive table.
You know, though, the wine
will moisten your throat before
you must swallow sand-dry matzoh.
"With all the beauty surrounding me here above the Verde Valley, how could I not create more beauty?"