If you’re in the Phoenix area on the evening of June 7th, come out to the City of Gilbert’s Riparian Institute and enjoy a nature walk through the 110-acre preserve and listen to music by several members of the Mesa Symphony and yours truly. I’ll be playing harp and classical guitar near where the walk ends, but close enough to the parking area that you can simply walk over and sit down on one of the provided seats or settle in on the grass and have a listen if you don’t feel like taking the tour.

The nature walk starts at 7:00 p.m. at the east end of the public library. Check the Riparian Institute’s website for more information. There is a suggested donation of two dollars. I will be playing from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!
Ariel Laurel Strong With Pedal Harp

Photo by David Weingarten, Goldeneye Photography.

Arizona Desert Wildflowers

Yesterday’s trip with D. through the Miami-Globe area and on further east onto the San Carlos Apache Reservation was a delight – great scenery and companionship, lots of humorous moments, good road music, beautiful weather, plus the chance to practice some of the new photography skills that I am learning.

Associating with a professional photographer is improving my eye and compositional sense, though it is also creating a bit of gear envy. F-stop, ISO, and depth of field, are all terms that are rapidly becoming a part of my vocabulary, even though I don’t yet have a camera with which to put that new knowledge to use. (My little “point and shoot” camera’s days are numbered.)

The following photos of poppies and lupines were all taken late Tuesday afternoon, March 25, 2008, on a hillside just north of Highway 70, near San Carlos, Arizona. Other than changing the size and resolution for the web, they’re pretty much straight out of the camera. I hope to have some time soon to do a little retouching in Adobe PhotoShop. If so, I’ll post the results. Enjoy!

Desert Hillside Covered in Mexican Poppies Saguaro Cactus and Poppies Mexican Poppies and Saquaro Cactus, San Carlos, Arizona
Lupines and Poppies on Desert Hillside Lupines and Poppies carpet the desert Photographer among desert wildflowers


My posts have been few and far between lately, and this one will just be a brief update as I have myself spread pretty thin these days. That’s a good thing, though, as it’s an indicator of a lot of progress on multiple fronts – business, music, social.

The house in Parks is sold and I’m almost out of the high country. The last of my stuff will go into temporary storage this week. I’ve been busy trying to line up a place to live in the East Valley where I can teach in my home and still be close enough to the music store that the commute is not too onerous. I had hoped to have a place rented this week and to make a smooth transition directly out of Parks, but there will probably be a slight gap. I’m still narrowing down the housing options and should have that done in the next week to two weeks. It’s been great fun staying with my friends, but I’m anxious to get back into my own place again.

So far, I’ve built my student roster up to one third of my goal and, as I’ve seen happen before, the rate of new signups is starting to accelerate. I should have a full teaching load before May. I’m really enjoying teaching again and happy to have focused specifically on acoustic guitar. I’ve been getting some super students. I’ve found some other musicians to jam with; my repertoire is continuing to increase. New experiments on guitar nails, too, which I will elaborate on soon.

I’ve met a great guy and we’re having a lot of fun together – from visiting the Phoenix Art Museum to having a snowball fight in his front yard the last time I came back down to Phoenix from the high country. It’s unusual to find someone who has so many interests in common with me, and who is smart, articulate, and playful, too. I’m smiling a lot these days!

As I drove across Garland Prairie last week, the light of a full moon illumined the snow and the pines, casting deep shadows across the frozen ground. It was a beautiful and a bittersweet sight. The song of a great horned owl greeted me as I got out of my car and crunched through the snow to the door.

My plan was to continue packing my belongings, but most of the time ended up being spent running around Flagstaff dealing with the buyer, title agent, insurance agent…and getting some heat tape to keep my pipes from freezing again. Temperatures have been very cold, dipping below zero several nights in a row.

In a few days I won’t be a property owner in the high country anymore. My focus will be back on building my business, filling in with other work as needed, meeting new people, and making new friends. That is as it should be, but I will miss the high country, the pines, the wildlife, and being close by to family and old friends. I can’t help but feel a little pang.

Still, new horizons beckon and I’ve been having some unexpected fun in my life. I’ve met some very nice guys down here in the Valley and have had a couple of dates recently. As I write this post, it’s raining outside, as it has been all day. I know that soon the desert will be in bloom, alive with colorful wildflowers. And, there are friendships blossoming in my life right now, even the possibility of romance. Who knows what may follow the high country snow melt and the desert rains?

Except You Become as Little Children

I now have some small taste of what it is like to be a celebrity. Yesterday afternoon I got mobbed at the pet store…

I’d better get used to having enthusiastic “munchkins” jumping up and down and hanging onto my legs, for when I walked into the Flagstaff Petland yesterday to drop off some CDs for my sister-in-law, I was immediately spotted by my niece and two nephews. I barely knew what hit me.

What a blast! I got a tour of the whole store from three small children who were each trying to pull their aunt towards their own particular favorite animal. Rabbits, mice, hermit crabs, puppies, goldfish, cockatiels – every critter got a visit. And I got a lesson in seeing life through the eyes of a child again. What a gift.

So Much Stuff

The logic of an arsonist suddenly makes a whole lot more sense to me after several days of packing up to move, especially since I have been plagued by a cold for the whole duration. I’m tired and cranky. How could one person accumulate so many possessions – so much JUNK – in twelve years? Why didn’t I just keep that vow of poverty?

Hey, it’s cold out; the humidity is up. A bonfire seems like a mighty fine idea. There’s a snowstorm on the way and I could have a nice, warm, safe fire out in the middle of the acre. But that wouldn’t address the issue of choosing what to destroy and what to sustain.

So much stuff. So many decisions. That’s the crux of it.

The things I need for everyday maintenance are easy enough to decide on – kitchenware, clothes, linens, office supplies, basic household tools. The items I need for work are easy enough to identify. The things that are more difficult to sort into “Keep” or “Pitch” piles are the objects of sentimental value, the gifts, the beautiful but useless things that might have once delighted the eye but now seem to cry out, “Fragile!”

Most difficult of all are the things that hopes and dreams are made of. Books, art supplies, yarn – things that whisper of cozy evenings spent on a fun project or caught up in another time and place, weekends dedicated to creative ideas. Siren songs. Should I plug my ears with wax, or like Odysseus, tie myself to the mast? Or will I (once again) pack up EVERYTHING, and like some latter day Atlas carry it all with me?

So far, I have given a lot of things away. Plants, furniture, redundant items, electronics – I’ve gone through the easy stuff. I’ve got a pile of things for Goodwill and for the used book store. But there is oh so much left. Now comes the hard part…

Auspicious Signs

The New Year is starting off with a bang! While my packing up the place in Parks is going slower than planned due to the fact that I have a cold, I may already have a buyer. I also got a confirmation call this afternoon for a gig playing at an attorney’s conference in February. (Things are finally starting to move on the music performance front. Woohoo!) And, though I haven’t been working on the novel at all lately, I had a major plot breakthrough this morning. Evidently my subconscious has been toiling away on it, unbeknownst to me.

The unexpected gift from my deeper mind was particularly exciting. The two closing scenes that it delivered up to me as a sort of “mental movie” as I groggily awakened solved several character motivation problems and tied up some loose ends in continuity – no mean feat when you are dealing with beings that bend time and travel between different dimensions. I was ready to start writing immediately, but had to limit my enthusiasm to some brief outlining. Snow is expected here in the high country and I’ve got waaay too much packing and cleaning to do before I have to beat it back down to Phoenix on Friday morning to stay ahead of the approaching storm.