Archive for December, 2011

sage finds a new friend   11 comments

Posted at 11:06 am in Uncategorized

Relatively speaking, this may seem like a flurry of posts! I’m even working on another to put up sometime soon.

We have a new addition to the family – a Talavera ceramic rattlesnake from Mexico. Some of you may remember that we were joined by a coyote last winter and he now resides at Round Hill. The new rattler will likely be found in the garden by the front doorstep when we return for the summer!

Of course, Sage, being her usual curious self, had to check out the newcomer. And here she is, giving it her seal of approval!

Written by bev wigney on December 16th, 2011

back in the desert   11 comments

Posted at 8:47 pm in Uncategorized

view across a small section of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum on the east side of Tucson, Arizona

I’m feeling like quite the delinquent as my rate of posting has dropped off so much over the past few months. I know I’ve said this before, but I hope to do some catch up over the next couple of weeks.

As reported in my last post, the dogs and I made it to Bisbee around October 24th. If you’ve been following our travels over the past three years, you’ll know that our arrival in town was about a month earlier than usual. Generally, I stretch out our time on the road to several weeks as we cross Canada and then meander down through the western states. However, as described in the last couple of posts, I took a fairly direct route intended to land us in southeast Arizona far earlier in the season. There were several reasons for the change in routes, the most important being that I felt Sabrina might be getting too old for endless weeks of camping, but the others had to do with events which I did not want to miss. The first event was the exhibit Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson — see more about this below. The second event was the Cochise College Pit Fire party. There will be more about the Pit Fire in a coming post.

Abnormal formation called a “crest” on a Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

For as long as I’ve read Carel’s blog, Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding, I have wished to visit an exhibit where I could view his paintings. However, as luck would have it, I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time. When I read about Carel’s solo exhibit at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM), I decided to try to get down to southeast Arizona before the closing date on October 30th. I had to push along at a pretty quick clip in order to get to Bisbee and rest up a little in preparation for the drive to Tucson. I sent a message to Carel to let him know that I was planning to visit the exhibit, but due to his travels, he did not see my note. I was a little disappointed in not being able to set up a brief meeting, but decided to go to the exhibit regardless.

For those who have never been to the ASDM, here is a description from their website:

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! Exhibits re-create the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region so realistically you find yourself eye-to-eye with mountain lions, prairie dogs, Gila monsters, and more. Within the Museum grounds, you will see more than 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. There are almost 2 miles of paths traversing 21 acres of beautiful desert.

It’s a good place to go to see specimens of a number of cacti and other desert plants. Near the entrance, you will be greeted by the above Saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) which sports an unusual “crest”. For most first time visitors to the Sonoran Desert, the Saguaro is probably the most recognizable cactus, but few have seen a specimen with a crest formation unless they have walked among dozens of these giants. A sign describes the formation:

This unusual young saguaro is just beginning to form a crest, which may eventually grow to more than six feet wide. A crest can develop when the growing point, or meristem (which produces new stems and spines or leaves), elongates into a line. In time, the growing line may become greatly convoluted, like a brain. This phenomenon has been observed in nearly all plant species. Its cause is generally not known.

Organpipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

The above Organpipe cactus is found in the southernmost region of the Sonoran Desert. Its flowers open only at night and its chief pollinator is nectar-feeding bats.

Don and I made several trips to Arizona before his death in 2008. During each visit, we always tried to spend time at one or more of botanical gardens. Our favorites were the Desert Botanical Garden in Tempe, and Boyce-Thompson Arboretum near Superior. We also liked to hike at both the east and west districts of Saguaro National Park on the outer boundaries of Tucson. Visitors to Arizona will find a trip to one of these botanical gardens worthwhile as not all species of cacti and other desert plants grow in every part of Arizona. Some species are more or less cold-tolerant, so will only be found at certain elevations, or more to the north or the south of the state.

cover of Carel Brest van Kempen’s book, Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding.

As mentioned above, the object of my visit to the ASDM was to view Carel Brest van Kempen’s exhibit. I made my way to the Ironwood Gallery and began studying the many wonderful paintings on display. As a longtime admirer of Carel’s work, I’ve always been fascinated by his complex compositions and meticulous attention to detail. However, I had only ever seen his paintings online, so could only speculate on whether they were as exquisite as I imagined them to be. I was not to be disappointed. Each of them blew me away! Of course, as I wandered from painting to painting, I felt some regret that I couldn’t have met up with Carel and expressed my appreciation for his work.

A few minutes after my arrival, a small group of people entered the gallery. I recognized Carel from photos on his blog and facebook. He was at the ASDM giving a nature painting course, but I did not expect to see him as I thought he would be engaged elsewhere. However, as luck would have it, several of the students had requested a walk around through the exhibit so that they could learn more about Carel’s works and techniques. I felt rather like a very happy fly on the wall as I wandered around the gallery, eavesdropping a bit as I studied nearby paintings. What a terrific case of being in the right place at the right time! At the conclusion of the gallery tour, I had a brief moment to introduce myself before the class departed. It was quite a thrill to finally get the chance to meet Carel after so many years of reading his blog.

For those who are unfamiliar with Carel’s work, I’ve posted the above and below photos of the cover and pages from his book, RIGOR VITAE: Life Unyielding – The Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen [Eagle Mountain Publishing, 2006]. Click on both images for a closer view! I can’t say enough other than that the book contains a mind-boggling 137 color plates of his beautiful paintings accompanied by text describing everything from wildlife encounters to conservation issues affecting endangered species.

If you weren’t lucky enough to visit the exhibit at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, it’s not too late to see it if you are on the east coast this winter. It is currently on at the HIRAM BLAUVELT ART MUSEUM in Oradell, New Jersey from December 5, 2011 until March 31, 2012. If you get the chance, please go! You won’t be disappointed!

a page from Carel Brest van Kempen’s book, Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding.

Written by bev wigney on December 14th, 2011