Prickly Times…

Hello, sweet friends!

It feels so good to be back home again! We have lots of catching up to do here in our little gathering place of kindred spirits. I have really missed you all. Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today!

I have spent the past several months with my dear parents in Arizona. Well into their 80s now, Mom and Dad began needing a little extra help earlier this year. It has been my honor to spend extra time helping out and making plans with my parents. For health reasons, Dad and Mom decided that it was time to make a BIG move, back home to Illinois to be close to their children.

After twenty-four happy, healthy years of desert living, their Retirement dream was taking a most unexpected turn. My parents faced very difficult choices… and many months of ‘prickly’ times. There were so many hard decisions to be made. Working side-by-side, our days were extremely busy. We donated so many cherished items to charitable causes. Finding good homes for beloved antiques and collectibles proved to be a true ‘labor of love.’ So many avid collectors were grateful to become the new owners of my dad’s Lionel trains and antique telephones. My mom’s vintage irons, beautiful, old crocks, oil lamps, antique kitchen tools, and many pieces of Southwest art all went to new homes, one-by-one. ‘Prickly,’ but important, work…

Preparing to sell their lovely, desert home in the foothills of Red Mountain just made our hearts so sad. With the Tonto National Forest just a short walk away, it is a nature lover’s paradise. My parents built their home with breathtaking views of Red Mountain, the Superstition Mountains, and the Usery Mountains. Moving away from longtime friends and special places was the most ‘prickly’ time of all.

Packing boxes, boxes, and more boxes filled our days and weeks. My dad shipped his car back to Illinois. A great pair of movers loaded up a few special pieces of furniture and many boxes filled with family photos and mementos.

After the moving truck pulled away, we were all lost in our thoughts.

It was all feeling very real now…

We took our last long drive through the Tonto National Forest, admiring the mountains, the giant Saguaros, and the wildflowers in bloom. We reminisced about all of our favorite hiking places, remembered picnics at Saguaro Lake, and waved farewell to the beautiful ‘secret place’ in the desert where my husband proposed to me. We all hold so many heartwarming memories of special times in the desert over the years. My mom chose a few favorite rocks from her lovely, desert garden to bring along as special mementos.

Unforgettable, beautiful, heartbreaking, ‘prickly’ times for us all…

After special gatherings with dear friends and a few nights in a hotel, my parents and I flew back to the Midwest together just two weeks ago. Together we knew we were flying toward our next adventure ~ a brave, new chapter in all of our lives. We have been a great team through all the ‘prickly’ times. I have learned so many important lessons over the past months. My parents will always be my first and best teachers!

Throughout my life there have been several challenges,

but this has truly been the most difficult thing

I have experienced so far.

Tears have filled my eyes so often over the past months.

Throughout the ‘prickly’ times this year, I always looked for blossoms…

and counted my many blessings out loud.

It really helped!

Making time for walks in nature always soothed my tender heart.

Sunrise walks filled my soul with sunshine for the day ahead. Walking many miles each week was an important part of my self-care during this very stressful, ‘prickly’ time. Remembering my ‘why’ and tracking my foods on the WW app daily have helped me maintain my healthy weight goal. 🙂  Good health is such a wonderful blessing!

Early mornings spent pulling unfamiliar weeds (using pliers) from the dry, red earth in my mom’s garden reminded me of the gift of gardening Mom gave me thirty-one years ago. What a blessing! My life has been enriched in so many ways since I inherited Mom’s love of gardening.

Sunset walks were the perfect way to connect with my husband each evening. FaceTime allowed us to walk together, although we were 1,800 miles apart. Sharing the stories of our days made it easier for both of us.

My sweet husband has been my ‘rock’ and constantly helps in so many ways. Throughout the Summer months, each evening after work, he deadheaded my ‘He Loves Me’ daisies, so that they would be in full bloom each time I returned home for a brief visit. When the seasons changed, he took such good care of our little ‘igloo’ throughout the big November blizzard. Storm damage left our home without power for several days. So, he worked with a neighbor to prevent our water pipes from freezing in our dark, frigid home. He researched and helped arrange moving plans from across the miles. A great listener, he can always make me laugh. My dear husband is a truly great blessing in my life!

I’m so blessed by friends, both near and far. Quick texts, long emails, and encouraging WhatsApp messages were most welcome day brighteners while I was away from home for extended times. Beautiful cards and letters always warmed my heart. We are so grateful for the kindness of our friends! A perfectly-timed ride home from the airport in a friend’s toasty, warm SUV (complete with a cozy, lap blanket for my parents) was an extra-special ‘welcome home’ on a cold December day.  A friendly visit delivering hugs and homemade turkey noodle soup warmed our hearts and tummies. Heartfelt thanks, dear, sweet friends!

Each day, as I quickly checked our little blog, it was so heartwarming to know that friends were stopping to read stories from the blog archives. I could feel our connection and was both humbled and grateful for the powerful friendships that have grown here over the years. I’m looking forward to blogging often in the New Year… and finally making time to visit my blogging friends again!

We felt so blessed that my parents’ beautiful, desert home sold in just ONE day! We were very grateful when the buyers visited and promised to take extra good care of this special place. We were so fortunate that our moving plans and travel plans all went very smoothly. Such a big blessing for us all!

After a long, cross country trip, the movers delivered everything safely to a nearby storage unit. Family heirlooms were handled with extra care. We were so grateful to see the big, orange truck pull up last week! Local movers will help with the next stage of the move in January, when my parents’ beautiful, new apartment will be ready.

After spending time in the desert in the Springtime and experiencing this Summer’s Monsoon season, I was delighted to arrive home for a brilliant, instant blast of Autumn color. I was so blessed that the beautiful leaves waited for me!

We packed lots of Autumn walks into my two-week visit home! It was so refreshing after the long, hot Summer days in the desert. (This year, the Phoenix area had over 125 days of triple-digit heat! Whew!)

No matter where I roam, the Midwest always feels like home to me!

I embrace the change of seasons,

with the blessings each one brings.

 

In spite of the ‘prickly’ times, it has been a very special blessing to experience ALL of the seasons in the desert Southwest this year. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the desert plants over the past 24 years. Walking with my mom is always a wonderful gardening lesson! I have also learned to beware of the desert creatures. It’s still the ‘wild west’ with coyotes, scorpions, lizards, and rattlesnakes passing through! Over the years, I have learned so much about the Native American people. I will always hold the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow Wow on the Pima-Maricopa reservation close to my heart. It was a remarkable cultural experience.  I truly understand why the Arizona desert will always have a special place in my parents’ hearts!

My greatest blessings of all are my dear, sweet parents! ♥♥

I cherish every precious moment with them!

We have been enjoying old family memories

and look forward to sharing as much joy

as we can squeeze into the coming years!

 

Hugs and simple joys,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

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May Blossoms

 

Hi Friends!

Such incredible Springtime extremes! Very likely, you might also be noticing extreme weather events in your little corner of the world, as coverage of terrible flooding, violent storms, devastating wildfires, and dangerous volcanic eruptions fill our news reports on a daily basis. I just returned home to the Midwest after spending several weeks visiting the Sonoran desert of Arizona. Throughout this month, my thoughts often turned to extreme weather contrasts offering just a tiny glimpse into the month of May on our fragile planet.

I boarded my flight in late April on a frosty 31 degree morning and landed a few hours later in the warm sunshine. It was such a blessing to spend a few weeks making precious memories with my parents in their lovely Southwest home. ♥♥

I enjoyed many peaceful mornings in my parents’ desert garden. Unfamiliar birdsong, gentle breezes, and mountain views nourished my soul as I worked outside very early to avoid the afternoon temperatures of 111, 108, and 106 degree days. We were experiencing typical July temperatures in May.

Pulling weeds ‘desert-style’ requires a large brimmed hat, thick gloves, and long-nosed pliers. Although I didn’t know the names of any of the weeds, it was easy to identify intruders that didn’t belong in the their tidy yard covered with tiny pebbles, smooth river rocks, and beautiful granite from the foothills of Red Mountain. The red, parched earth in their yard anchors the deep roots firmly as they reach for water.

Less than one inch of rainfall in 2018 has caused extreme drought conditions in their area. The last measurable rainfall was in January. However, my parents’ desert neighborhood is in full bloom this month. The stunning colors, against the bright blue skies, were a remarkable treat to behold!

Palo Verde tree in full bloom

 

Jacaranda tree filled with blossoms

 

Pink blossoms of the Ironwood tree

 

Blossom-filled stalks of the Joshua Tree

Whenever my mom and I took early morning walks, she shared fascinating facts about the desert plants. We both love the majestic Saguaro cacti. This month my mom has noticed more Saguaro blooms than she has ever seen in her 23 years in the desert.

The white blossoms not only crowned the tops and arms of the Saguaros. The blossoms lined the prickly sides of the Saguaros, too. We were in awe of these plentiful blossoms everywhere we walked. The pollinators were quite thrilled with this spectacular blossom display, as well!

Some of my solo walks became ‘Artist Dates’ as I observed…

the beautiful shadows created by the Red Yucca blossoms…

the brilliant, ombre color palette of the Mexican Bird of Paradise blossoms,

the pale, pink Prickly Pear buds that opened into sunny, yellow flowers,

and the hummingbirds sipping nectar from the blossoms of the Ocotillo cactus. I’m quite certain that some of these desert wonders will inspire watercolors in the weeks to come!

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While I was away, I was so grateful that my sweet husband was keeping watch over our Midwest garden. He told me of hot weather, cold weather, huge rainstorms, and a microburst causing a tree to fall onto a home just three doors down from us. Each evening after work, he checked on the garden, sent frequent photos of our Magnolia in bloom,

and updated me on the activities of a very hungry groundhog.

(Last week, it devoured all of the buds on our Columbine plants. 😦 )

May has always been my very favorite month in the garden. I wondered if I might miss seeing my perennials in bloom with our unpredictable Spring weather. We had almost five inches of rain during my absence and I was so curious to see all of the changes!

My return flight landed late at night.

I was so excited for the dawn’s early light…

and my first peek

at my Friendship Garden!

Everything has changed so much!

I’m absolutely thrilled that the May blossoms waited for me!

Can’t wait to play in the garden!

Spring blessings!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  How is the weather in your little corner of the world?

 

 

 

 

 

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A Thankful Heart

Hi Friends! 

A special welcome to everyone joining us for the Papertrey Ink November Blog Hop Challenge! Hop over to Nichole’s blog if you would like to join in the fun!

November is flying by! Can you feel it, too?  It always takes me more than one day to count my blessings. The entire month has been filled with giving thanks every single day. Small moments that add comfort and joy to each day have made my thankful heart overflow with gratitude…

These small moments are always there. We just have to be still and mindful to recognize and appreciate them. Cultivating gratitude helps me to keep my worries in perspective, cope with life’s challenges, and brings joy to every day!

Early on November 1st, we headed west to spend time with my parents in Arizona. We cherish each chance to celebrate their birthdays together. I hold dear each day spent helping out, enjoying old family stories, and making sweet memories together. My parents continue to be our best teachers, constantly showing us how to live a good life and nourish a beautiful, loving marriage.

My mom is the charming soul who taught me all about gardening so long ago. It’s always a delight to take walks together through the desert neighborhood where she has been gardening for the past 23 years.  Last week, we worked together to trim her Bird of Paradise shrub and deadhead the Desert Marigolds.  The bright orange berries on her Pyracantha shrub are visited daily by a family of quail just waiting for the berries to turn crimson and sweet. One day a roadrunner joined us in my mom’s garden. Autumn in the desert has been extra special this year for so many reasons!

Together we drove through the nearby Tonto National Forest, past breathtaking mountains, to visit lovely Saguaro Lake. My family has so many wonderful memories of hiking along the lake together over the past two decades. Seeing mighty Saguaros growing along the sparkling water always amazes me!

While heading back to the Midwest,  I admired the majestic, snow capped mountains of New Mexico and the earthy, patchwork quilt of the heartland. The natural beauty of our country always fills me with hope for this land that I love.

I thought about the excited (but nervous) three young men and four young women that I met at our boarding gate just hours before. They talked about how excited they were to shovel snow for the first time. (I promised them a lot of snow during their two months in Illinois!) I wanted to be among the first to thank these young Americans for their service, as they headed off to Navy boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station.  These young men and women and their families will sacrifice so much for all of us. We owe them our deepest gratitude.

It feels wonderful to be back home again in our cozy Midwest home just in time for the holidays! The seasons changed and snowflakes fell upon my garden while we were away. So, I happily spent a few quiet moments in the garden gathering dried flowers and seed heads to fill an antique wooden box on our front porch. These garden gatherings are sweet reminders of those glorious Summer days spent in my perennial and herb gardens. Yesterday I raked so many leaves!  It was a quiet, poignant time to reflect on all of the changes of the past year.

Throughout the year, my heart is filled with the blessings of two passions that help me blossom and grow in new ways. While my perennial and herb gardens sleep through the Winter, there will now be much more time in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

Kindness has always been one of my love languages. Creating handmade cards to share with family and friends truly warms my heart. I find the most wonderful stamps, dies, inks, and paper at Papertrey Ink.  (So grateful for the exciting, new supplies that arrived in my mailbox this week! 🙂 ) The talented Design Team at Papertrey Ink constantly inspires me. Time spent designing special cards always nourishes my creative heart and soul.

I just love thinking about those I hold dear as I create each card. It feels like a little ‘visit’ with them as I stamp, ink, cut, and emboss. Lettering the envelope, adding a special postage stamp, and dropping it into the mailbox makes sending my little ‘paper hugs’ such a happy, little thing!

I’ve been busy making extra Thanksgiving cards for the dear friends and neighbors who watched over our home while we were away helping my parents. For me, hand-delivering cards is always a special part of the joy of card making!

This little ‘paper hug’ is especially for all of the dear friends who gather here to read and leave their thoughts on our blog. 🙂 I cherish your kindness all year long. I am humbled by the worldwide visitors who take time to visit each day. We are a small, but wonderful group who constantly remind me of everything good in the world.  You inspire me, teach me, and encourage me to blossom in new ways!

Thank you for being YOU and for being here!

Wishing you all of the beautiful graces

of the season…

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

With a thankful heart,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  What small joys fill your thankful heart?

Hope you will share… 

 

 

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Springtime Blessings!

Hi Friends!

Sunny Springtime greetings!

Today I’m counting my blessings out loud

as my very favorite season begins…

Bougainvillea in bloom in the Sonoran Desert, with the Superstition Mountains in the distance

I have been enjoying precious family time

in the Arizona desert.

Prickly Pear cacti in bloom

Admiring spectacular sunrises

and sunsets…

Saguaro silhouettes at sunset in the Sonoran desert

Sharing wonderful family memories with my parents,

as we talked about their childhood stories

and my childhood years.

Such delightful blessings to cherish!

Brittlebush in bloom fills the desert with sunshine in the Spring

Savoring long talks with my dad,

whose sage wisdom always guides me.

Strong, sturdy Saguaro cactus

Taking long walks with my mom,

a most charming gardener who teaches me so much

about living a sweet, joyful life.

It made my heart blossom as I helped them each day,

in the smallest of ways.

It is such a blessing to be able to help my parents now…

as we spend time together.

Helping to weed, deadhead, transplant, and water

in my mom’s desert garden

reminded me of how this charming gardener

taught me to garden,

thirty years ago,

when I bought a little house

with a large, mature garden of my very own.

Ocotillo cactus blossoms

My beloved husband took care of everything here at home,

so that I could spend time with my parents.

He is one of life’s sweetest blessings!

Purple Trailing Lantana spilling over the red rocks

Brilliant blue skies, gentle breezes, and temperatures in the mid 90s

made the last days of Winter fly by much too quickly.

Just as my favorite season began,

I returned home to

the Midwest.

Today I spent hours in my own garden

(wearing a winter jacket),

as I pruned the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea,

cut back the remaining stems and seed heads

left standing for the birds,

and peeked at all of the new growth in my garden beds.

From across the yard, I suddenly spotted

patches of  brilliant purple!

These miniature Irises are always the first blossoms of Springtime in my garden!

What a wonderful blessing to discover

miniature Irises

and Crocuses in full bloom…

just in time for

the first days of Spring!

♥♥♥

Wishing you abundant Springtime blessings, too!

(Be sure to count them out loud!)

Choose joy!

♡ Dawn

     P.S.  Hope you will share something you are grateful for as Spring begins!

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Gathered Sunshine

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Hi Friends!

January is typically our snowiest month here in the Midwest. However, January 2017 has been one of the least snowiest months on record. In addition to our snow drought, we have also been lacking much-needed sunshine all month long. In January, we only enjoyed six sunny days. Few and far between… those days were glorious indeed!

So, throughout this month I often called upon the wisdom of

a teeny, tiny kindred spirit for inspiration…

Have you met Frederick?

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This wise, little field mouse is the heartwarming hero of the wonderful children’s book,

Frederick, by Leo Lionni.

During the long, cold, difficult, winter days,

Frederick helped his little field mice friends feel warmth as he lifted their spirits.

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For you see, Frederick was a gatherer.

He gathered bright sun rays

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Frederick gathered breathtaking colors from nature…

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… and Frederick gathered wise words when the days were warm,

and held them until the days grew cold .

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Over the years, I have always felt a strong connection to our little Frederick, the poet-mouse.

For I am a gatherer, too!

I gathered these photo memories last April, while visiting dear family in Arizona.

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Tohono Chul Park, located in northwest Tucson

near the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains,

is a true gem!

Their mission is to enrich people’s lives

by connecting them with the wonders of

nature, art, and culture

in the beautiful Sonoran Desert,

while inspiring wise stewardship of nature’s gifts.

Tohono Chul Park is truly one of the loveliest places we have visited in Arizona.

It’s the perfect place to gather warm sun rays, breathtaking colors, and wise words!

I’m sure that Frederick would agree.

♥♥♥

If you haven’t read Frederick lately, do take a peek…

Frederick is celebrating

its 50th Anniversary this year.

He just might be your teeny, tiny kindred spirit, too!

♥♥♥

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

Scatter kindness and gather sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you have a favorite place to gather bright sunshine, beautiful colors, or wise words? Hope you will share with us!

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The Call of the Drum…

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I can still hear the drums.

My heart will beat with the drums forever…

Hi Friends!

We recently returned from a wonderful visit with loved ones in Arizona.  Whether we are hiking in the Tonto National Forest or just walking through the neighborhood, we always admire Red Mountain for its distinctive shape and gorgeous color.

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Red Mountain stands on land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Over the years, we have traveled through the reservation land many, many times. A major road, using the dry bed of the Salt River, passes right through the vast Indian reservation. This road is only closed when heavy rains turn it back into a fast-moving river.

This time, we felt so fortunate to spend a very special day on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa reservation!

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We couldn’t wait to attend our very first PowWow!  We arrived early and could hear the call of the drum as we walked across the grassy field. The beautiful, stirring sounds of a Drum circle welcomed us.

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We stood transfixed as we listened to the music of the drummers sitting in a tight circle around the ceremonial drum. The men were playing the drum and singing, while their wives and children sat in another circle around them. Well-known Host Drums traveled a great distance to perform at this Pow Wow. Black Bear (Quebec, Canada), Northern Cree (Alberta, Canada), Omaha White Tail (Nebraska), and Southern Thunder (Oklahoma) played throughout the two-day event.

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Traditionally, Pow Wows gather Native American people together as a celebration of American Indian culture. It is a powerful way of preserving the rich heritage of the American Indian people. It is a time of dancing, singing, renewing old friendships, and making new friends. The Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow shares Native American Arts and Crafts and traditional foods. Everyone is welcome!

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Groups of Gourd Dancers performed throughout the morning. The soul-stirring music brought together people from tribes across North America.  Drums and Singers are very important people in Native American culture. For without them, there would be no dancing. Their songs can be religious, for war, and social. At a Pow Wow, most of the songs are social, in nature.

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As we watched the Gourd Dancers, my husband noticed that this dancer’s beaded headband showed all of his Vietnam War medals. Throughout our history, Native Americans have served in our Armed Forces in greater percentages than any other ethnic group. They have served our country with honor in every major conflict for over 200 years. The service, dedication, and patriotism of our Native American veterans should be honored by all Americans.

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After a hot morning in the bright, desert sun, it was time to find more water and taste some traditional American Indian foods. We watched as they prepared our Frybread and topped it with cinnamon and sugar. My husband also ate Frybread filled with mutton and chili peppers. We enjoyed our picnic lunch with a friendly local who told us more about the Pow Wow. The hot sun, the sound of the drums and singing, and the traditional food made memories we will cherish.

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As the time drew near for the Grand Entry, we walked around admiring the traditional dress. It was fascinating to watch the dancers put on layer upon layer of brightly-colored fabric, intricate beadwork, moccasins with bells, beautiful jewelry, and immense feather adornments. I just couldn’t resist asking permission to take photos.

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Spectacular, from both the front and back, the friendly dancers posed with pride. I was very interested to learn the name of their tribe and which part of the United States they traveled from for this special gathering.

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By pure luck, we found ourselves standing at the exact place where the Grand Entry would begin. My camera and I were thrilled!!  🙂 It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see all of the dancers from only an few feet way. We admired their gorgeous, traditional clothing up close as they slowly walked by. It was an experience I will treasure forever, as 500 dancers of all ages moved to the beat of the Drum, ready to enter the arena. Their serene, serious faces told us that this was a very important experience for them, as well.

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During the Grand Entry into the arena, everyone stands while the flags are carried in: the U.S. flag, Tribal flags, the P.O.W. flag, and the Eagle Staffs of all of the Indian Nations present at the Pow Wow. The flags are usually carried by veterans. Despite the horrific treatment received from our country, Native Americans hold the U.S. flag in an honored position.

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The U.S. flag holds two special meanings for the American Indians. It is a way to remember all of their ancestors who fought against this country long ago. It also symbolizes the United States and the important role of Native Americans in our country. The U.S. flag also honors all of the Native Americans who have bravely fought for this country.

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As the Grand Entry begins, the veterans carrying the flags are followed by the Tribal Chiefs, Princesses, and Elders. The men dancers are always next in line, followed by the women dancers.

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The women Jingle Dancers wear a beautiful Jingle Dress (or Prayer Dress). Long ago, the dress was seen in a dream, as an object to bring healing to the sick. The Chippewa people sew rows of bells encircling a colorful skirt.  The bells are so close together that they jingle and ring while dancing. The Jingle Dancers’ bells sound just like falling rain as they dance. It is so beautiful!

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As the Drums play, singers from different tribes gather together to share traditional songs. Some of these songs are sung as ‘vocables,’ with no words, so that singers from all Indian Nations can join in, no matter their tribal language. These songs still hold deep  meaning to those who remember the original lyrics.

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Dances have always played a very important role in American Indian life. Most of the dances at Pow Wows are social dances. Although dancing styles and clothing have changed over the years, the meaning of the dances has not. The Native American culture is a vibrant, ever-changing way of life!

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Once all 500 dancers entered the arena that afternoon, a special Honor Song was sung to honor the flags and the veterans. After a prayer, the dancing continued. We found seats in the front row of the bleachers and were mesmerized by the colorful clothing and the beat of the Drum.

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There were several huge Circle dances with all of the dancers moving in circles, like a coiling snake. Different Drum circles provided the music, while the dancers moved to the rhythm of the Drum.

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It was so beautiful to see people from all generations, from the Tiny Tots (up to 4 years old) to the Golden Age (60+ years old) dancers sharing their long history and culture. The best dancers and Drum circles would be awarded prizes at the close of the two-day Pow Wow.

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As the dancers moved in the hot sun all afternoon, their passion and dedication as they celebrated their culture truly moved me. Sitting in the hot sun took its toll on us, yet they were dancing in layer upon layer of cotton, deerskin, beads, and feathers. After we left, there would be another Grand Entry in the evening and another day of dancing and drumming on Sunday. What an unforgettable celebration!

A Pow Wow is such a wonderful way of bringing the past into the future!

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The Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow left such a powerful impression on my heart. I’m sure that the vivid colors and serene feelings of that day will inspire my artwork and writing always.

I can still hear the drums.

My heart will beat with the drums forever…

Enjoy the Grand Entry of the 30th Annual Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow…

(Video credit: rd47blog)

30th Annual Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow ~ Men’s Traditional dance                    

(Video credit:  rd47blog)

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for always taking the time to visit and leave thoughtful comments on our blog.

Each time I count my blessings, I think of my dear family, friends, and blog friends!

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You inspire me to grow in so many creative ways!

Happy Thanksgiving!

♡ Dawn

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A Desert Dream-Come-True!

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Hi Friends!

What an amazing surprise we had on our recent visit to Arizona! Every year, in March or April, I love to spend  Spring Break visiting family in the Phoenix area. During my very first visit, over twenty-five years ago, I fell in love with the majestic Saguaro cactus. These beautiful giants only grow in the Sonoran Desert. Each time we hike in the desert, I always make the very same wish!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see my favorite cactus in bloom ~ just once in my lifetime?

The Saguaro typically blooms in May and June. Those are always busy months in my Midwest garden. I just love to be home tending my perennial and herb gardens in late Spring and early Summer. This Spring Break was a truly memorable one! Following a warmer Winter season in the desert, the Saguaro cacti are in bloom earlier than ever this year. So, we were able to enjoy these special blossoms for the very first time!

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We chose one of our favorite hiking places, the Usery Mountain Regional Park, to soak in all of the beauty of the Saguaros in bloom.  Ranger Brennan shared so much fascinating information about the Saguaros, along with great tips for the best hiking trails to see these long-awaited blossoms.  While the Saguaro flowers are usually very high on these tall cacti, Ranger B. told us to look for a Saguaro that had been touched by the frost, making one arm droop much lower.  If we could find one, we would have a chance to enjoy these special flowers at eye level. (Special thanks, Ranger B, for all the great tips!) Off we hiked, camera in hand, to make my dream come true!

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A Saguaro cactus must be at least 50 years old to make flowers. Production from bud to flower takes 10-14 days, depending upon the elevation and temperature in the desert. One Saguaro produces an average of 295 flowers, blooming two or three at a time, throughout May and June. Saguaros have a reproductive lifespan of over 100 years.

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The waxy, white, trumpet-shaped Saguaro flowers are about 3 inches (8cm) in diameter. Each flower lasts less than 24 hours. The flower blooms at night and closes by mid-afternoon. Since the pollen is large and heavy, the Saguaro flower cannot be pollinated by the wind. Saguaros have a very short time to attract pollinators!

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The Saguaros’ bloom time matches the northern migration time of their pollinators. The flowers are well-suited to the bats that come to pollinate the flowers at night. Rich in nectar, the strong flowers can withstand the bats’ weight. They bloom high above the ground near the bats’ flight path, and the blossoms emit a strong fragrance so that they are easy to locate in the dark.

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Saguaros continue to produce nectar in the morning and early afternoon. So, honey bees and birds come to pollinate the flowers during the day. The white-winged doves migrate from Mexico just in time for the Saguaro bloom in Arizona each year.

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As we hiked, we were overjoyed to find one Saguaro with a low-drooping arm. This was our chance to view the state flower of Arizona at eye level. What an amazing opportunity for a little ‘Morning Science’ lesson of our own!

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The droopy arm of the cactus was growing up toward the sun, with about 20 large buds. Earlier in the day, Ranger B. told us that he has even seen Saguaro cacti laying dead on the ground, with one arm still blooming prolifically! A dead cactus uses its stored moisture to nourish the flower blossoms. (Contrary to popular belief, the water stored in the Saguaro cactus is undrinkable and mildly toxic for humans.)

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Up close, the Saguaro flowers were all abuzz with pollinators. We had to wait in line for our chance to examine the blossom. It was such a thrill to touch the thick, waxy flower! We observed its center filled with yellow pollen. We could also see fruit beginning to form nearby.

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After the flowers are pollinated, they mature into ripe, red fruit. In June, a red ring first appears around the top of the growing Saguaro fruit. Soon the entire fruit ripens, splitting open to reveal its juicy, red pulp. Each Saguaro fruit contains up to 2,000 small, black seeds. This occurs during the driest time of the year, when rain has not fallen for over 100 days. So the ripe fruit will provide much-needed moisture and food for many desert creatures. Finches, woodpeckers, doves, and bats find nourishment from the fruits at the top of the Saguaro.  Javelinas, coyotes, and other desert mammals come to feed on the fallen fruit. Many people also enjoy eating the Saguaro fruit!

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The Native American, Tohono O’odham people have always harvested the Saguaro fruit. They continue this important tradition today. Using long poles, often made from Saguaro ribs, they pick the ripe fruit. June is the time when the Tohono O’odham people celebrate the beginning of summer and the new growing season. To bring rain, they drink a fermented juice, made from the bright, red fruit. (To watch a fascinating video about harvesting Saguaro fruit, click here.)

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What a wonderful, dream-come-true hike in the desert!

We feel so blessed to have experienced

this amazing bouquet of desert beauty up close.

(Hmmm…  I wonder what the Saguaro fruit tastes like?

Perhaps we can taste it on our next visit to the Sonoran desert!)

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Thanks so much for walking through the desert with us.

I have two other beautiful places to share soon.

Each time we visit Arizona, there are always exciting, new discoveries awaiting!

Sending sunshine!

♡Dawn

           P.S.   What interesting flower have you dreamed of seeing one day?