Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

My back porch April 15, 2018

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,wildlife,writing — Candace Hughes @ 1:13 am

As the sun shines and illuminates spiderwebs in the early morning, I straighten my shoulders and tilt my face toward the rays. The Arizona Spring sun is strong even at 8 a.m. and I glance away to see a hummingbird with magenta mustache marks hovering by the crimson aloe blossoms. The buzzing sound alerts me to the bird’s proximity and his flashy colors sparkle in the light. I turn to feel the sun on my staff neck and breathe a sigh of relief as the warmth hits my arthritic joints. From this direction, I smell creosote and palo verde blossoms — a delight. Bees fly from one flower to another with their hind quarters heavy with pollen. I rise to touch the smooth aloe stalks but I stop myself from cutting a branch. The bees and hummingbirds need the nectar.

A brightly colored yellow and black oriole arrives to shock my eyes with its stark color contrast as it sips nectar. I refill the  birds’ water dishes and clean the hummingbird feeder. Inside, sugar water for the hummingbirds cools on the stove. I am reawakened from a reverie by the loud call of the oriole as it moves from one aloe to the next, inserting its bill and tongue to sip nutrition. My slightest movement send the oriole away, while hummingbirds are more tolerant. I hear doves cooing in the distance and view a mother dove on a nest on my back porch. The bird eyes me closely but stays put even when I am directly below her. Another mother dove with an iridescent blue patch on her wing sits on a small nest built on a cactus pad. I love hearing the house finch call as she decides whether to come close enough to me for a drink.img_2292


February 9, 2018

Filed under: Artists in Pinal County,green,Pinal County,travel — Candace Hughes @ 4:39 pm

Candace Hughes’ photographs continue in Apache Junction City Hall and Library art show.img_1844


New target restrictions on Tonto Forest January 25, 2018

Filed under: green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 2:12 pm

Effective Nov. 20, 2017, exploding targets are prohibited on the Tonto National Forest along with refuse for the purpose of target shooting. Biodegradable clay targets such as clay pigeons are allowed along with self-healing targets removed after shooting. It is expensive to clean up targets, shells and refuse, unsightly for hikers and horseback riders, and damaging for wildlife. No shooting is allowed within 1/2 mile of roads and occupied structures.image


North Market shares history, fun March 23, 2017

Filed under: businesss,green,Ohio history,travel — Candace Hughes @ 4:17 pm

Martha Brian, journalism professor and former Columbus Monthly staffer, introduced me to the North Market close to downtown Columbus, Ohio. Before the North Short changes, it was a dicey area to enter, but had fresh food that was hard to find in the campus area just to the south. It did require a bus ticket or a car to get there, but offered a whole chicken my husband and I could make last for a week.

I return now several times yearly while visiting my parents in nearby Delaware, and find the same fresh whole chickens available, along with a variety of produce, flowers and meals.

The market may be expanded and remodeled soon, so now is the time to venture in, take a notebook or laptop, and spend an afternoon with coffee, tea, dessert, fresh pastries or bread, or a meal before carting home groceries.

My professor did a profile for Columbus Monthly magazine when the market was in danger of destruction, but the city of Columbus eventually purchased the historic property and now it draws convention goers, the lunchtime crowd, and people from all over the city.



I am a daffodil still sleeping inside a bulb but getting ready to sprout. February 14, 2017

Filed under: green — Candace Hughes @ 11:21 pm

I know I will like it when other daffodils bloom near me and we exchange pollen. I will feel the whoosh of butterfly wings and listen to the songs of birds. I rejoice in my sturdy, green stem and strong leaves. They support me with sustenance such as water and nutrients. I unfold from a tight bud with each day showing more fringed, yellow petals until the pistel and stamen are finally exposed. I love my brilliant color.

I see all this from the dark place inside the bulb where I am awaiting just the right signal. I know Mother Nature has a Plan for me and I will follow it. I anticipate only good things. Perhaps someone will pick me and I will grace a table or desk and give inspiration. I also know it is OK to just be and God’s Plan will unfold as I allow Grace to surround me. The bulb holds much food for me and it knows the correct time to start growing as a plant above the earth. It’s fun to know that all I need will be provided. I am Loved!


The Hidden Life of Trees January 19, 2017

Filed under: Books,green — Candace Hughes @ 7:01 pm

The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How they Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben with a foreword by Tim Flannery. Available as an audio book in 2016 and through Greystone Books $24.95 250 pages plus notes. Published 2015. English translation from German by Jane Billinghurst with black and white illustrations.

For more than 14 years we have been living on 1 1/4 acres outside of Phoenix where we have as many as 30 night-blooming cereus cactus. We have often wondered why as many as 20 bloom on one evening and plants in neighboring yards also choose to open their flowers on that one night.
Biologists at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson, about 90 miles from our house, say they don’t know why, but speculate the plants send a signal to each other. On one hot night each summer, often around solstice, plants that look like dead sticks offer large white blooms. Bats visit to pollinate and bees visit in the early morning hours until the blossoms fall limply in the hot sun. Other blooms may occur in the next few nights, some the same night as the in the Tucson garden.
As I read The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, I see that author Peter Wohlleben has been gathering evidence — it’s not just a theory — that plants do “talk to each other,” assist struggling trees and even provide sustenance.
“Because a tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it,” German forester Wohlleben asserts that as trees grow together, they divide nutrients and water so each can grow to be the best possible living thing. This type of natural cooperation is destroyed when managers remove trees to take out “competition,” because as they look for help, they find only stumps. “This “Social Security,” he found through his own forms of assistance which he has ended.
While some of the author’s work is about European trees, his beliefs can be translated to other climes. The drought in the the Western United States and Canada that is giving bark beetles a head start in killing trees is discussed when he details the deleterious effects of repeated dry spells.
The writing is easy for lay people to understand, but also includes sound science for those wishing to study the author’s methods.
As E.O. Wilson notes, “To those who are steering the growth of nature reserves worldwide, let me make an earnest request: Don’t stop. Just aim a lot higher.” Wohlleben is aiming higher and encouraging everyone to look for better answers.
Deforestation and climate change are discussed, and the importance of leaving the old growth forests alone also is emphasized.
As Tim Flannery posits in the introduction: “Share with me the joy trees can bring us. And, who knows, perhaps on your next walk in the forest, you will discover for yourself wonders great and small.”
The book was written with support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, the Province of British Columbia through the Book Publishing Tax Credit and the government of Canada.

Candace S. Hughes is an Arizona-based freelance writer. Her most recent work for Smithsonian.com is “How We Created a Monster in the American Southwest.”

Peaceful walks at the Desert Botanical Garden November 10, 2016

Filed under: green,travel,Uncategorized,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 6:59 pm

As I walk through the garden at sunset I recall the healing events I have experienced here. Since about 1981 I have been visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. I learned about it while doing a story on luminaria when working at the Scottsdale Daily Progress newspaper. The luminaria are paper bags with a candle inside lighting the pathways and the custom comes from the Mexican tradition of leading the way for the coming of Christ. At the garden, musicians hide in grottos playing instruments and bell choirs inspire in an adobe building dating to the 1930s.

In addition to the holiday tradition, the garden offers offrenda or an altar decorated to welcome the souls of the dead which may arrive here for one night on the day of the dead, October 31. I pause to let go and allow my loved ones to rise peacefully to heaven. As I visit a young woman stands weeping at the altar constructed to provide food and drink for the souls of the dead.

The pathways also offer places to grind mesquite beans into flour and listen to frogs by a pond. At a hilltop or butte we have seen a shooting star and on occasion a tortoise emerges from a burrow to peek at visitors.

In addition, our family came there for a respite one late summer night after my husband got home from work. We carried our infant around at sunset until a monsoon began to creep into the garden and we scurried to our car making it just in time before the deluge.
Photo by Darcy Hughes