Category Archives: USA

My Life in the Desert

I am a Saguaro Cactus.  I am the green giant that defines the Arizona desert in the Southwest corner. My friends and I stand as soldiers protecting the desert. My arms bend upward and can number up to twenty-five. I am covered with small spines that protect me from the animals in the desert. I am so strong that high winds cannot blow me over. My rib cage keeps me standing tall.

No one eats me because of my spines. I provide water for those who are lost in the desert. In the Spring white flowers bloom all over my arms like pearl bracelets after sunset and close up in midafternoon. I produce a bitter pink/red fruit which is pulled down with poles and made into sweet jelly used by the native Americans and sold in the souvenir shops at the airport and hotels. I am the Saguaro Cactus. I never move. I stand here in the heat of the summer and the coolness of the winter. I get most of my moisture in the summer rainy season.

Desert plants: yellow bells, paloverde trees, beavertail, prickly pear, compass barrel, Engelmann’s hedgehog, fire sticks, agave, prairie zinnia, saguaro cactus, and mesquite bushes cover the southwest desert floor on which I stand.

Desert animals: Gila monster, rattlesnakes, scorpions, tarantulas, coral snakes, brown spiders, coyotes, prairie dogs, rabbits, bobcats, and javelina (wild pigs) wander in and out not bothering to pay attention to me.

I can live up to 150-200 years old. I can be forty to sixty feet tall and weigh between 3,200-4,800 lbs. After my death, the woody ribs that are exposed are used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture. People who survive in the desert use my leftover ribs for firewood. Birds build their nests inside my trunk when I die and when I am alive. I provide a safe space for them to lay their eggs, nurse their chicks, and teach them to fly from the nest. In the Spring white flowers bloom after sunset and close in the midafternoon.

Honey bees, bats, and white-winged doves help to pollinate my flowers. Gila woodpeckers, purple martins, and house finches live inside the wholes of my body. I am an important source of food and shelter for the Tohono O’odham tribe and my needles are used as sewing needles.

I appear on postcards, commercials, billboards, and travel magazines. No one leaves Arizona without a picture of me. I am so special. Saguaros like me are not found outside of the Southwest part of the USA. I am the state flower of Arizona. My arms grow after I reach fifteen feet tall and seventy-five years old. The tallest of my family is about 200 years old. I can hold about a ton of water. This is good because sometimes I go without a drink for six to seven months.

Being a saguaro is not easy. I have to stand here all day long with nothing to do. I gaze at the moon and the constellations of the stars in the dark night. I am really happy when a woodpecker begins pecking a hole in my body. I know that soon a family will settle and keep me company when I feel lonely out here in the desert.

I see jackrabbits scurrying around for their food. The jackrabbit’s ears stick straight up, and they have white cotton tails. I hear coyotes in the distance howling. One of the coyotes caught a jackrabbit and ate it for dinner. The coyotes eat just about everything they can get into their mouths. Snakes roam the desert floor slithering around looking for food. Their food of choice is the desert rat. The snake sucks the desert rat down his throat forming a small bulge in his stomach. No one eats me because I have too many needles and it takes too long to remove them. Native Americans harvest my fruit and it sometimes hurts. People thrust their poles into my sides and knock the fruit down. The fruit falls with a drop to the floor and rolls over. My ribcage has been poked and I will feel the pain for the next three days.

I like living in the desert. At night it gets very dark and the stars twinkle, and the moon shines brightly. This is the best time of the night. No one is around. Everyone is asleep. I sleep too. Tomorrow will be another day to ponder my life as a saguaro cactus standing in the desert in Southwest Arizona.

The Arizona desert has so many surprises for those who venture out to visit me. People who hike come and take pictures of me and my friends and family. Stop looking at me in the magazines and travel guides. Get off the sofa and come pay me a visit. I don’t bite. I am not poisonous, and I will let you take as many pictures as possible.

Come visit me and I will show you how friendly I can be.

The Christmas Trap

What does Christmas mean to you? As I walk the malls, I see people carrying lists, packages, boxes, and crying children. Why are the children crying? Aren’t they supposed to be happy? Their parents have tired and not so happy faces. They have spent their hard-earned money on presents that Santa is supposed to bring. There is no Santa. They are Santa.

When did Christmas become a time for store sales, lots of candy, more food, and bankruptcy? Christmas is a time when people commit suicide, steal packages, and murder their families. They become depressed. The bills arrive in the mail. The creditors are after them because they can’t pay the bills. They begin to drink or take drugs. They see no way out but to eliminate their entire family. Drive them off the edge of the cliff into the ocean, kill them while they are sleeping, or set the house on fire when everyone is inside.

These are not the memories we want to have when Christmas comes along. I purpose that we change. Buy one gift for each of your children and spouse. Prepare dinner and invite your friends to share with you. Sing Christmas carols. Bring the birth of Christ back into Christmas. If it wasn’t for Christ, we would not have Christmas.

Instead of giving your children everything they want on one day, give them gifts during the year. You don’t have to be a rich Santa. Be a caring Santa. Give your children hugs and kisses instead of wrapped presents. Let them know you love them. Tell them the story of a true Christmas. The real meaning of Christmas is very important. If you don’t believe in Christ don’t celebrate Christmas.

In Japan Christmas is celebrated by children. Santa brings one gift to them on Christmas Eve. Japanese toy companies saw the opportunity to make more money. The toy stores began to convince the Japanese parents that children wanted toys from Santa. The Japanese took the idea and expanded.  Men representing Santa in Japan are very skinny and not as jolly as some of the American ones. Japanese stores and outside parks are decorated in colorful lights that radiate the feeling of Christmas. Christmas decorations include fake Christmas trees, posters of Santa in his sleigh, and Christmas music.

Japanese Christmas tradition includes some very interesting ideas. The father goes to Kentucky Fried chicken and buys a bucket of chicken and then goes to the bakery to get the Christmas cake. I am not sure where these ideas come from. Japanese are good at inventing their own traditions. The Japanese father comes home from work around 9:00 and everyone eats fried chicken. Yes, I mean everyone. The Colonial is happy with this. He goes to the bank laughing every Christmas. The Christmas cake comes in all sizes and always includes whipped cream, chocolate icing, and some kind of Santa decoration.

Not all families buy their Christmas cakes. Many of the women make their cakes at home. I lived in Japan for five years and made the Christmas cake every year. We didn’t have enough money to buy the cake. I must admit that my Christmas cakes did not look like the ones professionally baked.

Following the tradition of giving one gift to a child on Christmas, my husband and I gave one gift to our daughter. She was very happy. We moved to the USA when she was three years old. We continued the Japanese tradition of Santa bringing only one gift. It didn’t hit her until she was in the second grade. The children at school were going down their lists of the gifts they received from Santa.

Lisa, our daughter, came home from school crying. “Why did I only get one gift when my best friend got ten?” She stopped crying and I explained to her that Santa would only bring her one gift and it was a very special gift.

We traveled for Christmas. It was the only time my husband spent time with us. He didn’t have to worry about work and he could be with his family. The talk lasted about one hour, and she finally decided that traveling was more fun than receiving more gifts. I think!

Christmas should be a time that we share with our friends and families. Don’t pile gifts on your friends and family. Give a gift of time. Time is power. Time is gold. Time is important. You are not going to be on this earth for the rest of your life.

Forget the material things. Think of what you can give to your children and spouse or significant other in time. Don’t make the companies richer and you poorer by making such a big investment at Christmas. Don’t make yourself depressed. Make yourself happy.

Go for a walk with your family. Eat pizza. Make a quick dinner, read a book, watch a movie. Don’t fall into the Christmas trap!

The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“The opposite of love is not to hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Close your eyes and imagine a place where children can climb trees, slide, rollerblade, swing, and run around without their parents fearing for their safety. A place where children under four are securely gated in space for running around. Parents sit on benches and chat with each other while their children are safe. No hard surfaces to fall on. The ground is made of spongy colorful material. None of the children are playing with iPhones, iPads, or other electronic devices. Children cry not because they fall down, but because they have to go home. Now, open your eyes. You have entered The Gathering Place.

Children climbing on pods

The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is open 365 days a year. It has 80 plus tree species. It is a place for both adults, teenagers, and small children. It engages, excites, and educates. Children use their muscles, improve their physical growth, laugh, run, and learn about getting along with others by interacting peacefully with each other face to face.

Tulsa has its problems as do other towns and cities in the USA. People tend to stay close to home. Children don’t play with neighborhood children. There are cultural tensions. People who don’t meet with others who are not like them are more apt to hate or have bad feelings for those who are different. The Gathering place was an idea by George Kaiser to serve as an anchor for the community of Tulsa.  A ship that won’t sink. The Gathering Place will help to improve the social, economic, and environmental sustainability in Tulsa.

It is Thanksgiving Day, and my adult daughter has brought me to the park. It is 2:30 and an unusually warm day in Tulsa. The turkey is in the oven, and the cranberry sauce is made. We have two hours to explore the park.

The park brings together all people, black, brown, Muslim, Indian, Native Americans, and white. Grandparents and parents holding tightly on to the hands of children walk the pathways.

It is a place that inspires imagination. A place to play, learn, interact, relax, and “gather together.” There are 120 ft. of a suspension bridge. There is a pirate ship, a small village, canoes, kayaks, restaurants, and bathrooms.

A small children’s village

It is funded by the George Kaiser family foundation and given as a gift to Tulsa. There were no tax funds used. A combination of 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations was involved. The project began in September 2014 and opened to the public in September 2018. It is built on 100 acres of Tulsa waterfront along the Arkansas River at the cost of 465 million dollars. It is the largest public park gifted in US history.

If you live or visit Tulsa, don’t forget to include the Gathering Place in your itinerary.

Rocking chairs facing the water

 

 

Bring on the Rain

It is raining. I am feeling happy. My friends in the Midwest would probably not agree with me. Rain in the Midwest is an unwanted guest. It arrives at graduations, carefully planned weddings, summer BBQs and state fairs. I can’t count the time’s events were canceled and rescheduled when I lived in Michigan.

The lighting would cut the dark black sky in half and perform the most spectacular fireworks display. The thunder would shake the house until I was convinced the house was strong enough to last. Hurricanes in Japan scared me the most. The rain beat against the outside aluminum doors used to protect the windows from getting broken. The sky would turn a very dark color, and a strong wind began to blow. The house would shake back and forth, and I would hide under the blankets. I never knew if we were going to escape these storms. We always did. I was born a desert rat.

My husband was fascinated with the weather. He would stand out on the patio while I pleaded for him to come in. I didn’t want him to get hit by a bolt of lighting.

I obtained a whole new vocabulary of weather terms while living in Michigan: black ice, whiteouts, lake effect snow, blizzards, tornados, and gustnados (a term invented by the insurance companies so they wouldn’t have to pay for damages).

I moved back to Phoenix, AZ after living away for more than 42 years. We have monsoons, dust storms, haboobs (a word taken from the Arabic language meaning powerful dust storm), and flash flooding.

Phoenicians don’t know what to do when it rains. They slow down on the freeways or speed up on the local streets. The rain causes flooding in the desert. There is nowhere for the water to go. Washes are constructed with river rock to guide the water to run off into various valleys of the desert instead of the streets.

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Signs are posted everywhere warning drivers not to drive in areas when it rains. People don’t read the signs. Many natives and visitors are not aware of the dangers rain causes in the desert areas. They drive past signs warning them not to operate in this area when flooded. They end up in ditches or dips in the roads that have flooded. They get stuck in the sand and water and have to be rescued.

I am happy for the rain because it makes the flowers bloom and the other plants to multiply. The desert is beautiful after the storm. The smell of the wet dirt, howls of coyotes, and the sound of chirping birds. Rain in the desert is a welcome relief of the constant heat we have felt for the last six months.

Bring on the rain!

Taliesin vs Taliesin West

Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.

I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain.

Frank Lloyd Wright

 

You don’t have to be an architect to enjoy visiting the homes built by Frank Llyod Wright. A friend who lives in Minnesota and I decided to check out his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. She is a photographer and I am a writer.

Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867 and died in 1955. He was a genius who forgot to pay the bills most of the time. He was one of the biggest collectors of Asian art. If he had money, he would buy art before he bought food for his family.

Frank Lloyd Wright lived in three places, Taliesin, Taliesin West, and Oak Park outside of Chicago. He built his first house for his growing family of six kids in Oak Park. Mr. Wright built homes referred to as Praire Style and Usonian. His designs included great rooms (large living rooms) equipped with pianos, cushions of various colors, and Asian art.

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Taliesin

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Location: Spring Green, Wisconsin

Population: 1,660

Services: Two hotels, seven restaurants, two bakeries

Activities: Not much. Small, quaint, downtown. Visit Taliesin ten minutes away.

Admission Fees: House and Hillside Studio and Theater tours are separate.

The House Tour: Adult – $54  Student, Senior & Military – $49

Children (including infants) under the age of 10 are not permitted on the House Tour.

Duration: Two hours

Hillside Studio Tour: Adult – $22, Student, Senior & Military – $17, Children 4-9 – $7
Children under 3 – FREE

The tour of both the House and Studio cost $90 for adults and $85 for students, seniors, and military.

Duration: 1-hour walking

If you are staying in Spring Green for a day, ask for the city guide. The guide includes a self-walking tour of various buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Freddy Valentine’s

Have dinner at a bank. There aren’t many restaurants in Spring Green. You will have to wait about 30-45 minutes. Don’t fret. Take the time to explore the town. It’s not very big. A small bookstore is about a block down on the corner. Souveniers and books of all genres line the shelves. They sell coffee and pastries.

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A bank designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

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Dentist Office

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A Sprite in the garden next to the dentist office

 

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In order to see the house, park in the parking lot of the visitor center and take a small tour bus to the house. The visitor center and the house are not connected. A restaurant in the visitor center is a school for students studying cooking. The food is very good and the service is friendly.

Taliesin was built in 1911 as the living quarters for Mamah Borthwick, Frank Llyod Wright’s girlfriend, wife of Edwin Cheney one of his clients. His first wife Catherine (Kitty) would not give him a divorce. The house was burnt down by a disgruntled employee in 1914. The house was destroyed and Mamah and her two daughters died. It was rebuilt in 1914 and destroyed for the second time in 1925 by an electrical fire.

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The bedroom at Taliesin

Taliesin shows its age. The house is in constant repair. The windows are positioned to let the natural light in. The windows allow the view of the countryside, green hills, and blooming flowers. It was raining in the second half of our tour.

Taliesin West

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Taliesin West

Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Population: 246,645

Services: Many hotels, restaurants, stores, bakeries

Activities: Museums, clothing stores, bookstores, restaurants, parks, and hiking

Admission Fees:

Night Light Tour- Friday/Saturday, June- August 6:30-7:00 p.m. $45 for adults only

Details Tour- 11:30 a.m. (2 hours) Monday/Thursday $40, Friday/ Saturday/Sunday $45

Insight Tour- Sunday- Monday 8:45 a.m. Monday- Thursday $28 for adults and $16 for youth 6-12

Student Desert Shelter Tours- Students of the School of Architecture at Talisen lead tours at 11:15 during the months of November to March. Check the site for correct dates. Students live in the desert in the winter time and design their own homes. All of the money goes to the students. Don’t wear sandals and be able to walk for two hours. You will be richly rewarded.

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Student Shelter

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Most popular tours are Monday-Thursday $35 for adults, $25 for students 13-25, and $19 for 6-12 years old. Friday/Saturday/Sunday $40 for adults and $19 for youth

Taliesin West is located on the same property as the visitor center. There is no restaurant on the property. During the months from September to the end of May, there is a small coffee shop on site. It sells homemade sweets, granola bars, coffee, and tea. TaliesenWest is located in the desert. It is very hot from the end of June to the middle of September.

Taliesin West was built in 1937. There has never been a major fire at Taliesin West.  Frank Lloyd Wright called Taliesin West his desert laboratory. A place to test his organic architecture. He used sand, stones, and quartzite. These were the natural elements in the desert. He lived in AZ from October to May and in Wisconsin from May to October. He was one of the first snowbirds.

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Desert Organic Architecture (The Vault)

TaliesenWest is much younger than Taliesen. It is in good shape because of the weather. There is no snow or massive amounts of rain to lead to disrepair. The windows are positioned to let in as much natural light as possible. The view of the desert is not as expansive as Taliesin. There are neighborhoods popping up around Taliesin West. There is a view of the mountains and the city of Phoenix in the distance.

The only wife/girlfriend who lived at Taliesin West was Mr. Wrights last wife, Olgivanna, a Montenegrin dancer of Serbian origin. She was thirty years younger than Mr. Wright. She had a daughter from a previous marriage and they later had a daughter together.

Frank Llyod was an interesting character. A chance to visit his homes should not be passed up.

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Important note: It is highly recommendable to have a reservation. If you arrive and the tours are full, you must wait for the next available one. No refunds are given on any of the tours.

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