Posted tagged ‘Arizona’

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

December 12, 2013

Silver Bridge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon

There are many grand things, events, and people that I have encountered in my life, but the day of hiking the Grand Canyon down and up with my Canadian friend several years ago stands out. It was awesome to be able to face that ancient and grand creation of nature and at the same time to feel our minuteness in contrast with that rocky giant. I took this photo on Silver Bridge over the Colorado River – at the bottom of the Canyon, facing the lengthy journey (9.5 miles = 15.3 km) up the Bright Angel Trail to reach the top before the inevitable arrival of darkness.

I wrote about that hike in my post Footprints Left Behind

Potrait of Nelson Mandela

A similar feeling of awe and humbleness enveloped me last week when we faced the departure of Nelson Mandela – his strength, vision, perseverance, and political skills were not only grand, but super GRAND and will continue to inspire others for many years to come. I am happy to cherish memories of encountering that man during his visit to Boston in 1990 – soon after his release from prison. Even though I was a minute spot in the huge crowd of others who gathered at the Hatch Shell to honor Mandela, I will never forget that grand day.

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Text and photos copyright © 2013 by Alicja Mann

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.


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.


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.”


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.


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

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Cover Artwork of the Program by Paul Lanquist. Text and other 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.

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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.

From Highways with Love

September 30, 2011
A photo safari from the passenger seat
Northeast — Southwest

On the road again – go south and west my friend!

Trucks always fascinated me. How does one control such a big beast? And what is inside each of them?

When a truck is “naked”, it is even more interesting. I also love trucks’ shiny wheels. Here we are reflected in the hubcap of one of them. I am proud of that shot!

Today’s wind turbines adorn the landscape gracefully while generating electricity.

My affection for farms and farmland is captured in these photos.

Oh, those Nebraska roads!

Colorado (Denver) here we come … and go.

New Mexico has its own charm.

Finally Arizona — almost home! See you around.

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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.

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

Arizona Immigration Law — Virus SB1070?

July 21, 2010

Perspective of
a Naturalized American / Legal Immigrant

It is summer time no doubt! The temperatures in southern Arizona are over 100 °F every day and all are waiting anxiously for the monsoon rains to come. I love those rains which seem to be late this year, but I will not experience them this time because I am departing on my annual trip from Tucson to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

I moved to Tucson 10 years ago from the Cape. I love living here, but I also love Cape Cod with its ocean and sandy beaches, and my place there that I called home for so many years. Now each summer I travel to the Cape like a bird to an old and comfortable nest, again and again. Arizona and Massachusetts are so different in their physical beauty, history and politics, that it is sometimes hard to imagine that they are part of the same country. Since I declared myself as a permanent resident of Arizona, my car is wearing Arizona’s license plate. Crossing the huge distance between the two places, I have been proud of that plate with a saguaro image and state slogan, ”Grand Canyon State.”

I felt good arriving on the east coast where that plate would bring attention as a very unusual one among other cars with MA, NH, ME or NY markings. It indicated that the car traveled from very far away. This time however, I feel different about my car’s plate because I know it will bring attention not to the beauty of Arizona and the mystery of the Grand Canyon, but to Arizona’s controversial immigration law, called SB1070, which might take effect on July 29th this year.

I strongly oppose that law and expressed that very early by participating in a demonstration in Tucson three days after the law was signed by Governor Jan Brewer. While there I even had the opportunity to express my opinion on KOLD news. Here is the link:

Immigration law opponents demonstrate at governor’s Tucson speech

More recently I had another chance to talk about the immigration law during a one hour interview on Andy Greeley’s On The Bookshelf show (KJLL, AM 1330) on the 3rd of July. We talk about my writing and specifically about my book Looking at the World Twice: Essays & Poems on Identity, Belonging and Otherness. Most of my essays in this book address the issues of freedom, liberty, otherness and my immigrant experience – very appropriate subjects for reflection on Independence Day. All four parts of that interview will be posted on my website after I arrive on the Cape, but today I am posting the part of the interview that directly relates to the immigration law. Please follow this link:

KJLL interview, 7-3-2010, part 3 of 4

While trying to memorize the name of the immigration law as SB1070, it occurred to me that it sounded like the name of a virus! When I heard it the first time, it brought memories of my work in the past as a biochemist/microbiologist. I recall writing on glass tubes containing viruses their scientific names, symbolized by a combination of letters and numbers, very much like ‘SB1070’. The recent swine flu virus also came to my mind. You might recall that at the time of anxiety about that flu, our media started to refer to it as the ‘H1N1 flu virus’ rather than the ‘swine flu virus’. H1N1 sounds less scary than the ugly name ‘swine flu virus’.

I just hope that the virus ‘SB1070’ will not spread to the entire country and will be eradicated before becoming contagious and dangerous to us all.

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann

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