Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

October 24, 2016

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,Books,green,Pinal County,travel,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 6:25 pm

Here are my title suggestions for my National Novel Writing Month project:

Recovering Nature

Desert Desserts

Stop and Smell the Cactus Flowers

Finding Myself in Nature

Natural Pain Relief: Essays on Living in and With the Desert

Meditations on a Thorny Landscape

Get Close But Don’t Touch: Essays on the Sonoran Desert

Listen and Look, but Don’t Touch: Writing in the Desert

Finding Hope in the Southwestern United States20140302-171823.jpg

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July 13, 2016

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,Books,green,Pinal County,travel,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 4:31 pm

Light in the desert

 

6 a.m. wake up call by birds

light through their wings as they call to each other

sunbeams pass by creosote flowers

insects glide into the haze

from last night’s dust storm

img_1844

 

May 23, 2016

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,travel,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 2:23 pm

Spring warmth

delights with many colors

and the chattering of birds

IMG_1107

 

Ode to color March 25, 2016

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,travel — Candace Hughes @ 10:14 pm

My color brick is found in the red clay of Sedona, the walls of the Grand Canyon, the descending cliffs of Vermillion and Canyon de Chelly.

Brick hides underground in mines, inside the body.

The sound of brick is like a rough-edged saw working through crumbling clay.

The orangy crazy redness feels rough as it turns into different sunset shades on the Superstition mountain.

 

The job of the brick-colored Red Mountain is to color shift for drivers as they head east on the 202 just before dusk.

The brick-colored petrified wood sticks out in our yard, a remnant of nature stolen  long ago from its home in the national park.

Brick wants to be restored to its natural place in the world of sediment laid down by the rivers and seas.

Sweet is the taste of brick as it melts in watery droplets after a rain.

Close up, brick smells as if it was freshly placed there over the centuries. The scent of smoky dust stays with me as I walk forward.

Speak up and sit beside me, bricks says.

Touch me and I will glow.

The secret of the color brick is that I am fragile and also appear strong.

20140302-171823.jpg

 

Writer moves to desert, learns to co-exist December 20, 2011

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 12:45 am
Tags:

Writer moves to desert, learns to co-exist

In 2002 I moved from an irrigated grass yard with grapefruit trees and rosebushes in east Phoenix to a 1 ¼ -acre piece of land with natural desert landscaping in Pinal County. It’s about 40 miles in terms of paved roads, and many more in terms of the distance to learn to live easily with the desert during a drought.

We moved some cactus and succulents, but left behind the rosebushes and soon found it was hard to keep any potted plants on our porches due to birds, rabbits, and roundtailed and antelope ground squirrels.

As with our home in Phoenix, we continue to compost and use no insecticides, herbicides, fertilizer and only biodegradable laundry detergent for our sensitive 40-year-old plumbing system and septic tank. I have help pulling weeds, thank goodness. I had no problem with the compost in east Phoenix until we went to sell the house and a Realtor criticized it on the Web site created to sell the house. My husband removed the compost, but the Realtor refused to take down her comment.

We have lost a cat and a dog to coyotes and a rattlesnake, and now keep one fish. I enjoy feeding the birds and giving them water, especially when it is very hot. Goldfinches and house finches, flickers, ladderback woodpeckers, bats, nighthawks, red-tailed hawks, sparrows, quail, pigeons, orioles, doves, cardinals and others grace our yard.

On occasion, we have seen migrating geese as they fly north from Mexico along the San Pedro River, to Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park where I have volunteered. The flocks have disappeared from our area during a long drought.

Here I have really learned the boom and bust patterns of the desert, and we have lost non-native trees that were in our yard before we moved here including a golden ash with beautiful yellow blooms on its top.

It is a constant struggle to determine how much hand watering to do to keep desert plants and trees alive as the water table drops due to development in the area and private wells. Our water company relies on pumped groundwater, so it’s a wash as to whether we are causing more problems.

A bobcat occasionally visits the roof at night and the yard in the early morning, and we see hoofprints from deer and javelina who wander at night and chomp on aloes and cactus. Marigold plantings haven’t helped repel the hungry creatures.

As a neighbor has put out poison, I notice the population of ground squirrels has gone down. We use a solar-powered buzzer embedded in the soil to repel the critters who dig lots of holes around cactus and eat the roots.

Mesquite beans and other natural food supply desert cottontails and jackrabbits as well as ground squirrels and rock squirrels.

I miss not being able to walk or ride a bike to the library, movies, post office, grocery store, coffee shop and park, and continue to lobby for public transit and a lower speed limit on our heavily travelled rural road so that bikes would be a safe option.

A home office has made it possible for me to work online for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and a community college. A light rail line that now is about 15 miles from our home makes it easier to visit a college and other professional activities.

The move was made so that my husband could commute one mile to the school where he teaches instead of the 80-mile roundtrip he had made for 17 years. Freeway construction made the commute untenable, but now that the roadway is open we can more easily visit friends and attend our favorite church.

A strip of Bureau of Land Management property across from our house is a lovely place to hike after infrequent storms and we are glad the fencing now helps to keep out hunters and off-road vehicles. When they do visit, police usually are cooperative in pointing out the signs and asking them to leave.

Although we thought the air pollution would not be a problem, it is actually worse here due to wind patterns that flush emissions from the Phoenix area east to the Superstition Mountains where we live. I counteract with small measures such as sweeping with a broom instead of using a blower, having our daughter use a hybrid to go to college and consolidating trips.

In addition, we adopted a section of our road where we pick up trash and recycle as much of it as we can. We have recently had curbside pickup of recyclables begin but still haul bottles and some plastic to another site when I am making other trips.

I am enjoying watching the saguaro grow arms as I learn more each day, chasing away a roadrunner who has come to eat small birds, and learning more about how all things are interconnected and how I am affecting the fragile desert.

Food production is difficult despite engineering to keep out critters who eat seedlings as soon as they sprout. After several attempts at netting over vegetables and buried in the ground as well as a raised bed, my daughter went on to other projects.

I eagerly await the blooms on our San Pedro and golden torch cactuses, which bloom one time each at night if there’s been enough rain. The blossoms are as big as my hand and attract bats.

 

Gila River reflections

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,businesss,green,Pinal County,travel,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 12:36 am
Tags:

Gila reflections
By Candace S. Hughes

“Water and birds have played a significant role in the daily life of the people of the Gila River Indian Community. While the Gila River flowed free, these lands were rich and fertile. Channels were hand dug throughout the entire community. Today, electric pumps bring up ground water for the farms. There are several ‘swimming holes’ throughout the community that serve as recreation centers. The irrigation ditches are now concrete.”

 Anne Powers-Pedro (wife of artist Amil Pedro) Statement at entrance to
Memories from the Gila River exhibit

“Chain of Spires Along the Gila River” and “Basin of the Rio Gila,” both painted in 1855

and now hanging in the Phoenix Art Museum, show different perspectives of the

waterway which once flowed continuously from New Mexico through Arizona to the

Colorado River.

With the building of Coolidge Dam on the San Carlos Indian Reservation, water was

diverted to central Arizona farmland. The lush areas with wildlife, Native Americans and

settlers have changed to dry banks devoid of vegetation and birds.

Only occasionally does the river flow and only after heavy rains. Sometimes the water

remains in puddles for awhile, but most of the year the riverbed is dry.

Few are now living who remember the flowing river, however stories remain.

Following a tradition of passing along cultural values, Sacaton Middle School students

and their teacher, Amil Pedro, are displaying art and tools at the Scottsdale Center for the

Arts.

A group of eighth graders carried on the practice of creating headdresses, guided by

Pedro, but they weren’t the large Plains Indians war bonnets seen in movies. These are

smaller creations of turkey feathers in the custom used by Native peoples from the Gila

River area.

The work was done at Sacaton Middle School under a grant from the Center for the Arts

paying Pedro, and is part of a decade-long focus of community outreach activities by the

center.

The introduction to the exhibit hall displaying the art and tools provides the explanation

that the Gila River no longer flows freely and many of the indigenous birds which would

have provided feathers have left the area.

“This river served as a lifeline that linked the Gila River Indian Community, which is

composed of two tribes: the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa). Today

these tribes live together as one community, each maintaining their own distinct

traditions,” the exhibit materials explain to visitors from outside the area.

Pedro was raised in District 7 on the west side of the Gila River Reservation near 83rd

Avenue and West Baseline Road and has never seen a continuously free-flowing Gila,

but has witnessed the Salt River running after rainfall.

“Our cultural tradition is that the Gila was a free flowing river and I’ve heard they had a

lot of wild birds and even geese, golden and bald eagles and blue herons as well as

beaver, turtles and fish,” Pedro said.

The headdresses in the exhibit are the type that would have been made from the feathers

of these wild birds who had nests along the river, he explained.

The seven students whose work is at the center are: Melissa Blackwater, Heidi Howard,

Lorena Clashin, Joshua Mejia, Rainee Juan, Daylene Whittaker and Kelly Morris. All

attended the opening except for one who was performing in a dance group that evening.

“Helping the youth of Sacaton Middle School to hold onto their traditions by learning to

make their own headdresses” is one of the highlights of his career, Pedro said.

Arts are encouraged for all youth to promote self-esteem and to encourage young people

to stay in school and with the artist residency program the additional goal is to help

preserve Native American cultural heritage.

Pedro, who lives in the foothills of Casa Grande Mountain, is of Quechan and

Maricopa/Cahuilla ancestry.

“When they saw the students’ completed project this year the center thought it would be a

good idea to spotlight him and the different things he has taught at the school,” said Anne

Powers-Pedro, Amil Pedro’s wife. The exhibit is dedicated to her for support of his

artwork.

“Honor the Past – Develop the Future” is the theme of his art, which includes decorated

gourds and walking sticks, arrows, a knife and ancient tools including an atlatl.

“They were kind of afraid to put the headdresses together at first, but after they got

started, and saw each was a little different, they were happy about their results. They used

their own technique and it was their own creation,” Pedro explained.

The students met three times weekly for a month, he added. Their work may be shown on

the reservation and at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort when the Center for the Arts

exhibit is taken down.

Three Sacaton Middle School teachers attended the April opening and supported the

project. They are Toni Allen, social studies; Barbara Snyder, reading; and Joe Ellen

Kinnamon, physical education.

“For about 10 years Barbara and I have been the “teacher coordinators on our staff who

have been involved in scheduling Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts events for

our school,” said Allen, of Casa Grande.

The project is starting its 29th year and helped students learn to set a goal, work steadily

towards it and not give up when it got difficult, she added.

“They learned about some of the ways their ancestors appreciated art and brought it into

everyday lives.

“Then, public events such as the opening challenged them to stand up in front of

strangers and speak – totally impromptu and they did rise to the occasion!” she added.

“They got to socialize in a kind of upscale setting,” Allen continued.

The teachers know art education is valuable, she explained.

Pedro’s calling as an artist came early. His first memory of art was drawing on his

bedroom wall, followed by scolding and a reminder not to do this in the future. He then

took his art to the rafters where no one could view the results.

More successful attempts brought rewards of arts supplies and boxes of food when he

entered reservation art shows.

Although while he was at Sherman Institute in California he was told he didn’t have the

talent to attend art school in Santa Fe, he feels this was an event which gave him the

motivation to develop his own style and practice his skills.

He entered South Mountain art shows starting at age 14 and moved to art events in

Scottsdale at the Safari hotel and other locations as well as Cahokia art show in East St.

Louis where he won first prize in 1999 for an atlatl (a spear throwing device).

Pedro worked restoring Arizona state buildings for 20 years before retiring 10 years ago.

He was in the Arizona State Employees Art League and displayed at the state Capitol

during that time. This work has resulted in receiving the State of Arizona’s Governor’s

Award of Excellence on two occasions.

His art now may be seen in Arizona state offices as well as tribal buildings, banks and

credit unions in the United States and Canada. Through a cultural exchange, Pedro’s

work is on permanent display in Russia.

In addition, he has demonstrated flint knapping at the Museum of Man in San Diego, and

has received the Arizona Indian Living treasure Award at the Museum of Northern

Some of his work includes illustrations for a series of Maricopa County Parks and

Recreation Department pamphlets as well as work in a children’s storybook for the

Phoenix Indian Center.

Amil works out of his home studio now and has collectors regularly requesting walking

sticks, which start at about $45 and go up depending on the size. “People bring him

saguaro ribs they’ve collected on the reservation,” Anne Pedro-Powers said.

“People buy one thing and come back and buy another thing from him. He gets to know a

lot of people and does a lot of custom work,” she added. He regularly shows work at the

Huhugam Heritage Center adjacent to Sheraton Wild Horse

Pass Resort, the Gila River Indian Arts and Crafts Center, the Chandler Indian Market,

the Heard Museum Indian Market, and the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological

Park in Phoenix where he teaches a gourd workshop.

And as for the Gila River, it occasionally comes back to life, but has the additional

dangers of groundwater pumping and gravel pits close to its banks. The paintings in the

Western wing of the Phoenix Art Museum remind all of what once was, what we have to

value, what has been lost and how memories can be restored through the work of artists.

30

Cultural Connections at the Middle School level addresses the Cultural Connections program goals of racial, socio-economic, gender and multi-cultural tolerance and understanding through exposing a target group of 7th and 8th graders to arts education they would not otherwise receive, as well as measuring the impact this exposure has on these students academically, emotionally and socially. Theater, world music, movement and visual arts are presented in 5- 7 week residencies during the course of the school year, accompanied by field trips to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to attend school performances.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa and Gila River Indian Communities have been a focus for the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts’ community outreach initiatives for more than a decade. Artists conduct long-term residency programs at Salt River Elementary School, Salt River High School and Sacaton Middle School, teaching photography, storytelling, songwriting, beadwork, pottery, music and dance. Artist-in-residency programs have been highly effective tools for encouraging youth to stay in school and for building self-esteem, while also preserving their cultural heritage. For many of these children, working with artists has offered an important outlet for expressing deep emotions, discovering positive energy within themselves, and developing hope for the future.

 

Casa Grande artist brings heritage to students August 15, 2011

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County — Candace Hughes @ 2:59 am
Tags:

Casa Grande resident shows art in Scottsdale   By Candace S. Hughes   “Water and birds have played a significant role in the daily life of the people of the Gila River Indian Community. While the Gila River flowed free, these lands were rich and fertile. Channels were hand dug throughout the entire community. Today, electric pumps bring up ground water for the farms. There are several ‘swimming holes’ throughout the community that serve as recreation centers. The irrigation ditches are now concrete.”   n  Anne Powers-Pedro (wife of artist Amil Pedro) Statement at entrance to Memories from the Gila River exhibit   CASA GRANDE – Following a tradition of passing along cultural values, Sacaton Middle School students and their teacher, Amil Pedro, are displaying art and tools at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts through Jan. 1.   A group of eighth graders carried on the tradition of creating headdresses, guided by Pedro, but they weren’t the large Plains Indians war bonnets seen in movies. These are smaller creations of turkey feathers in the custom used by Native peoples from the Gila River area.   The work was done at Sacaton Middle School under a grant from the Center for the Arts paying Pedro, and is part of a decade-long focus of community outreach activities by the center.   The introduction to the exhibit hall displaying the art and tools provides the explanation that the Gila River no longer flows freely and many of the indigenous birds which would have provided feathers have left the area.   “This river served as a lifeline that linked the Gila River Indian Community, which is composed of two tribes: the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa). Today these tribes live together as one community, each maintaining their own distinct traditions,” the exhibit materials explain to visitors from outside the area.   Pedro was raised in District 7 on the west side of the Gila River Reservation near 83rd Avenue and West Baseline Road and has never seen a continuously free-flowing Gila, but has witnessed the Salt River running after rainfall.   “Our cultural tradition is that the Gila was a free flowing river and I’ve heard they had a lot of wild birds and even geese, golden and bald eagles and blue herons as well as beaver, turtles and fish,” Pedro said.   The headdresses in the exhibit are the type that would have been made from the feathers of these wild birds who had nests along the river, he explained.   The seven students whose work is at the center are: Melissa Blackwater, Heidi Howard, Lorena Clashin, Joshua Mejia, Rainee Juan, Daylene Whittaker and Kelly Morris. All attended the opening except for one who was performing in a dance group that evening.   Helping the youth of Sacaton Middle School to hold onto their traditions by learning to make their own headdresses” is one of the highlights of his career, Pedro said.   Arts are encouraged for all youth to promote self-esteem and to encourage young people to stay in school and with the artist residency program the additional goal is to help preserve Native American cultural heritage.   Pedro, who lives in the foothills of Casa Grande Mountain, is of Quechan and Maricopa/Cahuilla ancestry.   “When they saw the students’ completed project this year the center thought it would be a good idea to spotlight him and the different things he has taught at the school,” said Anne Powers-Pedro, Amil Pedro’s wife. The exhibit is dedicated to her for support of his artwork.   “Honor the Past – Develop the Future” is the theme of his art, which includes decorated gourds and walking sticks, arrows, a knife and ancient tools including an atlatl.   “They were kind of afraid to put the headdresses together at first, but after they got started, and saw each was a little different, they were happy about their results. They used their own technique and it was their own creation,” Pedro explained.   The students met three times weekly for a month, he added. Their work may be shown on the reservation and at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort when the Center for the Arts exhibit is taken down.   Three Sacaton Middle School teachers attended the April opening and supported the project. They are Toni Allen, social studies; Barbara Snyder, reading; and Joe Ellen Kinnamon, physical education.   “For about 10 years Barbara and I have been the “teacher coordinators on our staff who have been involved in scheduling Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts events for our school,” said Allen, of Casa Grande.   The project is starting its 29th year and helped students learn to set a goal, work steadily towards it and not give up when it got difficult, she added.   “They learned about some of the ways their ancestors appreciated art and brought it into everyday lives.   “Then, public events such as the opening challenged them to stand up in front of strangers and speak – totally impromptu and they did rise to the occasion!” she added.   “They got to socialize in a kind of upscale setting,” Allen continued.   The teachers know art education is valuable, she explained.   Pedro’s calling as an artist came early. His first memory of art was drawing on his bedroom wall, followed by scolding and a reminder not to do this in the future. He then took his art to the rafters where no one could view the results.   More successful attempts brought rewards of arts supplies and boxes of food when he entered reservation art shows.   Although while he was at Sherman Institute in California he was told he didn’t have the talent to attend art school in Santa Fe, he feels this was an event which gave him the motivation to develop his own style and practice his skills.   He entered South Mountain art shows starting at age 14 and moved to art events in Scottsdale at the Safari hotel and other locations as well as Cahokia art show in East St. Louis where he won first prize in 1999 for an atlatl (a spear throwing device).   Pedro worked restoring Arizona state buildings for 20 years before retiring 10 years ago. He was in the Arizona State Employees Art League and displayed at the state Capitol during that time. This work has resulted in receiving the State of Arizona’s Governor’s Award of Excellence on two occasions.   His art now may be seen in Arizona state offices as well as tribal buildings, banks and credit unions in the United States and Canada. Through a cultural exchange, Pedro’s work is on permanent display in Russia.   In addition, he has demonstrated flint knapping at the Museum of Man in San Diego, and has received the Arizona Indian Living treasure Award at the Museum of Northern Arizona.   Some of his work includes illustrations for a series of Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department pamphlets as well as work in a children’s storybook for the Phoenix Indian Center.   Amil works out of his home studio now and has collectors regularly requesting walking sticks, which start at about $45 and go up depending on the size. “People bring him saguaro ribs they’ve collected on the reservation,” Anne Pedro-Powers said.   “People buy one thing and come back and buy another thing from him. He gets to know a lot of people and does a lot of custom work,” she added.                   Places to see Amil Pedro’s art   Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd, Chandler.  – Pedro regularly gives art tours and demonstrations at the resort where he has created much of the art. Telephone: 602-225-0100 Web site: wildhorsepassresort.com.   The hotel’s collection includes 40 acrylic, ink and watercolor paintings and 100 hand-painted gourds and feathers. He also designed a blanket throw titled Gila River Dreams used in the resort’s guest rooms. The throw is available for sale in the resort’s gift shop.   Huhugam Heritage Center, 4759 N. Maricopa Road adjacent to Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, $3 seniors, $2 children 6-12. Telephone: 520-796-3500 Web site: www.huhugam.com   Gila River Indian Arts and Crafts Center. Take exit 175 off 1-10 between Phoenix and Casa Grande. Telephone: 480-963-3981.     Heard Museum Indian Market, 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.. Telephone: 602-252-8848 Web site: http://www.heard.org.