Artisans Beyond Borders Fall/Winter 2020 Newsletter

Now that we are heading into the Winter of the Pandemic, asylum-seekers and their families waiting in México are hanging on by the slimmest thread. Yet, artisans beyond borders are undeterred. Each is creating a future of her own composition in life-affirming color and resilient faith.

Small but mighty hummingbird of the south, aztec symbol of strength in life’s struggle.

Our wonderful new Logo created by student Aurora Nicole Ambrose from the University of Arizona School of Art class in Designing for Community & social good.

Threading Hope

     Now that we are heading into the Winter of the Pandemic, asylum-seekers and their families waiting in México are hanging on by the slimmest thread. Yet, artisans beyond borders are undeterred. Each is creating a future of her own composition in life-affirming color and resilient faith. Together, they ply that slim thread into a braid of hope as strong as Spider Silk. The chance to apply for Asylum in the U.S., could be just around the corner. They will wait as long as it takes.

Profiles in Courage and Creativity

Patricia Zaragoza Martinez newly embroidered bag. Find the all new work from the artisans at the Etsy BordandoEsperanza Shop.

     “For me, all the memories are beautiful,” says Patricia Zaragoza Martinez, a 32-year-old single mother of three whose favorite things to embroider are flowers and fruit. Her family has always embroidered the natural manta cloth they use as satchels for wrapping warm tortillas in. In addition to the recuerdos tranquilos –tranquil memories of home that she fondly recalls when embroidering, Patricia now has a measure of personal agency.

     Patricia’s garden in Guerrero, México was a field of flowers and fruit trees, they tended until organized crime came to their beloved part of the world, killed male members of her family, and threatened to kidnap the children. Patricia and her kids and a now fatherless nephew fled through the forest to Nogales, México, to seek asylum at the U.S. Port of entry. 

“It was very difficult for me to leave everything and be able to get here (to the border) because I come with very low resources and with my three children that are minors which makes it difficult to work. The support that the Artisans’ group gives us for our labor embroidering the mantas is for me a great help to feed my children,” Patricia says.

“Jesus and the Roses” by Patricia Zaragoza Martinez. Churches and Universities, Humanitarian and Cultural groups can arrange a Zoom viewing of the Artisans’ new faith-filled group exhibition: Bordando Esperanza: Devotional Retablos of Asylum

Spotlighting the artisanal embroidery of Patricia Zaragoza Martinez, also shines a light on one of ABB’s key partners: Border Outreach Coordinator Kat Smith, featured in “Embroidering Hope” We would not be able to receive artisans’ wares across the closed border without Kat’s on-going commitment to outreach.

 ArtisanS Beyond Borders new shop

     For now, they have this bit of work. It is not near enough to meet their family’s needs but it is something and people in the U.S. are beginning to discover the artisan’s Etsy shop. Zoom presentations by Artisans Beyond Borders Zoom also help bring people to the border to accompany, witness and support them.

     With the Etsy shop, they can get their work out there and buyers can choose their favorites. The makers are excited about designing and making new work – Market bags, mantas, and decorative guest towels. They watch the shop’s sales faithfully, and are lifted up each time someone makes a purchase.

Collector’s Corner

Embroidered Manta in the collection of Anita Tokos, Ohio

We extend our deep gratitude to Anita Tokos from Ohio, an ardent supporter of Artisans Beyond Borders from the start, who recently placed an order for 12 mantas for the holidays, our largest single order to date. Anita was raised in an immigrant family herself, and her words and the heart behind them, confer great respect for the other.

They arrived! … It was special to savor each manta, picturing who should have a particular one. True to my nature, I was a bit emotional by the time I got to the last one. Have always been moved to tears easily. I knew immediately the one for each of my daughters – fruit for Anne who loves to try new foods and cooking, a quiet floral for Andrea who is calming and gentle, and the Calla Lily for Amelia who loves that flower. Looking forward to giving them to my daughters, sister and friends…and keeping another for myself…”  

The purse is wonderful and so appreciated. I did not even see the other side with “Dios es Amor” until this evening. Thank you! …All are vibrant and beautiful. As with the first one I received and framed, all are as the holy cards of my childhood, calling me to prayer for each person who did the stitching… and those who make it possible for them to stitch.

Hope my Spanish is spelled correctly – almost typed “ricamo di speranza” – the Italian version (of Bordando Esperanza)! I knew my prayers in Italian before I knew them in English. Love how that stuff pops into my head. So on that note, be blessed in all the beautiful languages of the world…”

Anita welcomes an embroidered tapestry by an Artisan Beyond Borders into her home.

*Fans of Artisans Beyond Borders ~ We are just beginning to establish social media platforms. Please take a minute to open and like, favorite and follow: Etsy, FB, INSTA, Pinterest, Youtube. It is very much appreciated by the makers.

“Hope hallows the heartache and activates a sacred imagination.” Sr. Julia Walsh writes in the Global Sisters Report. We’re here and it is hard but it is holy, and we are heading somewhere mysterious, and it is holy too…”

Artisans Beyond Borders Summer/Fall, 2020 Newsletter

Women, Fiber art, and Immigrants ~ Profiles in Courage and Creativity

The Artisans ~ Profiles in Courage & Creativity

Last month we profiled Irma Pablo (above), an indigenous weaver and long-time embroiderer from Guatemala whose faith sustains her while she waits at the border with her toddler to apply for asylum. This month, in the face of COVID, she shares her embroidered prayer: If I am contagious Lord, may it be with your Faith and your Love.

41-year-old Eleuteria Ibarra Martinez, from Guerrero, Mexico, also learned to embroider at a young age from her beautiful mother, may she rest in peace.

In her own words, she writes:

First of all, a greeting to each one of you. Being here is a bit of suffering because we leave behind all the beautiful moments of coexistence, of peace and tranquility, in our beautiful towns. As an indigenous woman, I am proud of my roots, although for others I am an ignorant and Indian woman, as the mestizos tell us. Being humiliated before society for the simple fact of being what I am “Indigenous,” is sad. Now what brought me to where I am is not knowing about the men who believe they have the power to decide if they let you live or not, it is sad. Living in fear, afraid and thinking you are not going to wake up because they have you there watching over you, you do not live in ease, everything scares you, the streets, the roads, and other towns not even to go out to travel. The only option that you have is to go out to look for protection to other countries where my children, my husband, and I can be safe. Because the truth is, I don’t want to lose anyone else from my family since losing a loved one is a pain so strong that it is difficult to overcome. Months ago, after they assassinated my Father-in-law, we fled from them, but God is so great that he would protect us and bless us in this place that we are at today and thank you to each one of you, for your valued support, Kino Kitchen, San Juan Bosco shelter, Panchito and his Christina (Voices from the Border), and you (Artisans Beyond Borders) for supporting us. From my heart, thank you and God bless you always.

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“Peace is in us” embroidery by asylum-seeker Eleuteria Ibarra Martinez at the U.S.-Mexico border during the pandemic, 2020.

The most difficult things about being here is how to pay the rent, worrying about our safety here on the border, and not having any news regarding our asylum application. Nuestro proyecto – our project: bordando esperanza –  embroidering hope, also helps a lot with food, water, and electricity since it is most necessary.

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Embroidery on Manta cloth, asylum-seeker Eleuteria Ibarra Martinez,        U.S. – Mexico border, 2020

When I am embroidering, I feel happy and I forget for a moment all the bad that is happening to us. It expands my creativity and brings me love and much tranquility inside my heart.

Women, fiber art, and Immigrants

Many of you have asked how Artisans Beyond Borders has managed to survive much less thrive through a long summer slammed by politics and the pandemic at the border. We survived because of donors like you and like Patricia Zimmerman from Portland, Oregon who donated her entire stimulus check,  benefitting 20+ families for a full month.

Patricia (Pat), a serious handweaver, heard about ABB through the Weaving a Real Peace (WARP) newsletter. She says it hits all three of her hot buttons: “Women, fiber art, and immigrants” and when she received handpicked mantas in the mail, she was hooked.

Like many of us, Pat takes it personally. She told us how frustrating it is to witness a long-time friend unable to get a green card to work legally in the U.S. though he is married to a U.S. Citizen. “He and his family are the most decent, hardworking, and honest people I know,” she says.

Pat’s generous offering is the single largest donation we have had to date. Donations through the website this summer have been a godsend to the women and men we serve, especially now. While most of us can stay safe in our homes here in the U.S., asylum-seekers in Nogales feel blessed to have found a rare bed at a shelter for themselves and their kids. A few have been able to find a cheap room to rent. Others bed down each night at the town’s bus station.

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New ABB Materials Fund

Embroidery and crochet materials people donated from all over the U.S. sustained ABB ever since we began in the summer of 2019. Some needleworking materials were new and still in the package, and some were wonderful vintage finds from thrift stores. Unfortunately, non-colorfast vintage floss bled in the wash one too many times. We still had enough new unopened materials in our stash to get through the worst of the pandemic this summer and the artisans were grateful for the supplies.  Now that the shops are opening up again in Nogales, artisans can pick out their own materials from their favorite fabric store(s) such as the more culturally aligned (and in many ways, superior) Mexican thread they love.

Going forward, part of your donations will be going to the Artisans Materials Fund so they can purchase their own embroidery materials and supplies in-country. We want the makers to have as much agency and as many choices as possible and we want to support the local economy in Nogales.

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Artisans Beyond Borders News

Design for social justice & community well-being 

ABB has been chosen by the University of Arizona School of Art “Clients in the Community” class to collaborate on “Designing for Good,” with the focus on Social Justice: how good design makes a difference in the well-being of the community. From designing ABB ephemera to new social media, we are thrilled to work with such talented young designers, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Artisans Beyond Borders ZOOM Presentations to begin in October

Starting with a ZOOM PowerPoint presentation for the Migration Ministries Committee at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio, ABB is happy to offer congregations, social justice committees, Artisan Guilds, and college-age students a 30 minute PowerPoint presentation of our inspiring origin story with a Q & A and a digital “trunk show” of available mantas for each presentation. Participants can choose their favorites and when possible learn more about the individual artisans who created the work.

The resilience of the makers in the face of insurmountable odds humbles us beyond measure and inspires us to do better. Their personal stories bring the truth of migration to the table and give us the chance to understand how current policies impact families on our Southern border. To arrange a presentation for your group, email us at Artisans Beyond Borders

In truth and grace,

Tucson (and beyond) Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders.

*Translations by Elizabeth Gaxiola, Instructor & Doctoral Candidate, College of Education, University of Arizona.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe ~ stitching sanctuary with Artisans Beyond Borders

“While she waits at the U.S.~Mexico border to apply for asylum, Irma stitches Our Lady of Guadalupe ~ Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the spirit and soul of our cross-border cultural arts program.”

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Made for Artisans Beyond Borders

Irma Pablo from Guatemala opens our portfolio of featured artisans at Artisans Beyond Borders.  While she waits at the U.S.~ Mexico border to apply for asylum, Irma stitched our Lady of Guadalupe ~ Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the spirit and soul of our cross-border cultural arts initiative.

Irma learned to weave traditional huipils at a young age in school and embroider servilletas to hold tortillas on the table. “I am proud to make these mantas. she says. “It brings me peace and patience.”

In the rural area of Guatemala where she lived, Irma shepherded sheep and other animals on the farm. When her way of life was threatened, she fled for the border with her husband and her child. Her dream is to achieve asylum in the United States for a better future for her daughter.

For more information about makers and their beautiful work,  collectors, and upcoming offerings Sign up and receive the periodic Friends Newsletter at Artisans Beyond Borders or here at Art and Faith in the Desert.

 

 

Artisans Beyond Borders missing family today and every day on Father’s Day, 2020

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Artisans Beyond Borders asylum seekers missing family, embroider together in a shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

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Honoring our male Artisans ~ Asylum seeker David Aguilar’s beautiful embroidery.

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Artisan Beyond Borders Asylum seeker David Aquilar on the floor of the shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico designing a manta to embroider.

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“Little Virgin Guide my Steps” original embroidery by Asylum seeker Israel Hernandez at the U.S.- Mexico border in the middle of the pandemic.

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Gentleman Embroiderer Israel Herdandez on the U.S. – Mexico border, Father’s Day 2020

Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders

Last Summer, I answered the call in this article: Migrant Women fleeing violence find Beauty and Healing in Embroidery

Over the next few months, that call flowered into Artisans Beyond Borders, a primary driver for creativity and grace, dignity, and economic empowerment for vulnerable asylum seekers in Nogales, Mexico.

The Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders offer presentations and the artisans work in the U.S.  It is a joyful initiative operating in a grim arena on the border, a rare project that works. Let’s do everything we can to keep it going. Join us. Become one of a growing number of Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders. 

“Draw What You Love” Dibuja lo Que Amas

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“Draw What you Love, Dibuja lo que Amas,” with refugee youth at the Casa Alitas monastery shelter, a philosophy that embraces hope and healing is foundational to our Arts and Activities program. We promote well-being and foster resiliency in the short term with activities that engage our guests and lend a bit of calm in the chaos of family displacement.

“Hope & Healing: The Art of Asylum at the Monastery”

“Hope & Healing: The Art of Asylum at the Monastery” is an exhibit of Artwork created by young Asylum seekers from Central and South America since 2014 at the Casa Alitas short-term shelter in Tucson. In 2019, the Casa Alitas shelter expanded into Tucson’s historic Benedictine Monastery re-purposed to accommodate larger groups of guests.

A former sewing room in the monastery once used by the Benedictine Sisters to cut cloth for their habits was converted into an Art & Activities classroom, a rare blessing, unavailable to most bare-bones shelters at the U.S. border. The Activities room is a clean, orderly, light-filled space for children and adults, a pocket of peace to experience temporary respite, make art, and study essential English.

Since opening in 2014, Casa Alitas observed that refugee guests would use whatever was available, scraps of paper, pencils, and crayons to draw. All the walls at the small shelter became covered with spontaneous art, drawings that expressed gratitude and hope for a safe and secure future in their new country.

Instinctively, we human beings express ourselves through shape and color, line and form when language is not sufficient to explain or describe our experiences. Within the refugee community, where many guests speak indigenous dialects only and verbal communication can be challenging, the universal language of Art is a saving grace.

In the monastery, guests draw while they wait on line for an intake interview, for something to eat, or for a ride to the bus station and the children draw all the time. Like the branches of the great tree of life, Artwork by guests has leafed out to cover the walls of all the common areas of the monastery.

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Draw What You Love

Young guests draw what’s in their hearts. They draw prayers to God for having spared them and multiple thanks to volunteers. They paint homes, loved ones, and pets left behind. Drawings rich in symbols – paintings of birds in flight, volcanoes erupting, roads and rivers, vehicles and barriers – testify to the trauma of migration and family displacement. Yet, through it all, we see the color of hope: bright flowers and rainbows and smiling faces: hope for family reunification in a new country, free of fear.

The deceptively simple prompt to “Draw what you Love, “arose from seeing and listening to what is most important and most healing to our guests. The children draw and paint quietly, reverently with singular focus and intention. They are intent on conveying what cannot be said in words. Their feelings rise up and through their art regardless and their visual testimonies are honest, authentic, and inarguable.

The very act of art making, trusting in spontaneity and mastering materials empowers youth who feel powerless in the face of migration and family separation. In turn, the language of line and the poetry of painting helps us imagine the lived experience of Mexican, Central, and South American refugees, the trauma and loss they’ve experienced, and the mystery and wonder of their faith against all odds.

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In this exhibit, viewers can also witness the beauty of feminine forbearance in the face of adversity through the handwork of our guests. Casa Alitas Art & Activities creates space for Home craft: contemplative needlework and cultural crafts that honor indigenous and familial skills, and support camaraderie among women.

A good example of this familial camaraderie is the Arizona Esperanza quilters who have made lap quilts for our guests since 2018. In 2019 they collaborated with Monastery Arts volunteers to gather the children’s art and thread their individual drawings into unified quilts of care and protection. The quilts displayed here are but a few of their offerings.

Perhaps the most profound power of the art in this exhibit lies in the frontier between the artist and the viewer. Deep in the borderlands of shared imagination, if we can get past our own filters and open ourselves up to the mystery of grace, through the art of our new neighbors and the fresh eyes of youth, we are able to transcend language, time, and geography.

Valarie Lee James, Volunteer, Casa Alitas Arts & Activities Coordinator Summer 2019, Tucson

 

From the Eyes of Babes: The Art of Asylum

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Give kids paper and crayons and they will give you their hearts. At Tucson’s Casa Alitas, a Catholic Community Services short-term shelter for immigrant families released from detention, kid’s artwork covers the largest wall in the house. Guileless and profound, art by immigrant children puts the border rhetoric of adults to shame.

Many of the immigrant children at Casa Alitas are refugees fleeing the unimaginable. Multiple drawings depicting houses and pets left behind, long roads traveled, and mountains and rivers crossed, testify to the trauma of wholesale familial displacement. As an Alitas volunteer and former art therapist, when I see images of fiery volcanos erupting and great tears filling a sky, I can’t help but remember other drawings I have seen by young burn patients who use whatever body part was left unburned, even if that meant their toes to grasp a paint brushes and crayons.

Read more…

The Path of the Migrant: Raw Reality through the Arts

This winter’s exhibit at Tucson’s YWCA has now closed but the powerful imagery displayed at “The Path of the Migrant: Raw Reality through the Arts,” continues to haunt. Never has the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words,” been so true as it is in this collection of graphics by artists around the world.

I am posting a few of the photos I took of the artwork to keep them in the public gaze. Current rhetoric around the issue of migration is too often reductive and soul-deadening. These images give the viewer the opportunity to drop into a place of depth behind the words, and through the eyes of these artists, quietly reflect on what migration and displacement looks like.

“Each artist has represented in a graphic way their personal conception of the migratory phenomenon, either by their own experience, by that experienced by a close relative, a friend, an acquaintance or by having learned through the media. Where the transit from the simple to the complex, from the playful to the harsh, from light to dark, is perceived. From what is proper to what is foreign, from action to contemplation and very likely from the present to the future.” …From the exhibit press release.

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“El Otra Lado de la Tortilla,” Maria José Balvenera, Mexico

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“Cuanto Falta?, How Much Left?” Manuel Yañez, MX

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“Buscando la Salida, Looking for the Exit,” Sergio Solis, Mexico

The acclaimed international poster art collection “LA MIGRACIÓN: una mirada a través del cartel”  originally featured in the 14th International Poster Biennial of Mexico in 2016, and promoted by the National Commission of Human Rights in Mexico, was curated from over 900 personal entries.

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Recovering the Mojo: When Secret Sky Island Springs Flourish

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Rare Slough Amberwing Damselfly photographed at Secret Sky Islands Spring, V. L. James 2018

“It’s a snout storm!” Vicki, a member of our group joked as we hiked into the fabled Sky Island mountains that transect the U.S. -Mexico border. It was the tail end of the monsoon season and the air was thick with butterflies, most notably the migratory American Snout.

Smaller than a monarch, the mottled grey, orange, and white butterfly is a phenomenon of nature. In 1921, a flock estimated at more than 6 billion “darkened the sky” over the Rio Grande. The migration lasted 18 days.   Here in Arizona, back in the 1940’s, locals say the lights had to be turned on in Tucson in the middle of the day to see amongst the Snouts.

I remember another outrageous display of migratory butterflies I witnessed one summer flying over my former property near the border: pale yellows up from Mexico, a sensual drift that filled the sky like lazy pollen fall, the epitome of natural magic.

“Must be because of all the rain we’ve had this season,” said Birdie, another member of our group. Along with a parade of wildflowers, the hillsides are rich with newly greened thornless acacia shrubs and hackberry bushes

“Hackberry bushes are the American snout’s host plants,” said Vicki.

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American Snout Butterflies on a Desert Hackberry Host Plant, photographed at a Sky Islands Spring, V. L. James 2018

It’s a pleasure to share company with naturalists who are keen to identify plants, bird calls, and insects.  Birdie is a former biology teacher and local resident; Vicki with her husband Gerry continue to volunteer with the Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association after long careers in the National Park Service.

Together, we are trekking to the natural spring my partner Steph and I adopted through Sky Island Alliance’s Adopt-a-Spring Program. This is our final visit monitoring the spring’s on-going health; it’s water quality and flow, flora and fauna. We will pass on what we’ve learned to Sky Island volunteers Birdie, Vicki, and Gerry, the new stewards of the spring.  Through each season of the next year or more, they will play a crucial role in maintaining this vital wildlife corridor in the borderlands.

Joining us is Rich Bailowitz, an Entomologist and co-author of the book “A Field Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Arizona and Sonora.”  He is always on the look-out for new species and he will not be disappointed today.

“I was a butterfly freak first,” Rich said. But when U.S Fish and Wildlife Service asked me to do another order of insects besides butterflies I chose aquatic insects rather than terrestrial and ended up writing the book.”

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Rich Bailowitz, Co-Author of “A Field Guide to the Damselflies and DragonFlies of Arizona and Sonora” identifying a tiny Damselfly, Sky Islands Spring, Photograph V.L. James 2018

On the way up the hillside, Rich pointed out an orange and black butterfly with white spots – an Empress Leilia – hugging a hackberry. We also spotted a Mexican yellow alighting on one of the thornless acacia shrubs.

Gerry stopped in front of me, cocked his head, and listened intently. “Do you hear that? he asked smiling. “I think it’s a Cassin’s sparrow.”

The rainy season plus the sparrow’s irresistible need to breed could have brought out this secretive resident of the Southwest grasslands. We could also hear mighty cicadas, the ubiquitous “Saints of Summer” in the Sonoran Desert, washing over us in waves, building to a thundering crescendo, then subsiding abruptly.

Large Sonoran grasshoppers that we thought would die back over the summer flit back and forth in front of us, revitalized with the monsoon rains. They were everywhere in the ground cover, like fibers in the wall-to-wall carpet of common purslane and grama grasses covering the desert floor.

On top of the hill, we looked down into the cool cleft of the spring hidden in a grove packed with sycamore trees, cottonwoods, willows, and walnut. Vicki noticed a large nest camouflaged in the canopy of the tallest cottonwood. I wondered if the nest belonged to the grey hawk we spotted here last time, but the nest is too high to identify.

“It’s good for the hawk that the nest remains hidden,” Vicki said.  “It needs to remain a mystery,”

Later, we heard it, the scolding screech of the hawk, maybe aggrieved at the encroach of humans upon its private domain.

The spring was as monsoon green as expected. Tall cattails shot up from one of the pools and plump grasses grew from another. At the first pool, wild grape vines circled around flowering Desert Cotton, a host plant for desert moths.  In the spring there is no denying the primal relationships between every living thing. All life in the spring is hosted, or it will not exist.

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Right away, Rich noticed a damselfly in the Ciénaga surrounding the spring; a stunning springwater dancer. The entomologist Odonata-spotting vision is as alert and practiced as the hawk. Odonata, the ancient order of carnivorous insects that dragonflies and damselflies belong to, have been found in fossils dating back to 325 million years, around the time dinosaurs began to appear. The word Odonata, derived from “odonto,” the Greek word for tooth, refers to the strong teeth found on the mandibles of most adult Odonata.

I learned to tell other-worldly dragonfly and damselflies apart. Dragonflies are mostly shorter with thicker bodies and huge eyes (think The Fly) that practically wrap around the whole face. Damselflies have ethereal, twig-like bodies. Their eyes are large too but distinctly separated. The difference in wing size and position is the key to a clear identification. The dragonflies’ wings are larger and perpendicular like an airplane at rest while damselflies’ narrower wings come together above the body.

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A Great Spreadwing Damselfly, Sky Islands Spring, Photograph by V.L.James 2018

While the others in our group measured the length, width, and depth of the ever-changing water level of the spring’s top pool, Rich trekked to the bottom pool of the vertical seep, his large white butterfly net outstretched. Each will be quickly identified and then released. With practice, he’s developed the sensitive dexterity needed to grasp and safely immobilize tiny insects in the hand before letting them go.

One of the first found was a black and white damselfly, an extremely uncommon species found only in the Arizona borderlands, the only place it’s ever been recorded.

“If anyone wants to see this Damselfly,” Rich said, “they have to come to southeastern Arizona.”

“Plus, this one only comes out in the morning when there is dim light or when a storm is coming,” he said as he looked up at the darkening sky overhead.

In no short order, Rich found a red Neon Skimmer Dragonfly, a Great Spreadwing, the largest damselfly in the region, a Lavender Dancer and a bright blue Spine-Tipped Dancer. He then spots the rarest find of the day: a diminutive Slough Amberwing Damselfly. Altogether, Rich identified eleven species of Dragonflies and Damselflies that day, two of them new.  After all his years of field research, Rich still shakes his head in wonder

As Steph showed the new stewards how to find and chart water flow in the Spring’s bottom pool, Rich pulled out a field journal and noted his findings before they could be forgotten.

Preserving the Mystery

Our work at the spring finished, we follow Birdie to the end of the seep where we will all hike out. At a fork in the arroyo, I decided to veer down a path less taken. There, in the bottomland, I found a mound of deer bones, a recent kill, a reminder that we are walking in lion country. With countless caves pocketing the cliffs and ribbons of hidden springs, the Sky Island mountains of southeast Arizona host cougar and bobcat, ocelot and jaguar. Besides aquatic and terrestrial insects, there is much more here than meets the eye. What remains hidden and left alone stands a good chance of surviving.

“The last time I saw this spring, at least a decade ago, it was beaten down by cattle,” Birdie said. “Now that the cattle are no longer here, the spring has reverted back to its natural state and it’s recovering beautifully.”

The danger, of course, is that humans will not protect a paradise we don’t know exists. Taking great care not to disturb, volunteer naturalists gain rare access into our hidden world and they are reporting back. Regional guides like the “A Field Guide to the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Arizona and Sonora” help us identify and understand what we see there.

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Gerry, Sky Island Volunteer and Entomologist Rich Bailowitz, Butterfly net in hand, Sky Islands Spring, Photo by V.L.James 2018

Steph and I miss the spring already, but we know we are leaving it in good hands. As we learned more about its native flora and fauna over the last year, we experienced profound connection, healing a primal wound of separation we human beings are often unaware we carry. The spring gave us much more than we were ever able to give her.

Climbing up and out of the arroyo, up hillsides of blue wildflowers and pink velvet pod mimosas, we heard a sudden rush of wind in the canyon behind us. Seconds later it began to pour.

“Rain in the desert is a blessing,” said Gerry. To be rained upon in the desert is to be twice blessed.”

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Sky Island Volunteers hike to hidden Natural Springs in Southeast Arizona,  Photo V.L.James 2018

To volunteer go to Adopt-a-Spring Monitoring at Sky Island Alliance: https://www.skyislandalliance.org/volunteer-get-involved/volunteer-position-descriptions/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessed are the Makers: Devotional Art on the Border

In this time of shocking family separation and violence against the most vulnerable among us, we are often paralyzed by sorrow and a loss of faith. Creativity and the Acts of Devotion offer us a path to healing the rift, individually and collectively.

Published by Kosmos International, picked up by OpenDemocracy.org., then licensed under Creative Commons: The Migrant quilt is the story of how women on the U.S./MX border are taking the matter into their own hands…

https://www.kosmosjournal.org/kj_article/the-migrant-quilt/