Saturday, October 20, 2012

Anatomies of Yearning: A Moment With Creosote

Riding by "extraordinarily common", public art by coLAB Studio inspired by the common creosote, at Evelyn Hallman Park, Tempe
(my video from riding the Crosscut canal path may provide a relevant sound track for this post)

I don't recall my first moment of consciousness, and I don't believe I will be able to recall my last. This is disconcerting to me, or more precisely, disorienting, when I reflect upon it. For this is my apparent lot in life: to be an analyzer, a measurer, a mindful child of reason, a plotter from A to Z who can't reckon his own A, and won't be able to reflect on his own Z. Consciousness itself is limited and impermanent, as far as I can tell. Our knowledge of our own is time- and otherwise-limited, and far from perfect, while our understanding of others' is so tenuous (save for whatever commonality we may eke out) as to render any feeling of really knowing another insupportable. Or so it would seem.

But, on the other hand, we seem to have worked out ways. Methods and techniques. Psychological and linguistic, chemical and pheremonical, artistic and non-verbal, supra-analytical and organic, somehow we sometimes get across. For example, we have creosote, that common, extraordinary plant of the desert.

Today's fare: I studied the sculpture, ate the apple, and read the book

On a previous post about another work of art, I wrote, "...but I find for me, riding my bicycle grants me the most immediate access to that natural zest, the appetite for the possible. Rain clouds in the desert, of course, are the essence of what-could-be, for when water falls on these parched lands everything brightens and greens, plumps and blooms, and the creosote perfumes the arroyos, and the cactus wren calls WRACK WRACK WRACK WRACK and this cyclist seeks out mud to splatter himself with."

Not only does its aromatic resin lend a characteristic perfume after a desert rainfall, it also makes itself known in the summer heat. On hot rides and on hikes after a storm I find myself immersed in that aroma, and if you do those things and others like them, you know it, too, without me trying to explain what it smells like, which I would fail at, anyway. Before looking at these sculptures up close, I grabbed a handful of creosote leaves, and crushed them into my skin. Cupping my hand around my nose, I closed my eyes and breathed in deep. If you know what I smelled at that moment then you know what I thought, too, or some of it, without me having to say what it was, which in itself is rather amazing. Not only because of words' failure to describe it.  

Bip with Carradice saddle bag (book, apple, camera carrier) leaning against Flower Stamen pedestal

Explanatory and expandatory texts attached to each piece

Young leaf

Seed pod

Pre-flower bud with shadow, path, and saguaros

Creosote can live a long time, I learned from the Seed Pod caption. One nearby specimen (not the one I rubbed some resin off of, mind you) is said to be 2000 years old. The passage of time, the gulf between consciousnesses including our own with itself, the importance of ordinary, small things such as characteristic desert plants, and the perfume they sometimes emit, a place with art to pause and ponder such things. 

A time and setting to color the reading of a book about transforming the mind. I bit into the apple eagerly, and it was delicious, and sweet.

The title of this post comes from "Creosote Poem" by Ron Phares written to accompany this sculpture, and appearing on it.


  1. You're very esoteric (in a good way) and a pleasure to read.

    1. Thanks maccandace. It's my little reflective pool. I filter a lot, and keep wondering if we couldn't be better, tomorrow.

  2. As a niece of Evelyn Hallman, whose favorite of all plants was the creosote (and a fifth generation Arizonan), I think you for this lovely work.

    1. I love that park, and those sculptures. It's almost always quiet there, and you never know what birds are going to be handing around the water's edge.

  3. LOVE this, and the cacti<3 thx for including the link from your recent post. enjoy your voice and pictures, and of course all the phx views through your eyes

    1. Thank you m e l i g r o s a. Colab studio does amazing work. I ride through this park often, and it always touches me as a place of serenity with small reflective art that just enhances that sensation.


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