It’s been three months since my Tucson workshop and I return to the desert celebrating happy news of two awards: I received an Ohio Arts Council 2015 Individual Excellence Award for my work creating handmade photographic storybooks, and also an Artist in Community grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council to attend a photogravure workshop at Renaissance Press in August. I am absolutely thrilled. There is nothing like receiving letters that begin with a “Congratulations!” and I am ever so grateful to my city and state for their support of the arts.
It is 90 degrees on the desert floor today, and though much cooler at 7000 feet, Kitt Peak is a different mountain than it was in mid-winter. I was privileged to be able to photograph at that time of year when fog and mist and clouds render the landscape dream-like.
Driving west from Tucson that late January day. The mountain moving in and out of clouds. Sunlight stripes the desert, bright against dark skies. As we make the left off Ajo, looping the switchbacks up the access road, the landscape is suddenly three-dimensional: gleaming sun on one cliff against cloud-dark over another. The desert floor tinted a minty green. I am here in a different season. They've had rain.
Beautiful for photographs but bad for telescopes, weather kept the domes closed, and without the expectation or rhythm of a night schedule the mood of our stay shifted; we felt snowbound. Carrying my camera, I set out on walks. In the fog... at sunrise... in the air after rainclouds passed... I made photographs of what I thought was the landscape, but what I now realize was the breath of water moving through that landscape.
From the ledge we watch curtains of rain move toward us across the desert. Saturated colors. Rich ochres and grey-greens. Fog rolls up one side of the mountain on its way down the other and all I see is white. The twitter of birds — the only sound — bounces around this velvet-air bell jar we find ourselves in, and I am amazed: so this is what it sounds like in a cloud…
It was a beautiful time of year to visit. Stepping, now, from the air-conditioned airport into the Arizona heat I can tell that the soft and moody season has passed. As always, I am thankful for any time I can spend here, for the privilege of being a guest on the mountain, for the gift of travel, and especially, this spring, for the support of the arts councils of Ohio and Columbus. I walk a little lighter into that bright Tucson sun.