In Search of Autumn Leaves

This article first appeared on ARHtistic License last December.

When you live just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, you don’t see a lot of fall leaves. So last Friday my daughter Katie and I traveled an hour to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, one of our favorite spots for hiking and for picture taking, to see if we could find some. The Arboretum officially celebrates its Fall Foliage Finale on Thanksgiving weekend, but we purposely waited a week to avoid the crowds. We took the High Trail into the wilder part of the Arboretum to get a nice workout.

Even before we reached the trail, we were rewarded with orange and yellow hues, but most of the trees were green. I don’t know if most of the trees in the Arboretum just don’t change, or if our night temperatures in the 40s just aren’t cool enough to trigger death.

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck
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As you can see, our skies were cloudy, which doesn’t often happen here. In fact, we’ve had very few rainy days this year until recently. (As I’m writing this on Monday afternoon, hail is failing outside my window and lightning and thunder are making their presence known.)

Here’s Katie crossing a stream. (Last time we were at the Arboretum, the stream was dry.)

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Just beyond the stream was a magnificent example of autumn color.

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The views on the high trail were gorgeous.

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Crossing the stream on an extension footbridge:

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Katie on the bridge.

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On the other side of the bridge, the trails are more civilized.

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Look at the blazing colors on this tree:

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Katie:

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And me, with trekking pole:

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

A little stone cottage:

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A pomegranate:

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Look at the gnarly trunk of this tree:

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And look at this crazy curlicue branch:

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This little boy and his donkey are sculptures:

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My daughter took this photo with her phone. Doesn’t she have a great eye?

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Photo by Katie Huelsenbeck

This was our third trip to the Arboretum together. You can see pictures of our other trips here and here.

Unless stated otherwise, photographs in this article are by ARHuelsenbeck.

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St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part III: The Gardens

St. Anthony’s Monastery is located in the desert outside Florence, Arizona. The monastery’s water comes from three wells, each a quarter-mile deep, which turn the grounds into an oasis.

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I’ve never seen bougainvillea this color.

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Adding to the beauty of the plants are the many outdoor structures and decorative brickwork.

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And the fountains.

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And the statuary.

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The monks also grow several kinds of citrus, and olives.

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If you haven’t seen St. Anthony’s Monastery Part I and Part II, check them out.

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St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part II: the Iconography

One of the highlights of my trip to St. Anthony’s Monastery last fall was the many icons displayed in the church and the chapels. They were brought over from Greece. Some of them look to me like hand-painted originals, others like fine art reproductions, though I don’t know for sure. I don’t remember in which buildings most of these icons were located.

I’ve never been where so many icons are in one place. I’m fascinated by this Greek and Eastern Orthodox art form honoring Jesus, the saints, and the patriarchs. I hesitate to identify most of the images below, because I’d just be guessing. I am not knowledgeable about the symbolism, and I don’t read Greek, so I can’t decipher the writing on the icons.

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In many of the icons, the thumb of the right hand (or both hands) touches the tip of the ring finger. I wonder what the significance of that is.

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The picture below reminds me very much of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Look at the eyes in the cup below.

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Is it just me, or are a lot of the faces below the same?

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Lovely mosaic:

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The icon below is also a mosaic. I’m pretty sure this is St. George. He’s defeating the dragon. And it’s located just outside the St. George Chapel.

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The next three pictures are closeups of St. George so you can see the details. Amazing craftsmanship.

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The following two mosaic angels are on the exterior of the St. George Chapel.

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I love the Madonna and Child below. Any parent will recognize the backward arching of the infant.

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I took another picture at an angle, because I wanted to get the Mother’s sweet face without the hanging candle holder right in front of it. Unfortunately, the angle caused a distortion that makes the Baby look all wonky.

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This magnificent painted crucifix is in St. Seraphim’s Chapel.

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This icon is also in St. Seraphim’s Chapel. Could it be Seraphim himself? Isn’t it interesting that there are notes stuck behind the picture? Could they be prayer requests?

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One more post coming about St. Anthony’s: the Monastery gardens.

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St. Anthony’s Monastery, Part I: the Architecture

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The main church, St. Anthony’s

In the summer of 1995, six monks traveled from Mount Athos in Greece to the Arizona desert to build a monastery. They acquired 165 acres outside Florence, Arizona, and began construction. Today, St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery houses 65 monks.

The monastery is truly an oasis in the desert, physically and spiritually. Portions of the facility are open to the public. There is a strict dress code, and visitors are asked not to engage the monks.

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The interior is highly ornamented in the Byzantine style. The altar is located behind the red curtain and is off-limits to visitors.

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The candles in the massive brass chandelier are lit on major feast days.

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Tall wooden seats line the walls of the church. Normally, worshippers stand during the service, but they can lower the seats and sit if necessary.

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The floors are mostly plain tiles, with a few areas of decorative motifs including marble and granite.

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Some additional furnishings in the church:

Intricate carving on the bishop’s throne
Monastery; angel candlestick
An angel adorns a tall standing candlestick.

There are several chapels on the monastery campus. Below is St. Nicholas’ Chapel.

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Look at the beautiful detailing of the tower.

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The two photographs below are of the interior of St. Nicholas’ Chapel.

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Below is St. George’s Chapel, built in the Romanian style.

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Here is another view, showing the main entrance.

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The chapel has a magnificent wooden ceiling

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and a lovely carved and painted wooden crucifix in the Greek Orthodox style.

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Look at the lovely hand-embroidered hardanger curtain in the window.

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St. Demetrios’ Chapel’s architecture is reminiscent of rural Russia.

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The interior is small, but lovely.

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An icon rests on an expertly carved stand.

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I have lots more pictures of the monastery–enough for two more posts.

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Presence

Woman Rainy Window

Presence

when I notice my blessings—
an intricate weed blossom
a double rainbow
a check in the mail—
my burdens grow lighter
they float away altogether

I send up little prayers of gratitude
my heart is free
hurt is healed
the day brightens like a kiss

my God is close
close enough for me to sense His presence
to hear His sublime whisper
calming me with His love

©ARHuelsenbeck

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A Non-Traditional Blessing by Sister Ruth Marlene Fox, OSB

This prayer, written in 1985, seems especially apt today:

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. ~“A Non-Traditional Blessing” by Sister Ruth Marlene Fox, OSB

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Tongue Twister

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The Tortured Tongue

Tongue torturing, tasting, tantilizing
Sweet and sour, spicy and saucy
Bitter biter, bracken and broken
Hurting, healing, holding, beholden

Asparagus artichoke apple appetizer
Fortified frozen frankfurters fibrillating
Waxen wieners winking wine
Gasping grapes on vintage vine

Jelly jugular jumping jams
Purple plums, plump peppery peas
Cold cotton cordial corncob
Dark doggy dandy doorknob

Opulent operatic octopus Oz
Quaking query questioning quote
Mother mutton muttering mama
Loving lullaby lazy llama

Heartfelt history heavy handed
Racketeering registered rocket
Every electric election electron
Icicle iris intrinsic inspection

Kidding kitten kicking kitchen
Ugly umbrella unbearable umbrage
Yellow yucky yawning yak
Zillow willow whistle whack

©ARHuelsenbeck

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Portal

Open door


Portal

Every time I try something new
It’s like opening a portal.
What unfamiliar artifacts will I find?
What skills will I learn?
How will this new me fit?

Enamored with the possibilities,
I squeeze through the opening
Ignoring possible repercussions:
What are you doing here?
You don’t belong.

I’m an imposter
Only because I’m a novice.
Give me a chance.
I’ll show you my strength.
Let me astonish you with my tenacity.
Just don’t close the door on me.

Open up!
I’ve made my choice.
Now let me face the consequences.

©ARHuelsenbeck

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Heaven

I am a huge Beatles fan and I love almost everything John Lennon ever wrote. Except the lyrics to Imagine. This poem is a rebuttal of the song.

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believe there is a heaven

this world is closer to hell than I ever want to be
full of chaos and hate, murder and destruction
a polluted ecosystem wreaking revenge
with water and fire and wind and ice

if it weren’t for heaven, why would I endure
the pain, the scorn that is my lot,
the hardship, the illness, the loneliness
death would be the logical escape

but the truth is: we have a loving God
Who created the world in perfection
Who redeemed it with His own blood
Who longs to be our Companion forever

the One who determined the laws of nature
holds me safe in His arms
His Word comforts and consoles me
and that is where I find peace

©ARHuelsenbeck

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Pandemic Prayer

Child Praying

Dear God, Architect of the Universe and Great Physician, You rule the world with justice and mercy.

You are doing a thing now that we don’t understand, but we trust that You are working for our good. Through this trial we ask You to transform us into the people you created us to be. Give us what we need, and help us to share our resources. Forgive us when we fall short, and spare our loved ones.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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