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Posts Tagged ‘arizona’

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Photo: Woody Hibbard, Flickr
Petrified Forest National Park reaches into the Painted Desert in Arizona, which boasts a colorful badlands ecosystem.

A former colleague of mine, a naturalized citizen originally from northern China, has a goal to visit all the national parks. He puts me to shame. I have visited so few. But after listening to this story from the environmental radio show Living on Earth, I know I would really like to see one national park — Arizona’s Petrified Forest.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: We continue our series on US public lands now with a trip to one of our more unusual National Parks. Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park is full of wildlife, and the beautiful hiking trails that we’ve come to expect in our public lands.

“But what really sets it apart are the trees that died there. … The fossilized remains of those trees, logs more than 6 feet in diameter, are still there today, cast in stone. Here to explain more about the unique geological process that preserved the ancient trees is Sarah Herve, the acting chief of interpretation for the park. …

“SARAH HERVE: Petrified wood is a fossil. A lot of times people think that it’s something different than you know, any other kind of fossil … the remains of gigantic forests that were here during the Late Triassic. The logs … have been turned to stone by rapid burial.

“There’s silica in the materials that the trees were buried in and the cellular structure has been replaced by silica. There’s other minerals present, but the glassy mineral silica is really, really good at exchanging places with cellular material. …

“BASCOMB: The end result then, is you have these logs lying around that look exactly like trees, you can see the rings in them, the bark, the whole thing, but it’s stone. …

“HERVE: That wood is oftentimes what we call rainbow wood, because it’s very, very colorful. [When] you look on the inside, there’s all kinds of pinks and purples and blue colors, blacks, and it’s really just amazing. … If you can picture these logs when they were trees, they would be comparable to like the giant sequoias of California. …

“BASCOMB: What are scientists able to learn about the geology of the area and the trees themselves from studying this petrified wood? …

“HERVE: This part of northern Arizona was a much more tropical kind of environment. We were closer to the equator at that time, the continents were together to form Pangaea, there was quite a bit more water through this region. [That’s] based on looking at the different fossils that are found within these rocks and the rocks themselves. It’s thought that there was a tremendous river system that was running through this area. … Something on the same magnitude as like the Mississippi or the Amazon River. …

“It’s really hard to imagine [a] place so full of trees and crocodile-like animals running around and lots of amphibians, right. Those are some of the different fossils that we find. … Then we have, you know, incredible badland topography. So that’s what a lot of people, you know, call the Painted Desert. And it is very, very colorful, that’s why it gets that name. But those deposits are the remains of those ancient rivers. … The dinosaurs that we find at Petrified Forest, they’re generally pretty small. So we’re at a time way before all the big dinosaurs happened. …

“BASCOMB: I understand that you also have petroglyphs there, left over from early inhabitants of the area. …

“HERVE:  There’s a lot of petroglyphs or what we call rock art in the park. There’s [sometimes] animistic forms. So you’ll see things that look like different kinds of birds or things that look really obviously like deer, you know, or elk or pronghorn antelope, which are animals that still live in the park today. And then some of the forms are very, very strange, and really hard to interpret. Some of the petroglyphs are also considered what we call solstice markers, or solar calendars. And so they have light interactions with the sun during different times of the year. …

“BASCOMB: We have a lot of national parks in our country; we’re very lucky that way. Why should somebody visit this park as opposed to any other?

“HERVE: You know, what I hear from a lot of park visitors is, ‘Wow, we’re so glad we came here, we like this better than Grand Canyon!’ And that’s not a dig on Grand Canyon. But it’s always interesting to me to hear that because I think a lot of times people don’t realize right when they get off the interstate what they’re in for.”

More at Living on Earth, here.

Thinking about my friend who is visiting all the parks, I realize it’s not unusual for naturalized citizens to appreciate the wonder and variety of this great land more than some of us who are native born. Another former colleague, also originally from China, has been expressing his delight in America by running half-marathons around the country. He has already covered more than half the states and won’t stop until he has run in all 50.

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stella2

Stella McLennan Roca (1879–1954), a painter known for her landscapes and her influence on the arts community in Arizona.

At Christmas, friends in Minnesota sent a letter that included this update: “Out of the blue in the spring, Mariana was contacted by Lonnie Dunbier, an art historian who was searching for information about Mariana’s grandmother, Stella Roca.

“Lonnie was preparing a series of lectures, to be given in Lincoln, Nebraska, about early Nebraska women artists. Stella [had] grown up in Nebraska City before attending the Chicago Art Institute and moving to Mexico, where she met and married Mariana’s grandfather, subsequently settling in Tucson, where she became a widely acclaimed landscape artist. Over a couple months in the spring, all of Stella’s landscapes that we have were photographed and quite a lot of historical information was exchanged, updated and edited, resulting in a comprehensive biography for use in her lectures.”

What a lovely experience! As a person who saves every letter ever written to her, I thought about what fun it would be if someone contacted me for information like that.

And I’m always interested in women artists, so I went to Wikipedia to learn more. I got a little sidetracked fixing typos in the entry, but I figured out that an offer Roca received through the Art Institute of Chicago to teach in Mexico was what led to her meeting her future husband.

I also read that her “work was known for light colored desert landscapes and glowing mountains” and that she served as president of the Tucson Fine Arts Association in 1932 and “was featured in the ‘Who’s Who in American Art.’ ” I search the internet for some of her work and was impressed. Delightful.

As for being sidetracked, do you know that anyone can edit Wikipedia? People will check up on you, of course, but it is ridiculously easy, and as a former editor, I simply had to fix a couple misspellings and a run-on sentence. If I was wrong to do that, Wikipedia experts will let me know.

Art: Stella McLennan Roca

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Love your universe. Here’s how.

First, as we discussed, there is forest bathing (note the comment on the June 15 post about regular forest-bathing excursions in Lowell, Mass.). Now we turn to star gazing. For both, you need to leave behind superfluous stuff like social media and bright lights.

Margaret Regan writes for the Guardian, “Take a nighttime drive into Arizona Sky Village, in a remote valley in south-east Arizona, and the only thing you can see clearly are the millions of stars twinkling overhead. Beyond the light show, the sky is a deep inky black, and the ground below is nothing but shadows. Dimmed car headlights might pick up spooked jackrabbits hopping through the desert brush, but the village’s unlit houses are all but invisible in the darkness.

“That’s the way the residents of this astronomy-loving community like it. The less light, the better their view of the universe.  …

“Arizona Sky Village is home to a quirky community of stargazers. Shielded by the nearby Chiricahua mountains from urban sky glow – scientists’ poetic name for light pollution – nearly every house in the rural 450-acre development has its own domed observatory, complete with an array of telescopes.

“Outdoor lights are strictly forbidden; blackout shades are required in every window of every house; and nighttime driving is discouraged. Most residents don’t want to be bothered with driving at night anyway: they’re too busy scanning the skies.

“ ‘This is what we do,’ villager Frank Gilliland says cheerfully one starry night as he peers through the community’s biggest telescope, a 24-incher belonging to neighbor Rick Beno. At the moment, the scope is aimed at the Milky Way through an open hatch in the dome of Beno’s personal observatory, giving Gilliland a crystal-clear view of the Orion nebula, a remarkable 1,344 light years away. …

“Most of the Sky Villagers had technical or scientific careers – Dr Fred Espenak, a bona fide astronomy pro, is a retired Nasa astrophysicist known as Mr Eclipse – but [Arizona Sky Village founder Jack] Newton spent his working life managing department stores in his native Canada. He always made time for the sky though, rambling miles into the countryside outside his hometown of Victoria. …

“When Jack retired, the Newtons wanted a break from rainy Victoria and its murky skies. After a first retirement stop at a sky village in Florida, Newton and development partner Gene Turner came out to Arizona to scout dark places.

“The isolated stretch of treeless desert they found outside Portal was perfect: it was sparsely populated, 150 miles distant from Tucson, the nearest city, and velvety black at night. Now some 21 households live there peaceably under Newton’s Law: they cover up their windows and they turn off the ‘goddam’ lights. …

“Even Arizona’s state government – not known for progressive policies – has restricted electronic billboards. The flashy placards are allowed only in several designated sites at least 75 miles from the venerated Grand Canyon and from the Kitt Peak and Mt Lemmon observatories. In 2012, the then governor Jan Brewer vetoed a 2012 attempt to light up more of the state’s highways with dancing electronic videos, declaring that she refused to put astronomy in jeopardy. As she noted, the industry contributes $250m annually to Arizona’s economy and employs more than 3,300 people.” More here.

Seems a shame to have to make economic arguments to do good, but whatever works. We do need to keep seeking common ground when addressing challenges.

Photograph: Rick Beno
Emission Nebula in Aries. Arizona Sky Village is one of the best places in America to see the stars.

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“Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?” go the lyrics of the “Lobster Quadrille” (the “Mock Turtle’s Song“) in Alice in Wonderland.

And Wonderland is where you may imagine you have landed if you stumble upon this irresistible invitation to dance with your shadow.

At FastCoDesign, Mark Wilson explains how the dancers are drawn in.

“At some point between ages 3 and 13, we go from the life of the wedding dance floor to being the awkward kid standing at the edge of the gym wondering why we wore a silk shirt. …

“But what if our environment could encourage us to dance — without any balloons, bridal parties, or booze? A project called Mesa Musical Shadows, by Montréal’s Daily Tous Les Jours studio, is doing just that. It’s a public installation that turns a chunk of pavement in Arizona’s Mesa Arts Center into a giant game of Dance Dance Revolution that you play by moving your shadow.

“As detailed by Creative Applications, the system itself uses light sensors, coupled with speakers built into the mosaic tiles. If the tiles sense a shadow—or even just you stepping directly on the sensor—it plays a note. And so as many people swing and kick together, these notes combine into a harmonious soundscape generated in real time. …

“Now that the physical installation of sensors and speakers is done, the studio can see how people use it, and actually program the system’s entire logic to react in more complicated ways to a user’s behavior, like ramping up with more and richer sounds as a person becomes more and more engaged.” More.

Video: Creative Applications

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Ken Shulman reports at WBUR’s Only a Game that skateboarding often means a lot to kids on reservations.

The story starts with an Apache artist, Doug Miles.

“Miles paints mainly on found objects: fuel cans, car hoods, panels from a trailer home. But there’s one outlier among the surfaces, a curious artifact that migrated from California to America’s inner cities to the suburbs and, finally, to the reservation: the skateboard. …

“Miles said. ‘My son needed a skateboard. I didn’t have enough money. So I painted him one. And then he rode it all around the rez. And I knew what was going to happen. I knew. So when he got home I said, “What did everybody say?” And he said, “Dad, Dad, everybody wants one.” ‘

“Today Miles’ skateboards hang in private collections and museums. Some of them sell for hundreds of dollars. But the former social worker is most proud of APACHE Skateboards — a skateboard team, shop and artist collaborative he founded on the San Carlos Reservation, about 90 miles east of Phoenix.

“Miles said that making skateboards helps his kids connect with their Apache heritage.

“We’ve been making things for centuries as native people,” he explained. …

“The San Carlos team has a thriving skate park — with colorful murals painted by Miles and his crew. The team also travels to compete against other tribes and against big city skaters. Miles said the travel is mind opening.

“ ‘The kids in the South Bronx and the other reservations and East LA, they’re just like our kids,’ he said. ‘These are all communities that are struggling. So when they meet our kids they’re really meeting themselves. And so I think it empowers kids to know that we’re struggling here, too, but we’re also making art and skateboarding and having a lot of fun in the process.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ken Shulman/Only A Game
For some Native Americans living on Indian reservations in the American Southwest, skateboarding is more than just a recreational activity.

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I thought you would like this story from the National Deseret News about refugees making a new life for themselves in Arizona.

Lourdes Medrano writes, “In a small field on the outskirts of [a] desert town near the Mexican border, close to 30 women and men stoop over rows of pumpkins, carefully picking the pulpy autumn fruit along with its flowers, stems and leaves.

“The volunteers are part of an innovative program that helps refugees from war-torn countries find work and food. Called the Iskashitaa Refugee Network, the Arizona-based organization consists of a diverse group that harvests donated crops from local farms and people’s backyards to feed displaced populations from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

“On this recent fall afternoon, Adam Abubakar, a refugee in his early 30s who came to Arizona two years ago from the conflicted Darfur region of Sudan, quickly clips pumpkin leaves and drops them in a tote bag for later distribution to newcomers who eat them. For Abubakar, picking fruits and vegetables comes second nature. Back in his homeland, he grew most of the food his family consumed …

“The government provides refugees limited resettlement assistance and organizations such as Iskashitaa work to help the newcomers become self-sufficient as they adapt to American society. Refugees working in the pumpkin field not only harvest the fruits and vegetables they eat, but they also distribute crops to fellow newcomers, learn about urban gardening, market what they grow, and participate in cross-cultural food exchanges. …

“The number of incoming refugees has fluctuated over time and reflects shifting world conflicts and heightened security concerns. In 1980, for instance, 207,000 refugees — including many displaced by the Vietnam War — resettled within the country.

“Iskashitaa was founded in 2003 by Barbara Eiswerth, an environmental scientist, with help from Somali Bantu refugee students who began harvesting crops no one was picking to boost their diet. The refugees inspired the name of the fledgling group: ‘working cooperatively together.’ …

“By tapping into the agricultural roots of refugees, Iskashitaa aims not just to provide food, but also to empower those they’re helping.”

More here.

Photo: Lourdes Medrano/National Deseret News

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