12/28/13 - We had a beautiful fall here in the Valley. Since the weather is so nice lots of outdoor activities are planned - many of them at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Our long-time friend Joanna visited us in early November. We planned her visit around the time that the Chihuly exhibit opened at the Desert Botanical Gardens. Dale Chihuly is a blown-glass sculptor whose outdoor exhibits complement the landscaping in which they are installed. Joanna & we are great fans of the artist & we timed our visit to the exhibit so we could see it in the daylight & then after the sun set. It was stunning. An added bonus occurred when we toured the exhibit in the dark & were the sole visitors strolling through the gardens.
In late November we went to a class at the gardens - Saguaro Walking Sticks. The Saguaro Cactus is native to the Sonoran southwest (Arizona & northern Mexico) & only grows at low desert altitudes. The plant can grow to be over 70 feet tall & as much as 15-200 years old. It won't sprout an arm until it is 50-70 years old. In AZ there are strict laws around harvesting, collection or destruction of Saguaros. When a Saguaro cactus dies, it leaves a sturdy skeleton of woody ribs. The skeletons may not be taken from public lands but if a private homeowner has one, they can sell or give it away. The teacher for our class had purchased many Saguaro ribs & we got to select one to make into a walking stick. We sanded & sanded & sanded until they were smooth. We adorned them with copper, silver, leather & stone bits, to make them our own. They are very special pieces indeed.
During the holiday season the gardens set up Luminaria throughout the many acres of gardens. From the day after Thanksgiving until the end of December, each night they hand-light over 8000 candles inside the Luminaria bags. Visitors stroll the paths and listen to musical entertainers along the way - Handbell ensembles, Dickinson carolers, Native American flute & story-telling, Mariachi bands. There is hot cider or hot cocoa or wine that you can sip while you sit & take in the music & the gardens. It has become a holiday tradition for us to attend a Luminaria night during the season. This year we attended on a warm evening, and the display was made all the more special because the Chihuly exhibit was still up (it will be until mid-May). A lovely end to 2013.