Archive for the ‘Arizona’ category

In Flip Flops at the Rodeo

July 13, 2012

A short trip to Prescott, Arizona for the July 4th celebrations was one of the best ideas I have come up with lately — especially during the recent heat wave in Tucson when our patio became a “Sahara” patio, thanks to many long hours of southwest sun exposure. Prescott offered cooler temperatures (below 100 °F) and a lot of festivities — among them the famous “World’s Oldest Rodeo®.”

My idea became a reality on the 2nd of July when we entered the charming center of Prescott with plenty of green trees and architecture that does not resemble the southwest character of Tucson. We got tickets for the evening of the next day, and I could hardly wait since it would be my first rodeo.

Cover of 2012 Prescott Rodeo program

The first Prescott “rodeo” took place on July 4, 1888 — it was called a “Cowboy Tournament” at that time and was an addition to the 4th of July activities. The aim was to bring people to town to enjoy a variety of festivities and, of course, to spend money in local shops.

That first “rodeo” in Prescott was a great success. Both the contestants and spectators loved it, and that is how it all began…. In fact “Prescott, Where it all Began” was the theme of this year’s festivities. Rightly so, since it was the 125th anniversary of the World’s Oldest Rodeo® in the same year that Arizona is celebrating its centennial statehood status.

One might ask — is it really the world’s oldest rodeo? Apparently there are some stiff criteria that have to be met to be called that and to be able to obtain a register ® mark from the U.S. Patent Office. That mark, No.1.353.477, was issued on August 6, 1985. So the Prescott Rodeo truly must be the oldest one, right?

The rodeo tradition is as old as ranching and cattle raising. It honors the heritage of the cowboy culture that is so deeply rooted in the Prescott area. It is derived from the old Spanish tradition of the vaquero. It has become extremely popular in this country with over 700 professional rodeos.

Rodeos are reflections of the cowboys’ skills used in the every day chores of their lives. To compete in a rodeo one has to have knowledge of the animals, tenacious spirit, and athletic ability crucial for success in the ranching world. Only bull riding does not seem to fit this concept.

Alicja and two men

At the entry to the Rodeo grounds I was welcomed with great smiles by two handsome greeters and invited to take a picture with them. Looking at their boots, I realized that perhaps I should have worn different shoes — not my red flip flops. “Ouch, gentlemen, please do not step on my toes!”

Boots meeting

Boots and hats were in great abundance. I was probably the only one wearing my flimsy flip flops!

Happy, elegantly
Lady and two gentlemen
Waiting, in style
I loved the friendliness of the place and seeing many women and men dressed with extra care for the occasion. There was some pride and joy in the air….

Pony tails

Even the horses looked elegant with their slick pony tails! I imagined that they were “Saddle Bronc Riding” horses. Those horses are identified individually in the program, just like the human contestants, with names like Elvis, Cactus Flower, Thunderstorm or General Tom. I like that idea — it shows respect for those animals and stresses their integral part in the competition.

Bull

Visiting the bulls was surprisingly amusing. They were very calm and only one took some interest in my visit. They do not have their names listed in the program, but I decided to name this one, anyway, as Tracy. I think it fits him well.

Happy rider

not very happy rider

Visiting another bull was even more amusing and you can see why. Of course it was a mechanical bull, but the girls were very real! One was a happy rider and the other not happy at all.

Daddy and son
Pink boots

It was time to follow others to the arena.

View from my seat

This was the view from my seat, not the best one, but still it was exciting to be there. I felt like a kid again in some kind of enchanted and unknown world.

Flags, flags...

Randy Corley kept us informed about all of the action in the arena from the announcer’s booth.

announcements and commentary spot
Horseback rider with US flag
Horseback rider with Coca-Cola flag
The “Grand Entry” was full of flags — all kinds of flags — patriotic and commercial ones.

Big O Tires sign

Events like rodeos need some sponsors, of course — like Big O Tires.

Competition

This is a scene from the Tie Down Roping competition. I read in the program, “The event derives from the duties of actual working cowboys requiring catching and restraining calves for branding, immobilizing a sick or injured calf for treatment. Ranch hands prided themselves on how fast they could rope and tie calves, and soon they began informal contests.”

Action

OK, after a few attempts to capture the bucking horse riding, I had to give up! The action is very fast and intense — the rider has to stay on the horse for 8 seconds just to qualify! Many of them don’t last that long. I was not equipped for that kind of photography and did not have have a good spot for it. Therefore I will direct you to the professional photographers of the rodeo. Please click on my photo above or here to enjoy their action photos.

Satiisfaction

It was dark when the rodeo ended. I enjoyed it very much and felt satisfied, just like this little cowboy. However next time I will not wear my flip flops, but red boots like these instead. I also know where to buy them.

Red boots

Boots waiting for me

* * *

If you enjoy this blog, please subscribe to it. Thank you!

* * *

Cover Artwork of the Program by Paul Lanquist. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

On Loving Trees

June 6, 2012

June is beautiful, but cruel in southern Arizona. Here in Tucson we are sizzling in triple-digit temperatures already! In fact one can cook a meal on the dashboard of a car if parked for a few hours under the naked sky and exposed to the brutal intensity of the sun. Everybody seems to love trees here in June for their protective shade. Even those who complain about how messy trees are—with their shedding leaves or pods and drippings of birds housed in their branches—tolerate trees while waiting for the monsoon season to arrive.

The picture below looks like a perfect dream for June — beautiful trees and water! In fact it is a photo taken in June, but in distant Poland during one of my visits there. I grew up near that pond circled gracefully with weeping willows. One of them extended her trunk horizontally towards the pond and I could sit on it, dangling my feet above the water and enjoying my invisibility to others provided by the delicate and dense branches. I loved that tree and since then weeping willows have been one of my favorite trees.

Trees and water
Alicja Mann in Poland

When I moved to Tucson I fell in love with the native trees of Arizona almost immediately. In fact the desert environment taught me a lot about the hardship of a plant’s life. My respect and affection for the trees here has grown enormously. Southwest trees are very graceful and tough at the same time. How can one not love them?

Trees in southwestern US

The palo verde is the official tree of Arizona. That smart and strikingly green tree is able to put to work chlorophyll not only in its needle-like leaves but in the “skin” (delicate bark) of its trunk and branches. In spring the abundance of the yellow flowers of palo verdes also is impressive.

palo verde tree branches and blooms

Although I adore palo verde trees, my special affection goes to the mighty mesquite, most likely because I had invested a lot of time, effort, and emotion to save one of them here in Tucson. It was one of the oldest and most beautiful mesquites I ever met. It lived in an unfortunate spot near a sidewalk in the community where I lived for several years.

My tree

If that mesquite could have walked, I am sure it would have walked away from the people who felt threatened by its roots. It is true that roots can cause some problems with pavements and buried pipes, but such problems are solvable if there is a will to solve them.

I fought hard for that tree and even saved its life…for a while. During my absence, however, when I had to go to Poland to take care of my terminally ill mother, the people of that community decided to cut that beautiful mesquite, anyway.

That was a memorable summer for me—the summer of 2007. I lost my mom and I lost “my” tree!

So when I found a different place to live—a property on which stands our renovated home and where also stands my studio—one of the important activities was adding a variety of plants. I decided to plant a young mesquite tree in honor of the one that was killed in 2007.

It just so happened that our new neighbors loved trees, too, and Joe had a couple of baby mesquite trees—nurtured by him from tiny seedlings—available for planting. I got one for our yard and they got one for theirs. Here you can see Joe and Nancy visiting a bit ruffled young mesquite decorated with ribbon on the day of its planting. From that day we became “mesquite relatives” with our neighbors.

Two people and recently-planted mesquite tree

Time passed and the young mesquite grew considerably along with the other plants in our yard. The tree looked as if it were dancing, reminding me of Zorba the Greek from the old classic 1964 movie (starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates), and I named him Zorba the Tree. It had such a strong presence that the new patio had to be designed to embrace him and make him the focal point of our yard.

Zorba the mesquite tree

Today Zorba has been with us for three years. It had to be trimmed a lot in order to grow taller and stronger. It became a favorite visiting spot for quite a few birds, including a stubborn woodpecker that injured one of Zorba’s “arms”. Little Zorba became an adult tree. His branches stretch from the studio to the house—creating a charming living ramada.

Zorba, a mesquite tree

Soon Zorba will have to stay alone for a couple of months during our annual visit to Cape Cod. I like those trips and will see other trees through the car window while crossing the country—the trees of New Mexico or the Midwest—sometimes close and sometimes far away.

Passing by trees
Passing by trees
Seeing trees in any place makes me happy, but the real treat is to visit trees I have known for a long time like the ones in the “wild” yard of our Cape house. The house does not have an ocean view as some people imagine, but that does not matter. It feels good to sit on the elevated deck being surrounded with the wild greenery—in fact it feels almost like being on an ocean of green. I especially like the protective presence (against hurricanes) of the tall white pines. Yes, white pines are definitely my favorites there.

white pine deck and tree
I will be happy to see again the old and majestic grandma Ernestine—a white pine who witnessed my sons growing up around there. I like to see her family members scattered around the house. I feel these trees are my friends, almost a family.

grandmother and youth white pines

It might sound strange and even corny when I talk like that, but that does not matter. I learned these feeling towards nature partially from my father, but mostly from my Wampanoag friends on the Cape. Native Americans often refer to plants or animals as “people”—like “plant people”, for instance. I like that concept very much and have incorporated into my life style and philosophy. I see my favorite plants that way, and especially trees!

Trees live long among us, silently witnessing our happiness and our sorrows. Trees are strong and yet they are vulnerable the way people are.

They live in communities like the ones in my Cape Cod yard.

trees in community
Sometimes they live a lonely life, like the tree I met on the Kaibab Trail while hiking the Grand Canyon.

Tree alone on Kaibab trail at Grand_Canyon
They dream like the “dreaming tree” below… and this is a poetic stretch of my imagination, of course.

Dreaming tree
Trees can definitely get hurt badly by a fire — most likely a man made one.

Being burned
And I like to imagine that they cry like us …just with a different color of tears….

Crying yellow

* * *

Text and photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Footprints Left Behind

March 8, 2012

Did you ever wonder why people carve their names or initials on tree trunks, benches, and other objects? And did you notice that more significant places often have more of those markings?

That strong desire to make a statement “I was here!” is as old as the human race—a desire to make and leave behind some sort of sign, a “footprint” of existence.

The mysterious markings and images pecked or painted on cliffs and boulders in the West, known as the pictographs, are messages from the past. Similarly, the boot print of the Apollo 11 crew member and the American flag left behind on the moon in 1969 are our message to the future stating, “We were here.”

Bootprint left on moon by Apollo 11 astronaut (from NASA)

Boot print on the moon – NASA photo

I probably would not have thought about this at all if I had not found an almost forgotten photograph of my footprints, or rather boot prints, from several years ago. I was sorting through piles of my photographs in preparation for the recent art exhibit and there it was—the photograph of my boot prints in the Grand Canyon! And there also was another photo showing the boot prints of my Canadian friend, Joan, with whom I had undertaken the challenge of hiking that incredible canyon – down and up in one day!

Alicja Mann shadow and footprints at Grand Canyon

My boot prints and shadow on the Grand Canyon trail

These footprints in the dust of the trail were a short lived statement of my presence there. Short lived, but definitely a bit longer than the bare footprints I make at the edge of the ocean each time I walk on the wet sand of Silver Beach when I am on Cape Cod. There the very next wave smooths out the footprints and the following one makes them disappear totally. I never had an impulse to take a picture of my footprints there— maybe because that beach is so familiar to me. Similarly, I did not have that desire on any mountain hikes around Tucson, even though the mountains here are very beautiful.

Just being at the Grand Canyon evokes an unforgettable feeling of awe and humbleness, but hiking it, measuring myself against its giant scale of space and time is indescribable. That’s right—the magnificence and hugeness of the Grand Canyon was so overwhelming and the sense of my minuteness there against the background of the rocks formed through the millennia of time, made me feel like shouting, “I am here! I am really here!” Hence the footprint photo and many other photos that captured that adventure.

Now these photos seem flat and very one dimensional, and can’t adequately illustrate the beauty and power of that place. Still, I will share a few of them with you. If you haven’t been there, I hope that you do go—after all it is one of the wonders of the world, and was not man-made, but created by nature over millions of years!

Grand Canyon morning from South Kaibab Trail

View of the Grand Canyon in the morning light

Alicja and Joan at the Grand Canyon, morning

At the South Kaibab trailhead – 7 AM

Grand Canyon textures and colors by Alicja Mann

Textures and colors of the Grand Canyon

Alicja Mann at Grand Canyon

Alicja and view of O’Neill Butte

Footbridge at Grand Canyon

Silver Bridge over the Colorado River

Grand Cayon walls seen from Bright Angel trail

Going up the Bright Angel trail

Alicja Mann and sign at end of Grand Cayyon hike

At the end of the trail – 7 PM

My boot prints in the Grand Canyon disappeared almost immediately while the boot prints on the moon probably remain unchanged. There are no winds on the moon to erode them, so they might be there forever.

Here on Earth our physical presence is fragile and temporary, but we humans are clever and capable of making different, more permanent “footprints” to mark our short time of existence. No one wants to be forgotten or insignificant. So we often strive in a variety of ways to make “footprints” of our lives. One way is through creative work: writing, painting, composing…. As a result we create books, paintings, records, and photographs that can live on after we are gone.

Framed painting, music CD cover, book, another image

Different types of “footprints”

I was reminded of this just a few days ago. Lou Colombo, a jazz musician whom I knew from Cape Cod and whose trumpet playing I love, died last Saturday in a car accident. That was terribly upsetting. However, his music will stay with us. I know it will stay with me.

Lou Colombo CD cover with personal notes from musician

Lou Colombo’s CD jacket

Click on Lou’s picture below and listen to his musical “footprint” titled “It all depends on you.”

Lou Colombo and his trumpet (Cape Cod Times file photo by Ron Schloerb)

That is right, it all depends on you….

P.S. To learn more about Lou Colombo click to read Cape jazz legend Lou Colombo dies in the Cape Cod Times.

* * *

Boot print on the moon photo from NASA. Alicja’s photo by Joan Agnew. Lou Colombo photo by Ron Schloerb/Cape Cod Times. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

A Photographic Detour

February 22, 2012

This is a small detour on my writing road – a photographic one. My commitment to this coming Saturday’s (February 25th) SOUTHWEST ARTISTS SHOW in downtown Tucson has taken my writing focus away. My concentration on writing this blog has gone down to zero!

Unfocused photographs are sometimes interesting, have some purpose, and can be attractive. Unfocused writing, however, is seldom desirable. Consequently, I have decided to delay my writing this week and focus on the show.

Flyer for Southwest Artists Show 2012

Below are a few of my photos.

Desert flowers by Alicja Mann

Two Windows by Alicja Mann

Cafe Yellow by Alicja Mann

If you are in Tucson this “Rodeo Days” weekend, please feel invited to the historic Bates Mansion and visit our diverse group of artists.

Enjoy the courtyard and the mansion. Enjoy the art and conversation. Enjoy the music, food, and wine. Just have a nice time!

Entrance to Bates Mansion

There is plenty of space to park nearby – free of charge on the weekend.

I hope to see you there!

* * *

Text and photos (except Southwest Artists Show flyer) copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Affectionate Pink

February 2, 2012

February is already here and, as always, tinted with a strong touch of red and pink dictated by Valentine’s Day.

I consider pink as the “gray” of red and white because of its gradations from pale to hot pink. Pink is not diluted red, but the transition from pink to red. Consequently, it does not symbolize for me a diluted love, but rather the possibility of growing into love. It has a strong association with the affectionate feelings of mine: for places, for persons, or for groups of people. Considering that Valentine’s Day is coming soon, this post is about my feelings colored in pink.

The first stream of my warm pink goes to Bohemia, a colorful shop which was always filled to the brim with art and crafts created by local artists of Tucson. I was proud being one of them. Tana Kelch led this small enterprise with great gusto for an entire nine years. First in the Lost Barrio and most recently on Broadway Boulevard near Country Club.

Sign and parking lot in front of Bohemia, Tucson, Arizona

Outside Bohemia

Inside the former Bohemia, Tucson, AZ

Inside Bohemia - from their website

I had always strong affection for Bohemia because of its spirit, philosophy and hospitality. I was happy to see its large logo visible from a distance while driving on Broadway towards downtown or back from it. I was happy with its success and I thought that Bohemia would be there forever. When I shopped there for last Christmas, I did not realize that it would be my last shopping there, but it was!

On January 19th Tana announced in her newsletter the closing of Bohemia:

“There are so many emotions as Bohemia was more than just a business to me and, I hope, to you. Alas, it was a business and the end is an unfortunate sign of the times. These years have been an incredible journey and I thank you for the lessons and successes and experiences that were part of the Bohemia world.”

I was shocked and terribly sad. How could this be? It was hard for me to imagine this spot on Broadway without Bohemia…so I went there and took some photos.

Bohemia entrance door and closer view of stickers on it

Bohemia's front entrance and closer view of spirited stickers

I will miss dropping by to pick up Zócalo and Tucson Weekly and to browse for a while among the amazing and amusing objects that people can create. I will miss buying them for a variety of occasions, excited that my friends will enjoy receiving original gifts created by local artists. I will miss the parties there with music and wine, its eclectic crowd, and true bohemian atmosphere.

Farewell Bohemia, thank you Tana! The memory of Bohemia lives in several charming objects in our house — like a colorful bench, some small ceramics and my funky bracelets. They are more valuable for me today than I ever anticipated.

Alicja Mann's image twice in shop windows of Bohemia, Tucson, Arizona

My double image and double sorrow

Bohemia’s closing made me sensitive to the possibilities of losing other things I love. My thoughts flew immediately to the KUAT-FM Classical radio station. Ever since I moved to Tucson, 11 years ago, I have listened to their music every morning. I was “conditioned” for this by Morning Pro Musica of WGBH while living on Cape Cod. Robert J. Lurtsema and his signature openings with chirping birds did bring a smile every morning. So discovering KUAT in Tucson was a happy event for me. Although I am a jazz fan and like all kinds of music, my mornings, while still in bed, have to start with the smell and warmth of a cup of coffee and sounds of classical music announced by James Reel or another pleasant voice of this station. And KUAT sure does have a great “collection” of terrific radio voices! I have never met any of the announcers, but their voices have become part of my life.

10 classical CD covers

Some of my CDs

I know how easy it is to take for granted the reliable, stable elements of life. I was reminded of it most recently when I did not hear James Reel for several mornings and I started to worry, “What has happened? Is he on vacation? Maybe he had to travel somewhere? Maybe somebody in his family is sick? Perhaps he is ‘under the weather’ as I was a couple of weeks ago?” Then a series of “what ifs” entered my mind. “What if this program would disappear? What if the station does not have enough money? What if…?”

David had a little laugh about all my worries, but for me imagining that this program might not be available was a truly scary thing — I saw it as a huge black hole, a dark void in my life.

I deal with small voids like that every time I travel, especially because hotels provide only lousy clock radios, totally useless for listening to good music. Of course, one can carry one’s own collection of music downloaded onto a computer or an iPod, but it is not the same. Not at all!

The element of surprise is missing. The element of discovery of some unfamiliar composer or new piece of music is missing. The entire concept of adventure with music is missing and, of course, the comforting presence of the announcer’s voice is missing! So when I hear “Good morning this is 90.5 classical, I am James Reel,” I feel secure, calm, and very much at home.

For the coming Valentine’s Day my affectionate pink goes to all at KUAT-FM with many thanks of being there — every day.

Have a warm pink day on February 14th — Alicja

Chair, table, gauzy curtains, pink flowers

* * *

Text and photos (except of Bohemia interior) copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Water is Rising

October 27, 2011

When I made my small writing “wave” in July about the beautiful flag of Kiribati, the Pacific island nation slowly disappearing because of global climate change, I did not expect to see that flag in “real” reality so soon, or to have an opportunity for a conversation with “real” people of Kiribati. Well, I did last Friday, October 21st, right here in Tucson when the Water is Rising project performers made a big “wave” at the University of Arizona Centennial Hall, which was filled with people of all ages. This unique artistic event was sponsored by UA Presents.

"UA Presents" flyer for "Water is Rising"

Fragment of UA Presents flyer

And what is the Water is Rising project? It is a project of the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance in collaboration with the Foundation for World Arts. Water is Rising is produced and directed by Judy Mitoma, Director of the UCLA Center, who has worked with Pacific Island cultures for over thirty years and has a deep understanding of them. The goal of the project is to educate and to increase the sensitivity of the American public about global climate change and how it is affecting the Pacific atolls of Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu and other Pacific Island nations.

Professor Mitoma conceived the Water is Rising project after the emotional plea made by officials from Tuvalu at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Those officials asked world leaders to acknowledge the effect global warming was having on their islands.

Indeed, there is scientific evidence that the Pacific atolls are at risk of becoming the first cultures on our planet to be submerged in ocean waters and… disappear. The irony is that powerful industrial countries like the USA have been contributing greatly to global warming (causing to the ocean waters to rise), but the highest price will be paid by the smallest countries like Tuvalu.

Fragment from “The World of Ours”
Composed by Kelemene (2011)

The world of ours
It is not steady, it keeps
moving
We worry about climate
change
Oi! My Tuvalu, what will
happen?
Will we float into the
ocean?

Listen to my tiny voice
Crying out for help
Hear our plea from
Tuvalu
Our low and small
Pacific home

Through Water is Rising the voices of Kiribati (population 100,000), Tuvalu (12,000) and Tokelau (1,500) can be heard. After three years of preparation, 36 selected artists from these countries are touring the USA — performing and conducting educational programs for all ages.

Please visit www.waterisrising.com to learn more about the project and global climate change. The schedule of the tour is posted on that website and if you have a chance, see a performance of Water is Rising.

* * *

First photo from UA Presents. Second and third photos from the website of Water is Rising. Text other than poem of Kelemene copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

Columbus Day Darkly

October 14, 2011

How did you celebrate Columbus Day last Monday?

Columbus Day has been observed by most states of this country since 1937 when Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed October 12 a federal holiday as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus.

Many Italian-Americans view Columbus Day as a day to celebrate their Italian heritage. Most of us, however, do not know how to celebrate that day, except enjoying a day off from work or going shopping. So on Monday I was wondering what was happening on Columbus Day besides special sales? Nothing or almost nothing, I discovered — nothing in Tucson, anyway, and most likely in the rest of Arizona. Sorry! Casa Grande held a 3-day event, the Arizona Soccer Tournament for the Columbus Cup.

Having had some issues about this holiday for some time, I decided to “observe it” by taking a long walk on Columbus Boulevard here in Tucson and thinking about Christopher Columbus. It was a nice and easy celebration — Columbus Boulevard is only a few steps away from our home and is a pleasant street for walking or jogging, especially the northern part of it that leads to the Rillito River.

Monday morning was sunny and warm and I truly enjoyed being reacquainted with the desert plants and houses along the boulevard. I had not walked it for a while, having been away from Tucson.

Columbus Boulevard, Tucson

Columbus Blvd in Tucson

McCormick Park, Tucson, Arizona

McCormick Park on Columbus Blvd

A charming spot along Columbus Blvd

Rillito River, Tucson, Arizona

Waterless Rillito River

My walk, in truth, was a nice procrastination from writing this post. I procrastinated the next day as well, since I found the issue of Columbus Day a difficult one to write about. Finally, I am writing today, on the “real” Columbus Day, October 12, so please bear with me!

Quite a few years ago I wrote (in one of my op-ed columns) about the dark side of Columbus Day but did not question the celebration of it. Today I do!

Five hundred nineteen years ago on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his sailors arrived in the Bahamas. When they stepped ashore, for the first time since the voyages of the Vikings, a small piece of the New World felt the presence of Europeans. That event changed the history of the world much more significantly than any other geographical exploration.

Why was there such a strong response in Europe to discovery of America? The author of “America in Europe: A History of the New World in Reverse”, German Arciniegas, addresses that question. “The fervor, the passion, the spontaneity that had been restrained for centuries broke their barriers and a new era was opened. Man began to declare his own rights, at the risk of anarchy. When one reflects with sufficient perspective on this deep, radical change, one finds the words that define this new course: Independence, Freedom.”

What was freedom and independence for newcomers became oppression, displacement, and loss of freedom for the indigenous people of this continent.

So why are we still celebrating the man who in truth was not a visionary about the existence of the New World, but stumbled upon it by mistake? At the time of his first voyage Columbus’ intention was not discovery of the New World but travel to India. Assuming that he had reached the “Indies,” Columbus named the native people of San Salvador “Indians” and since then “Indians” has become the name of the natives on both American continents.

Columbus’ attitude towards natives of the New World was less than admirable. It is not fair to judge that man of the 15th century by the standards of our thinking in the 21st century; still, it is impossible to like him while reading the well known excerpts from his logbook regarding the natives: “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance…. They would make fine servants…. With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them to whatever we want.”

A quote from his second Voyage of 1495, when many Indians were taken as slaves and died on the way to Spain, is also telling, “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

I have to admit that I was oblivious to the dark side of the New World discovery for quite a few years of my living in this country and while living in Poland. Writing a book with a Chief of the Wampanoags of Mashpee (an American Indian tribe on Cape Cod) — Son of Mashpee — opened my eyes widely. At that time I read a lot of history of the Wampanoags and other tribes of American Indians. While reading, one could only cry….

Columbus Day has been a controversial holiday for a long time. Some feel ashamed of it. Some feel angry about it. Some wonder what to do about it.

It is obvious that we cannot change history, but I think we can and should stop celebrating Columbus Day. It would be very appropriate, in my opinion, to keep the holiday, rename it and dedicate it to those who were present in the New World when “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Let’s follow the example of South Dakota that already celebrates Native American Day in place of Columbus Day.

Stop Columbus Day

And what do you think about it?

* * *

Photos and text copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

Monsoon Report from the Patio

June 30, 2011

It is the end of June and we are sizzling in Tucson with 110 °F almost every day. Wow! “Where is the lovely monsoon rain?!” I ask myself, as many Tucsonans also ask lately. As of yesterday there was no sign of it.

It is so unfortunate that recently other states in the country have been suffering from too much rainfall and too high water levels in their rivers. Devastating floods were the nightmare and the reality. Meanwhile Arizona firefighters struggled for days and days with beastly wildfires. We had not had a drop of rain for a long, long time. Maybe that’s why it feels like the monsoon is late this year. I am also late with our departure to Cape Cod for this summer.

“Such intense heat as we have experienced lately, plus some winds, should bring the monsoon rain soon,” I tried to convince myself, feeling fatigued by the heat as never before. Yesterday ended no differently than other days – a mostly clear sky above and our patio unwalkable in bare feet beneath. The hope for rain went to sleep along with the sunset.

I went to sleep too, but did not sleep well at all. Around 3 am I decided to start the new day. While sipping coffee from my favorite mug, I glanced through the book Sing Down the Rain which has been with me since I began living in Tucson. It is a children’s book written by the professional storyteller Judi Moreillon and richly illustrated by Michael Chiago whose art work is inseparable from his Tohono O’odham heritage.

Cover of Sing Down the Rain
….When the sun is white hot, in May and in June,

This dry land is waiting — rain will come soon.

***
….Clouds swollen with rain that’s waiting to fall

Will bring cooling water for one and for all.

The poem-story is about the Saguaro Wine Ceremony which is one of the most important celebrations of the Tohono O’odham Nation of southern Arizona.

“The majestic saguaro cactus provides the fruits used to make sacred wine used in the ceremony,” explains the publisher’s note on one of the book’s flaps. “For two nights, the men, women and children dance in the ‘Rain House’ to ask for plentiful rainfall.”

Knowing this story, I often comment half-jokingly that we – the newcomers living in this area – do not dance enough and that we should follow the tradition of the people who are rooted here and know how to bring down the rain. While reading some passages of the book again, I discovered suddenly a little tap-tap-tap sound on the roof. Could it be the sound of falling rain drops? I jumped to the door, opened it widely and… there they were — the very first drops of rain falling on the warm, rough surface of the patio! It was 3:30 in the morning and just a few minutes later the impressive lightning and roaring thunder arrived. The rain became intense. I ran across the patio to my studio to open its door and let the smell of rain come in. Then I sat and watched the beautiful performance of Mother Nature. I wish I knew how to take good photos at night! I tried anyway, but without much success. However, I salvaged a couple just to share with you.

Water on a brick patio Feet on a wet patio
Rain on the patio at night

“The storm” ended a bit after 5 am and I had fun wading in the puddles on our patio. When my shadow, my faithful companion, regained some strength with the rising sun, I took a few more pictures.

Reflection of clouds and umbrella in wet brick patio Photographer's shadow and her feet on wet brick patio
Reflections (umbrella and my shadow) in a large puddle on the patio in the early morning

At 9 am the patio was still walkable and the sky a bit hazy with the clouds whispering about rain. That whispering faded away by noon.

There is a lot of hope for more rain on this long 4th of July weekend. We in Tucson should dance and sing (and perhaps skip the fireworks) to celebrate the arrival of the monsoon season as well as Independence Day. Our friends on the Cape and in Boston can truly enjoy fireworks and dry weather with a touch of sunshine after some wet days there in the past weeks.

Happy Fourth of July wherever you are and whatever you do!

Alicja spelled out in freworks

The credit for this photo goes to the Falmouth Fireworks Committee on the Cape. Kudos for such a clever design of the fund-raising card. I bet people smiled, as I did, seeing their name in the sky — if only on the postcard.

* * *

Text and photos (other than book cover and card) copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.


%d bloggers like this: