Prescott, Pines, and August

Spending a day in Prescott in August is a wonderful break from the griddle-heat of Phoenix. At 5,600 feet, you get pine trees and big-leafed trees, green grass and flowering vines. I went to do an art project with a group of amazing kids–OK, college-age students–whose enthusiasm for creative work was refreshing as the cooler temperatures.

We did the spray-ink maps and found poetry, with great results. My main job was refilling the spray bottles–a sure sign of art enthusiasm. There were a total of 50 students, in two groups. One section took yoga first, and I think that that group was more ready to experiment, more open and relaxed.

So was I. I had arrived at the retreat center the night before, and took the time after dinner for a short walk before I set up the room.

The retreat center had once been a tuberculosis sanatorium (lots of those in Arizona because of the low humidity) and is now an Episcopal retreat. The cabins are rustic and spare–no TV, no fancy restaurants, no pool. But then again, lots of greenery, windows you can open at night, and fabulous night sky.

Altar in the open-air chapel

In the center of the cluster of cabins was an open air chapel. Pews, altar, and walls are hewn out of stone. I sat down for a moment of thought-gathering and felt great peace and love. Even if I’m not Episcopalian, the rocks didn’t seem to mind.

Pews and wall are all rock.

I’d guess the services are short here, the pews are rock-hard. Looking up, I saw the moon bracketed in the pines–it’s a gift to see these things. And if they had had a TV, I might have missed it.

One of the cabins had a set of shovels hanging on the outside wall. They aren’t snow shovels, so I imagine they are used for planting or digging fire breaks up here in the woods. I would have loved to show the cabin number, but I was pressed against a truck as far as I could, and it wasn’t moving.

The next morning, I took another walk and found some Queen Anne’s Lace. When I lived back East, it was the flower that signaled the end of summer. When the Queen Anne’s Lace started blooming, you began to think of boots and cold, windswept days not far off.

Seeing these today, I thought of how differently I think of the end of summer now. In mid-September, the days become noticeably shorter, and the sun begins to lose its power. Nights cool down, and even when the days are still hot, a cool night is a wonderful break.

The class was a lot of work, but I was glad for every minute of it–including the early morning and evening walks.

Quinn McDonald keeps a raw-art journal, and appreciates a break from weather so hot her arms stick to the pages.