Tag Archives: Tucson

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show Day 1

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is one of my favourite things in the world…I have gone almost every year for…well. Since I was very small. People come from all over the world to sell unique and beautiful things, rocks and minerals and fossils that are much more impressive than those you could see in any museum. There are geodes of amatheyst twice as tall as I am, crystals that I cannot wrap my arms around they are so big, dinosaur skeletons, glimpses of the creatures that crawled the seas millions of years ago in extraordinary detail, trays of jewels and faceted gemstones ordered by size and weight and color, carvings and artwork in jewelry and gems and stone that make your eyes widen…I cannot even begin to describe it. And I took a couple of pictures to get a sense of the grandeur of it but I am highly unsatisfied with them artistically speaking. Maybe tomorrow. Still, the economy is hitting it with a sledgehammer. Usually it’s so packed you can barely move, but today was pretty empty, and the vendors said that sales were down…over 50% from last year for most. Sadness.

So I shall live for the day, and appreciate everything to the fullest. First, the opalized ammonites from Canada. If I had several thousand dollars of disposable cash, this is undoubtedly what I would buy, hands down. I love the shape of them, the color of them, the age of them, the rarity of them, the impossible beauty of them.

These are fossils, and the ammolite in the top picture is over 3 feet across. As they roamed wild in the oceans they were preyed upon by these huge dinosaurs that were truly the creatures of nightmare (among many other things, the sea is a wondrous but truly nasty place).

It’s only in death that these two could ever meet, as one ravaged the oceans and the other ravaged the land. I am quite thankful, however, to live in an era when things with teeth this size no longer exist. One of the ammolites had rows of holes in its shell almost an inch wide, it didn’t survive the attack. The reason so much of the shell survived is that these things were actually bigger than what you can see, there was a whole additional chamber that held the creature itself. And the attackers? Scientists now think they were warm blooded, which I find extraordinary. Neither reptiles nor fish, but mammals! And closest in structure to birds.

So for today, the only other good shot I took were of these rather random jellyfish…glass ones I believe. But since they’re from China, well, you never know. They were very cool.

They had laser lights however. Which made them cool but also somewhat…er…cheap? I think that might be the word. I don’t buy anything with laser lights. I do, however, have a thing for trilobites. And I bought this beauty from Morroco (Devonian period)

Gorgeous isn’t he?? And I am always torn by the fact that this show is full of incredible things I can afford (barely), though in a just world I should never be able to were anyone along the food chain getting a just wage. Like my trilobite here. But at least he shall be treasured.

So there’s a whole new age contingent present, which affords infinite…and I mean infinite amusement. So I’m going to share one ridiculous description a day I think, they come from the Metaphysical Guide to the Tucson  Jewelry, Mineral, Gem & Fossil Show. This is possibly my favourite annual publication. And actually, the descriptions below are very short versions of the catalog from the Heaven and Earth store, since I can’t be arsed to type the articles in spite of the fact that they are infinitely more amusing.

Merlinite (ahh the gullibility of the American public)

Merlinite is the name given to gemstones, which exhibit the combination of white quartz & black psilomelane. The best specimens, found in New Mexico, sometimes show druzy crystallization.

Mystic Lore: Intuitive sources say that Merlinite is a stone of magic, conjuring the memories of wizards and alchemists. It is said to blend heavenly and earthly vibrations, allowing one access to multiple realms. It can be used to access the akashic records, to draw upon the powers of the elements, to enhance shamanic practices, and to bring magic into one’s life.

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The Boneyard

The Boneyard is another name for AMARG’s (the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group) facility beside Davis Monthan Airforce Base, acres and acres of planes and helicopters in short term and long term storage, where many of them come to die. They are cannibalized for parts (why is that all of the terminology serves to make them seem human?), and there are rows of motors and wings and engines separated from the hulking metal bodies that yielded them. I don’t know that pictures can give any sense of the scale, but here are a few:

It is run by the Department of Defense, which made it impossible to walk around, you have to board a bus showing picture ID, and only gaze longingly at the close up shots and perspectives that might have been possible as you drive slowly by. Why do I love the twisted ruins of metal so much? There are lines of helicopters stretching into the distance, they remove the rotors for storage

Of the planes stored here, 60% are capable of being brought back into shape for flying within weeks, 35% shall almost certainly fly again, the rest look forward to a slow protracted death or a sale to one of our allies…the Australians for instance, are still enamoured of certain fighter jets that the Americans have left for younger, newer models. The guide was an old Vietnam Vet, he pointed out the bombers that the Iranians still have…all grounded for lack of parts but will we be sharing ours? Never, and one of the passengers in the back gave a good American yeah at that. We saw the models of helicopter our guide had piloted back in Nam, the kind of plane that McCain was shot down in over the jungle (oohhs for that), the kind of plan that transferred him away from captivity. We saw the bombers built to carry 18 cruise missiles at once, there are wheels on the ends of the wings to keep them from dragging along the ground during takeoff because of the weight. We saw sub-sonic and super-sonic jets, jets with nuclear capabilities…most of them were on the right side of the bus and I was…on the left. There were great gaps however, of planes called up I imagine, and in service to do what they were built to do half a world away. And the stealth bomber was also missing.

Acres of brilliantly fascinating metal, feats of engineering, and death. They were all built to strafe the enemy, drop bombs, blow up submarines, kill. They are protected from the blistering heat of the Arizona sun with layers of latex regularly removed and replaced; they are serviced by a small army of workers. And there is a strange sort of beauty to them

I suppose it comes partly from the beauty of their surroundings on fields of gold and brown with the mountains rising up blue behind them and a vast sky overhead, they are so far removed from their consequences and their meaning. Even bombs can somehow seem innocuous and…interesting. Amazing that such a small casing of metal can hold such a wealth of pain and loss inside of them. And they are are there at the entrance to the Pima Air Museum so you can walk around them, touch them, admire them.

And part of me can understand the enthusiasm of the other passengers, I am on the same bus, marvelling at what human kind has accomplished. It is our purpose that I find devastating.

In the parking lot we saw a javelina, a lone one, seperated from it’s pack

It didn’t hurry away, it didn’t even bother to notice us. I have seen many in the wild, one particularly close when it charged after my dog and straight at me, I have never known them comfortable at all in the presence of people. It was rather bewildering, and I wonder how this one arrived here in the middle of army service personnel, electrified fences, acres of metal…

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Petroglyphs!

I found them! Eureka!

Well, my dad found them first…and took me too see them out in the desert, we drove and drove, walked and walked…I’m being cagey because I doubt that their exact location should be public knowledge. Because they are just there, you can touch them

It’s extraordinary to touch them, to stand in front of them in the middle of the desert, to search for them under stones. Here’s another, this motif could be seen several times, I don’t know what it means but it has sent my mind imagining of course, mysteries…

There were many more, if you click on the above images you’ll get to my flickr page where you can see all of them, they were truly extraordinary. At one time there were a great deal more, but the rock face is splitting off and falling away, I am sure myriads lie hidden, face down on the earth or crumbled into shards of rock. I happily climbed the cliff faces (not that I need an excuse to climb cliff faces). And the good news is that I can still do it in chanclas, to the right is a steep slope of scree, and myself showing off my powers in flip flops. I suppose I could have more grace and poise, but I am glad I’m still half wild, I worry sometimes that I face incipient and total domestication. Not that sensible footwear means domestication. I hadn’t actually realized the kind of hike we were going on or I might have been tempted into trainers, but I really hate wearing socks if the climate does not absolutely require it.

My brothers and I spent quite a bit of time looking for petroglyphs back in the day, we searched every cliff face within miles of our house I think…little did we know that the internet would soon be along with every location noted, as I have now found out. Still, there’s no real information there on the ancestors who carved them, and no knowledge of what they mean, I suppose they would have had to have been done by the Tohono O’odham, or those who came before? I remember reading a book by Frank Waters years ago about the ancient migrations and how they were tracked on the stone, but it’s been too long for me to remember properly. It was pueblo myth anyway, I doubt the folks down here would agree with it.

It was truly a gorgeous day in the desert today though, and one of the prettiest washes I’ve seen I think. It must be spectacular after the moonsoons, and full of deep pools perfect for swimming.They would collect below the pyroclastic flows of Rhyolite Tuffs like this one

My dad, and my fount of all geological knowledge is at the end of it, an ancient lava flow. The rock is beautiful

There was water there today, left from the rain over Thanksgiving, but there’s definitely more seeping through the rocks in several places. We continued walking down the wash back towards the car

Final views of what I love about this place, saguaros:

Barrel cacti growing out of a rock face

And ocotillos against a blue blue sky

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Agua Caliente

A rare place I’ve never been before…well, on this side of town not so rare, but I had no idea it was even here! We drove out for a post lunch walk through a beautiful November day…a stroll really, it’s an idyllic oasis formed by a spring in the desert, expanded and planted around by palm trees, the water is full of ducks and the banks full of picnicking bbqing families, you get one overview shot because it’s not very exciting:

Me, I rather prefer striking out into the non-idyllic wilderness. I prefer wildlife with teeth or tusks or scales…but I do like my family mostly. There was a time when their dawdling ways would have had me raging with impatience, but now I just do my best to amuse myself while also dawdling along at their pace. Turtles help, look how cool these guys are

So I dawdled on, had I not been, I would have completely missed the crazy butterfly sex going on by the side of the path

We can all be glad we’re not butterflies, as life should be crazier than that. The chollas were beautiful:

If you’re ever lost and hungry in the desert you can eat the flower petals, but I don’t know about the fruits actually! They don’t look at all tasty, not like las tunas off of prickly pears, or saguaro fruits, those are lovely.  I found a rare species of cholla skeleton come to life in the form of a duck rearing its head through the dead grasses

(Imagination helps to amuse yourself, but probably not others). This is what chollas look like when they die, they’re extraordinary, I miss them. AND THEN my dad was attacked by an elderly and deceptively innocent docent for asking one too many questions about why the upper pools had been drained and left dry, or maybe it was before the cholla duck? Or was it the elusive cholla duck that attacked? I don’t know, it all happened so fast, but he was left sprawled on the cracked clay bed of what was once another small oasis

Dad’s a great sport I have to say. I didn’t think he was going to do it. It was still rather damp, and there was a fairly bad swampy smell.

So then we walked back to the big pond and stared at ducks. Hard to amuse yourself looking at ducks, but I managed, because I got lots of pictures of this:

Getting the perfect picture of a duck doing this cracks me up every time. I now have many, and I really don’t know what to do with them, I think it’s more fun to take pictures of them than to look at them. We had mallards doing it, coots, murgansers, and we learned a new duck this weekend, the American Wigeon. I suppose it’s not every weekend you learn a new duck! I’d hate to keep that to myself, so here it is

The sun was behind him, but the water came out well….

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Tucson

I was at the Hut on Friday, watching the live band with all of my brother Dan’s friends in it, they’re really good, so I was enjoying it, but after Melissa left I was on my own for a while. And feeling funnily split into layers, Tucson means too many things to me to fit inside really, they slide over each other uneasily, and I wonder who exactly I am.

It means the desert, which to me is beauty and freedom, wide open spaces and heat. It’s growing up in the adobe house my parents built on a dirt road removed from everyone but my immediate family. It is deep happiness in being alive, and every evening spent on the hill watching the sun set golden behind the mountains. It’s walking in the monsoons and being surrounded by water, watching it pour down the wash in waves of muddy roaring taller than me, sweeping everything before it while the sheet lightening brightens the sky and the thunder cracks and the world is fresh and new smelling. It means a fascination with the world around me, how plants grow and the lives of animals and insects. It is years of devouring every book I could get my hands on. It’s walking out the door with my dog and walking for miles and never seeing another human being. It’s running around barefoot. It’s losing everything.

It means school too, and years of never quite understanding the kids around me. It’s my own terrible shyness coming off as snobbishness I think. And being far too much of a school girl and never cool enough to pull off the second hand clothes and bad haircuts, and learning just how much other girls can wound you with only their words. And it was always being defensive and afraid…of just looking people in the eyes because that could be enough for them to physically hurt you. It’s P pounding some other girls head into the pavement with her right hand wrapped up in the girl’s long black hair. It’s blood on the floor of the hall, lockers bent out of shape, the guy that got shot in the high school parking lot, people taking pills in the drinking fountain and unplanned pregnancies all around me while I was still afraid of kissing. It was constant reminders of our poverty, and thinking about race and class and the world. A lot of fear and humiliation from school really, though I had some good times too.

It means working at Kmart, and living in the world where English is never spoken, going out to dive bars in South Tucson with my ex Luis, and dancing to rancheras and mariachi and tex mex pop in places where I wouldn’t get carded. It’s winning 20 dollars in beer vouchers in a cumbia contest in a bar just off the res, it’s a new fear of the migra. It’s all of my minimum wage jobs really, and coworkers like Art who used to go out driving with beers and his gun and shoot up the watch-for-cow signs on the reservation, and Mike who used to spend work breaks playing with salt, using his license to card it into snortable lines on the table. It’s Famous Sams where they used to have los tigres del norte and gath brooks and lowrider oldies and led zepplin on the jukebox, and where I used to play pool.

It’s coming home now, now that my parents live in a completely different part of town and having no contact with anyone I used to know, or the old places I used to go. I am almost like a tourist now, it never quite feels real. I sort of inhabit my little brothers’ Tucson which is completely different again. I haven’t even thrown in the Britishness, or Mexico or college or L.A. I’ve come so far since then, yet these are the foundations I suppose. I’m still not sure what they mean, though I keep stumbling over them.

Arizona Dreaming

Tucson during the monsoons is one of my favourite places…it’s one of my favourite places most times I have to admit. And my brother Dan is home for the summer, and my cousin Alana is living with my folks now, so it was a houseful and that is always nice.

On Saturday we went up to Mount Lemon, I remember some time ago coming home to see the entire mountain on fire, clouds of smoke in fantastic shapes, the air alive with the all the colour and smell and ash of fire…half of the mountains burned one year, and the rest in the next, along with most of Summerhaven (though the pie shop survived! My dad swears that was due to his prayers, and the prayers of everyone who has ever been there…). It is amazing to see how the trees living and dead show how fire skips and leaps, how it razes the side of mountains leaving patches of trees intact, how it jumps over the bottoms of arroyos, stops at the crests of hills. And the trees remind me of Scotland in the wintertime, I love their stark silhouettes against the sky and the distant views. Or I would if only these trees would also return to life come Spring. Still, they have an incredible beauty to them that I almost prefer to what was there before. I wonder why I prefer my beauty bleak?

Mt. Lemon after the fires

And here is another view of it…

We went up the ski lift…the first time I have ever done that in all the years we have been going up there! Here’s the family up at the top:

And my little brother out on the rocks at Windy Point…that’s Tucson in the background, only about 20 minutes down from the pine forest…it is an amazing thing to go from the Sonoran desert to forest in such a short time…

After the mountain we headed over to the Hut to see some amazing and funky music courtesy of Dan’s friends…everyone playing was good, and the rain was coming down in torrents outside, the thunder and lightening going off, the roof leaking…it was quite spectacular. Got home after 2, woke up early the next morning for brunch at Sun’s, and then saw the Dark Knight. Which was also spectacular. And I loved Heath Ledger. And the only bit that made me sad was when the Joker equated anarchy with chaos and said he stood for both…anarchy is not chaos, it is the opposite of it. So I damned the writers and the confusion of their politics but didn’t let it interfere with the rest of the movie. I definitely recommend it.

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Thunderstorms

I sat last night as the wind sent waves of rain sweeping under the porch, the lightening flashed bright in the darkness lighting up the sky, the thunder cracked loud. And I was happy the way I am always happy in a thunderstorm. An almost perfect moment, the feeling of being self-contained and content, entirely alive. In such moments I am myself, warm flesh and blood, heart beating. And also alive as part of the storm, greater than myself. And I was thinking I would like to find love like that. Based not on need or ownership but upon becoming something greater together. Two people alive and happy in the world, because life is so good; two people alive and struggling in the world because what we have made of it is not good at all. Two people complete in themselves and able to live completely. Two people together because being with the other makes this joy richer, the understanding deeper, the world’s colours more brilliant, because in sharing it with the other the world expands so that it is far greater then you could ever make it on your own…

I’m not sure what this requires, an equal certainly. A capacity to give of yourself without dependence, so different from independence without the capacity to give. An absence of selfishness, but a respect for the passions of the other and your own. Understanding the need for individual space as well as sharing to grow, and the need to challenge the other and to rise to their challenge. Trust and the solidity of someone who will tell you when you are fucking up and always be there when you need them. Passion and compassion. A delight in each other’s bodies and stories, thoughts and dreams. A simple delight in each other. A sharing of pain and suffering, and doing all you can to help it stop or make it less. Commitment to see the thing through. There’s probably much more, I haven’t even touched on eating habits, but…I wonder if it is at all possible, it must certainly be rare.

The light is beautiful, the sky is beautiful with dark clouds it up by the setting sun. The birds are all singing, there is a cardinal on the phone lines, a hummingbird and finches are flitting about the mulberry tree. I hear cactus wrens and a gila mockingbird, I love knowing the songs of the birds around me. I miss it when I am away from the desert. I am not less when I cannot match a bird to its song, such knowledge simply makes me greater.