Guest Post – Helen Walthier on Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum

My sister Helen travelled up from Arizona into Utah to explore the area around Moab. On her way, she stopped at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah. This is the site of a small but very good museum. Helen publishes her own blog on creativity and the creative process, but I asked if she would be a guest writer here to tell me about her experience at Edge of the Cedars. Here’s what she sent.

Following several days hiking in the spectacular Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park, I had the opportunity to explore the Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding, Utah on my way south. The park includes a very nice museum housed in an attractive building on the outskirts of a small rural town. Also on display here is an historic Chacoan Great House dwelling and Kiva next to the museum. They are part of a larger site that has intentionally been left unexcavated to preserve the site.

Museum second floor displays.

The museum houses an interesting collection of well-displayed artifacts from an assortment of civilizations in the American southwest. They feature historic pottery found in the Gallup, Chaco, Black Mesa, and Mesa Verde areas, among others. Well-presented displays include work with Black-on-white, Black-on-red, and Grayware from various periods. A 15 minute video offers history about the area and makes a good orientation to what you will see in the park.

Display showing pottery from many areas shown in the museum.

The ground floor provides an engaging display of some of their more unusual pieces including a black-on-white effigy vessel, thought to be a Mountain Sheep, and a black vessel filled with woven twine.

Part of what I found so interesting about this exhibit is that they include the stories of discovery for some of these amazing pieces. Many of them were discovered accidentally by lay people out hiking in the area. The Mountain Sheep effigy pot was seen hanging by a toe in a sage bush. One more rain and it would have crashed to the earth and been shattered.

Effigy vessel, thought to be in the form of a Mountain Sheep.

A single strand of twine contained in the black vessel happened to be sticking up from the ground in a cave. Hikers noticed the twine and uncovered the ancient pot. They notified the museum of their find.

Black vessel with twine

The main display of artifacts is on the second floor. It includes pottery, arrowheads, the fascinating remain of a Turkey feather blanket, with a modern version created for the museum by a Native American weaver. The main display room offers many pots, some interesting ones in triangular shapes thought to be depicting birds. The quality of design work, and patterning is fascinating.

Display of bird vessels.
Bird vessels, detail

In addition to pottery, the museum has a remarkable prized sash made with over a thousand intensely colored Macaw feathers. It is the only known one of its kind, and in fabulous condition. The feathers indicate trade with either Mexico or South America where the Macaw lived, but it was assembled in North America based on some of the materials used for construction of the garment.

Macaw feather sash.

Adjacent to the display room is a round viewing room with vistas of the area where the ancient peoples lived. It is worth a look.

Also housed on the second floor is the “Work Area” for museum staff. Their workroom is enclosed with glass making it possible to observe their practice, however they were not working when I was there. On display in that room is an impressive collection of more artifacts.

Museum staff workroom.

Once you have completed your indoor experience, step outside to visit the Chacoan Great House and Kiva. The exposed stonework buildings are small, but provide a nice backdrop for the work seen in the museum. A wooden ladder provides access to the underground Kiva, and is worth the trip down. The historic dwelling community was larger than what is currently exposed, however to preserve the remains the decision was made not to unearth the rest of the ruins.

Chacoan Great House ruins.

If you are in this area of southern Utah this little known museum and park are worth a visit.

Celso Mangucci – Portuguese Tile Scholar

A month or so ago I discovered a wonderful blog on Portuguese tiles ( and wrote a short post about it.

I found the blog site so interesting I connected with the author, Celso Mangucci, to ask him a few questions about the history of Portuguese tiles, how Portuguese tile production became such a large industry, and the origin of his interest in the subject.

JW: Can you give me a little information about your background? Do you work as a historian?

CM: I was born in Brazil, in São Paulo, where I graduated in Anthropology. I have lived in Portugal for some years now. In fact, more than 30 years. Here, I completed a course on ceramic tile conservation and restoration. After more than a decade working at the Museum of Évora (nowadays National Museum Frei Manuel do Cenáculo), I am concluding my Ph.D. in Art History with a grant from the Foundation for Science and Technology. The tiles ordered for the Jesuit Colleges are the principal theme of the dissertation.

JW: How did you get interested in Portuguese tiles?

CM: After finishing college, I did a short internship in conservation and restoration in Salvador, Bahia, in Brazil. I was told they already had technicians trained in oil painting restoration, but few in the area of ceramic tiles. It was wise counsel and the beginning of a master plan to come to Portugal to learn a little more about tiles.

JW: Are you most interested in the historical references in Portuguese tiles, or their artistic merit – or something else?

CM: The Portuguese Tiles blog has a clear objective, which is to reconstruct the cultural context that justified the choice of a theme for a set of tiles.

Without this context, it is impossible to understand, for example, the representation of a black slave woman in the kitchen of a Lisbon palace, or the equestrian portrait of a nobleman in the gardens of a villa. In most cases, it is not a story told on a single tile panel, but on a relatively large set of panels. Its creation involved the collaboration of iconographers, architects, tilers, painters, and potters.

The identification of the owners and the type of the building allows us to understand, with some clarity, what are the objectives of the decorative project.

JW: When my wife and I visited Portugal, we saw many historic buildings decorated with tiles. When and where did this start?

CM: Perhaps, the best would be to think about several beginnings. Between the end of the 15th century and the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese aristocracy imported large quantities of tiles manufactured in the city of Seville. In this period, there was no tile production in Lisbon, or it was incipient. More than a hundred years later, at the end of the 17th century, the Portuguese state banned the import of Dutch tiles, and with the collaboration between learned painters and master potters, a production of blue and white figurative tiles was created. What is important to note is that the import of tiles is as relevant as national production.

Much more than technical innovation changed in this time period between the order of Sevillian tiles for a royal palace in the late 15th century and the full-scale production of blue and white tiles in Lisbon a hundred years later. Technological changes in manufacturing correspond to different requests from patrons. In addition to technical innovation, there was an evolution of the cultural environment. There are many ways we can use tiles to cover the walls of a building. Ceramic tile is a versatile, insulating, beautiful, and long-lasting material. But what also matters is the relationship with architecture, with the visual arts, and with all other forms of knowledge. Really, the history of Portuguese ceramic tiles must be told as the production of a cultural object and not as technological evolution.

JW: Why was tile so widely used in architectural decoration in Portugal? Was there a particular reason?

CM: Yes, tile was intensely used to decorate the interiors of palaces, gardens, churches, classrooms, and convent dormitories. The painters were inspired by French, Italian, and Dutch prints, and followed the ideas of chronicles, emblem books, hagiographies, portraits, hunting, and gallant scenes. If we look closely, certain characteristics remained constant and unchanged: the ceramic body, the glaze brightness, the durable material resistance…

JW: Was tile widely used in Portuguese colonial architecture (e.g., Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, etc.)?

CM: There are relevant sets of Portuguese tiles in the Azores, Madeira, and Brazil, and some remains of their use in Angola and Macau. There was no local tile production in none of these regions, and it was “natural” that they used Portuguese material and techniques for the most important buildings.

Tiles in the Church of Sao Joao Evangalista a Funchal in the Azores Islands
Tiles in the Church of Sao Joao Evangalista a Funchal in the Azores Islands

JW: I have read that tiles have been stolen from churches and other buildings due to the commercial value of the old tiles. Is this still going on?

CM: In addition to this deep-rooted problem, it is even more worrying the need to make a great effort to conserve a large number of sets associated with buildings that have lost their original functions. Ceramic tiles essentially depend on the relationship with the original buildings. Urban transformations are always a threat to the loss of this primordial nexus. We can see beautiful tiles in Portuguese museums, but nothing that compares to a delightful visit to a garden or the dramatic atmosphere of a church.

JW: I also understand that some towns are creating “banks” of tiles so that property owners can either use historic tiles to redecorate their property or use these historic tiles as guides to modern tile replicas.

CM: Yes, there are projects of this type in Porto and Lisbon, but transferring tiles from one building to another is not the best policy for preserving the architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries.

JW: Is tile coming back as a decorative element in Portuguese architecture?

CM: Historians and architects of the twentieth century were primarily responsible for the elevation of tiles as an identity characteristic of Portuguese-Brazilian architecture.

In fact, the movement begins in Brazil, with the emblematic work of architect Oscar Niemayer for the Pampulha church, built in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 1940-1943.

Exterior of Pampulha church, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Nowadays, with healthy freedom, tile constitutes a material with enormous potential, and just to mention a few examples, it was used in a very creative way in the Lisbon Metro stations…

Ceramic tiles employed in different Lisbon metro stations

…and in some works by the architect Siza Vieira:

Barbara Gittings – Artist Profile

Still from Ceramic Review: Masterclass with Barbara Gittings

Before reading this Q&A, please watch the short video entitled “Masterclass with Barbara Gittings“. It forms a foundation for many questions I asked Barbara and it explains her process and interests.

JW: You worked in the fashion industry before coming to ceramics. How has that industry experience affected your ceramic work?

BG: My years in the fashion industry have certainly informed my ceramics. I visualize shapes in 3-D and make paper patterns for my bottles, instinctively knowing which angle will give the right amount of twist or lean. The exposure to all those fabric prints has sunk into my subconscious, surfacing every so often.

Pattern cutting is a very precise activity and when I first took up ceramics I was obsessed with perfection and symmetry. I had signed up for for an intensive residential course in smoke firing.

We were encouraged to use the teacher’s molds. I chose one which I thought would turn into a nice bottle. When it came out of the mold I was devastated to see that it wasn’t symmetrical and it was leaning. That evening I visited a nearby picturesque village and discovered that all the houses were leaning. I had an epiphany moment and ever since I have embraced asymmetry, chance and imperfect perfection.

JW: Your video also follows your process as you prepare porcelain slabs for assembly. Did it take you a long time to develop that process? Has it changed over time?

BG: It has taken a long time to develop the process of making the patterned slabs. The patterns were much simpler, much more rectilinear when I first started doing Nerikomi. I also made much smaller pieces.

Nowadays I make larger work and there’s always some patterned clay left over, which I will incorporate into the next piece, so the patterns are always evolving. Sometimes I don’t have quite enough for a piece and I will quickly make a small slab without thinking too deeply about it. Often that little square will be my favourite bit of the pot, and will start a whole new avenue of pattern. Occasionally the piece goes wrong and I will reclaim the clay, trying to save as much of the pattern as possible. The unforeseen end result of this process can often be serendipitous.

JW: You mention some influential experiences with African art when you were growing up in South Africa. Can you tell me more about those experiences?

BG: When I grew up in Johannesburg there were lots of what were called Curio shops. These were really art galleries selling the best work of black African artists and craftspeople from all across Africa. They would have beaten silver items from Ethiopia, Zulu beadwork, San ostrich egg shell beads, the making of which dates back at least 50,000 years and Yoruba embroidered pieces, combining cowrie shells and seed beads. There would be extraordinarily varied woodcarvings from all across Africa, beautifully decorated textiles, mats, baskets, carved gourds, the list is endless.

I also saw the San rock paintings in the Drakensberg Mountains, the Ndebele murals painted on the external walls of their homes, the Zulu dancers in their tribal dress of beadwork and ostrich feathers.

A lot of African art is very geometric which I suppose is why I am so drawn to geometric patterns.

JW: What do you mean in your artistic statement by saying clay allows you to continue to explore tension between “the biometric and geometric”?

BG: In fashion, the layering of textiles and the power of the cut merge to find new balances and forms, the biomorphic and geometric held in tension. My work in clay continues to explore this.

This statement really refers to the work I was making when I wrote this. My work at this time was veering more towards the biomorphic whilst still trying to follow geometric rules.

Although my work now still retains curves, it probably follows a geometric grid more closely.

JW: Your dustbin firing is outstanding! Where did you come up with that technique?

BG: I did a week long course in smoke firing with Jane Perryman early on in my ceramic journey, and fell in love with the process. I used to pit-fire in sawdust, a slow overnight process, but often the Nerikomi would be too heavily masked by the smoke effects. There was also a very high rate of cracking.

By speaking to other smoke firers and experimenting I have found a method which results in a much softer effect, using a dustbin with holes punched in it and crumpled up newspaper. 

JW: Has your ceramic work evolved significantly? Can you give me a sense of the evolution of your work?

BG: My work is always evolving. When I started ceramics I was pursuing two separate threads, smoke firing and Nerikomi. After a couple of years I decided to try combining the two techniques and realized this was the path I wanted to pursue. I also used to make very small Nerikomi pieces, but as I’ve progressed and learnt by trial and error my work has gradually increased in size. The patterns have become more complex as well.

JW: Where do you see yourself going forward? Are there ideas and techniques you are pushing? Or are you comfortable with your work as is?

BG: Onwards and upwards! I’m constantly challenging myself to make larger work. I also like to develop new shapes, I have lots of ideas buzzing around. I have spent a large part of this year trying to perfect a larger version of a recent new shape.

I also want to pursue making some wallpieces and some more sculptural work. One cannot stand still, nor be complacent, always strive for better.

JW: What would you like others to know about you and your ceramics?

BG: I’m an introvert and ideally I would like others not to want to know about me, to let the work speak for itself. But in this modern age of social media everyone wants to know everything about the person behind the work, so I realise that I have to emerge and engage.

I’m passionate about my work and I hope the people who buy it enjoy it, as much as I have enjoyed making it.

More of Barbara’s work is available to view on her website or on Instagram  @barbaragittings.

Jim Whalen – Artist Profile

Jim Whalen just wrapped up his show at the 2020 Smithsonian Craft Show. He took a few minutes to answer some of my questions about his remarkable work.

Me: Jim, how do you get these effects? Will you describe your process?

JW: Working within the drying time of clay, doing the right thing at the right time is essential to my process of producing a good shape with a pristine surface. I have 4 throwing wheels and make 4 pots at a time. Making each pot takes 4.5 days.

Day 1, I make the cylinders. Day 2, I shape the pots, expanding the cylinders into rounded forms.

Photo: Diane Davis Photography
Photo: Diane Davis Photography

Day 3, I smooth the surface starting with sand screen to shave down the high areas. I then wet the pot, tear up and repair the surface with scrubby pads, metal and plastic ribs over and over until the clay surrenders and lays down smooth.

Day 4, I trim the bottom third of the pot to conform to the inside shape and smooth it up. The pots are wrapped in plastic overnight to equalize and on day 5 I spray them with a thick slip and burnish using teflon tools.

Photo: Diane Davis Photography
Photo: Diane Davis Photography

When bone dry, I spray the pots with Terra Sigillata, a super refined clay slip, to further enhance the smoothness of the surface. The pots are then bisque fired in an electric kiln. At this point, the pots are one third done.

Next, I create patterns on the bisque pots using wax resist, a liquid petroleum based wax. My patterns range from organic abstract which happen spontaneously to tight mathematical taped patterns which take forever. I believe in working both sides of my creativity.

After the wax dries, the pots go through a salting process which takes about a week. How the salt is injected into the process is proprietary. The salt migrates to the unwaxed areas and when fired creates the warm earth tones by interacting with iron in the clay and Terra Sigillata.

Firing is a 2 stage process. First a salt firing which takes place in a raku kiln then a sawdust firing which happens in a 55 gal. drum cut in half. The pots are fired one at a time. Salt and sawdust firing both create random, chaotic markings. By combining both it separate areas, order is established without destroying the vitality of chaos.

After firing, the pots are washed, desalinated, dried and coated with multiple coats of Tung Oil. This enhances the coloration and protects the surface. The surface is permanent, will never fade and only requires an occasional dusting with Pledge. Being porous, these pots are not meant to hold water.

Photo: Diane Davis Photography

I invented this process 20 years ago. Through trial and error, the pots have become what they are today.

Me: What was the evolution of your style?

JW: Back in the 1970s, I started out making unglazed planters with fire markings as decoration. These early ceramic pieces reflect sculptural pieces I was making at the time. I made them with yellow clay. These days I’m using an iron-rich custom clay mix. The yellow clay is still in there – in the Terra Sigillata I employ.

Much of my early ceramic work were thrown round pots. I typically used yellow clay and fired them in sawdust. This was an experiment that I kept.

Me: Can you describe the influences on your style?

JW: I am not influenced by other potters. Rather I’m influenced by painters. I love good abstract paintings especially the abstract expressionists Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, Franz Kline and earlier stuff by Hans Hoffman and Ashille Gorky. I also love Picasso and all the cubists and surrealists and CEZANNE! I also like Robert Rauchenburg and Frank Stella and the Pop artists. And that nut case Francis Bacon.

Photo: Diane Davis Photography
Photo: Diane Davis Photography

My pots are panoramic paintings. You have to turn them to get the complete image. My imagery is spontaneous abstract and tight mathematical patterns. I like working both sides of my creativity.

You have to see and feel at the same time to open up a great painting. You have to do the same with my pots. I call this “Seeling”. Some people can do it and some can’t.

There are 2 important concepts in my pots. The dynamics of order/chaos and positive / negative. The constant battle of chaos and order hinges on the dynamics: order defeats chaos by dividing it. Chaos defeats order by infiltration. When I’m doing the vertical stripes after doing the mathematical calculation and marking off the pot with pencil lines I apply the first piece of tape. It has to be perfectly straight. I move over 4 marks and apply another line, then a third, and so on around the pot. Then I go back and do every second mark. At that time chaos is almost gone. If I’ve been really careful, the last tape is easy – I go by the marks and match the shape at the bottom and top. I’ve created order.

I then give full rein to chaos in the marbling effects. This pattern is applied to a wet pot really fast. I shake it around, add more water or wax and spray it with soap for dispersion. I’m following my higher intuition, looking for a higher meaning to reality and life as we know it.

All my patterns function pos neg. You have to seel to see it.

The marbles are open to interpretation. I have my own for each pot.

Jim’s pottery is displayed on his website at Paradox Pottery.

Diane Davis did an excellent job of capturing Jim’s creative process on her photography website. She graciously allowed me to use many of her photographs in this article. On her website she has a short-selection of images and a long-selection of images to view. (Go for the long selection – it’s rich and nuanced, a visual ice cream sundae.)

How Archaeologists Study Ceramics

Ben Mutin studies ceramics as part of his archaeology research at Harvard University. Ben’s particular area of study includes Iran, Central Asia and South Asia.

Benjamin Mutin, Associate in the Anthropology Department, Harvard University

His current field research project is in the Bam region – located in what is now southeastern Iran – and focuses on the period between the beginning of agriculture in the Neolithic period (about 8,000 to 9,000 years ago in southeastern Iran) and the end of the Bronze Age civilizations (around 3,500 years ago). 

I asked Ben to explain how ceramics are “studied” by archaeologists, and what information can be obtained from them. Here’s what he told me.

Generally speaking, pottery is known to have been invented during the Neolithic period and is associated with sedentary life and the beginning of agriculture. (This is very broadly speaking, and there is older evidence for pottery production and evidence for pottery production within the context of hunter-gatherer communities).

In archaeology, the study of ceramics has been extremely instrumental in reconstructing the past. Different aspects of past societies may be revealed by examining ceramics using different approaches.

Pottery kiln found on an archaeological site dating to the fourth millennium BCE in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.
Black and red painted bowl fragment dating to the fourth millennium BCE found on the surface of an archaeological site in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.

I study pottery shapes, decorations and building techniques, and I collaborate with colleagues to have their compositions analyzed. By doing so I try to get answers to three main questions about the archaeological cultures I study: chronology and culture; people’s daily lives; and interactions.

Ceramics have been made for a long time and in many places in the world since their first inception. Ceramic styles and the way they have been built have evolved over time, and, as you know, people have not made, shaped, and decorated their pottery the same way all over the world. As such, certain styles have become characteristic of certain periods and places.

In Iran, ceramics became more common from the 6th and 5th millennia BCE, and many different styles have been observed across this country since then. For an archaeologist, knowing to which period and region a ceramic style relates to is extremely important.

Black painted bowl fragment dating to the fourth millennium BC found on the surface of an archaeological site in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.

Although we use methods such as radiocarbon dating to determine the age of archaeological sites, knowing this allows us, for example, to give an estimate of the date of the archaeological sites we explore by just looking at the ceramic fragments on their surfaces. It also allows us to tell which other sites and regions, which cultural sphere(s), these sites relate to, or were connected to.

Fragments of misfired ceramics dating to the fourth millennium BC found on the surface of an archaeological site in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.

The study of the shapes and physical properties of the vessels (for instance a pitcher vs. a plate; a vessel with porous walls vs. a glazed vessel) also helps us determine their functions. With this type of information, we get insight into past people’s daily lives. We can tell how they cooked, served and ate their food, whether they used ceramics to store food produce, transport merchandise, etc.

Plate of ceramics tempered with vegetal fragments found in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.

Moreover, there exist very sophisticated instruments that analyze the composition of residues inside archaeological ceramics. This type of analysis may give us even more detailed insight on what people stored, ate and exchanged.

The study of ceramics also helps us understand past dynamics, movements, across a region and between regions. For example, using composition analysis may allow us to tell where ancient potters went to collect the raw material (clay, temper, pigments) necessary to build the pots. Also, it is common to observe in the archaeological record that communities from different places within one region used the same style of ceramics. This shows that some form of communication existed in that region. Composition analysis may help answer questions such as distinguishing between pots whose style was imitated and made in different places within that region and pots that were made in one place and exchanged across that region. This type of information helps us better understand the dynamics at play within a region, between regions, and even between distant places. Composition analyses have, for example, evidenced the exchange of ceramics between sites located hundreds of kilometers apart in Iran and Pakistan some 5000 years ago.

Black painted beaker fragment dating to the fourth millennium BC found on the surface of an archaeological site in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.

My current field research project (Bam Archaeological Mission) is in the Bam region, a region located within the southern margins of the Lut Desert. I codirect the field project in Bam with Dr. Omran Garazhian (University of Neyshabur). It is an Iranian-French collaborative project supported by the Iranian Center for Archaeological Research, the Iranian Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, the Kerman Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, the Arg-e Bam World Heritage Base Camp, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the CNRS-UMR 7041 ArScAn – Archéologies et Sciences de l’AntiquitéArchéologie de l’Asie centrale.

Archaeological site dating to the fifth millennium BCE in the Bam region, Kerman, Iran.

My colleagues and I have explored this region to record and document archaeological sites. One of our objectives is to reconstruct the past of this region from the early farming villages that were settled there during the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, which corresponds to a period during which the earliest major cities and civilizations emerged between the Iranian Plateau, Central Asia and the Indus Valley. You probably have heard about the Indus Civilization in Pakistan and northwest India and perhaps about the Oxus Civilization in Central Asia. In southeastern Iran, this period is known as the Jiroft (or Halil Rud) Civilization.

In Bam, we also are trying to understand how past communities dealt with climate changes. As you may know, the Lut Desert is currently one of the hottest places on earth. Climate in this region was different in the past; it was for instance more humid 10000 years ago. Several changes have then been observed in the paleoclimatic record, and our goal is to understand how these changes have affected settlement patterns in the Bam region, and how human activities have affected the environment in this region. In addition to surveying this region, we also have excavated a Neolithic site, which is currently dated to between the late-sixth and mid-fifth millennia BCE (around 7000 years ago). This site has yielded no pottery, which is surprising considering that, at that time, pottery had already been known for a long time in Iran!  

Summer Vacation, The End

Well, all good things do come to an end. We wrapped up our road trip with a few hikes in Arches National Monument outside Moab, Utah.

If you haven’t been to Moab, you need to put it on your list. We stayed at the Gonzo Inn (good spot in town, quiet and a little funky). We went to Arches for hiking, but there are several state and national parks in the region. Get on out and hit some trails! What else is there to do in this pandemic? Start early to catch sunrise – and beat some of the crowds.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Monument, near Moab, UT

Museum of Northern Arizona

We stumbled onto the Museum of Northern Arizona by chance. What a great spot. I mean: WOW! The museum was founded in 1928 and has an exceptional collection of ceramics, as well as baskets and jewelry, from the northern Arizona And four corners region (Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and other Native American peoples). 

Several items caught my attention. First, the presentation of ceramics is outstanding. My iPhone photos don’t do the displays justice, but here is what I was able to capture.

There is a portion of a wall mural from a cliff dwelling ruin displayed in the museum. I’ve never seen anything like this before (and I’ve visited a LOT of precolumbian sites and museums with pottery from ancient peoples who lived in what is now the American Southwest).

I really like that the museum collects not just early ceramics from the area, but has purchased several recent “roadie cups” for their collection. Well done!

If you are in Flagstaff, Arizona, and have 1-2 hours to spare, I highly recommend the Museum of Northern Arizona. Check ahead of time – the museum has reduced hours due to Covid. But they only admit 10 people per half hour, so it is not crowded. 

Fun fact: actor Ted Danson (of Cheers fame) grew up at the museum. His father was the museum director from 1959 to 1975.

Adios, Sedona

We leave the striking red rocks of Sedona, AZ, with mixed feelings. We loved the beauty of the high desert, a great hotel (Sky Ranch Lodge), the wonderful restaurants, and the local activities (hiking, Jeep tours, etc). But holy smokes, folks – wear your masks! Whereas in Colorado and New Mexico people take this virus seriously and mask up & space themselves out, people in Arizona cluster in groups without masks as if fresh air alone eliminates all risk. Wow.

Fountains on the grounds of the Sky Ranch Lodge, perched above Sedona, AZ

Some sample photos of the area:

Summer Vacation 2020

Well, this isn’t quite summer, and it’s almost completely off topic for this site, but we we ARE on vacation right now, exploring some of the wonders of the American Southwest, like Chaco Canyon NHS pictured here. It’s really wonderful to get out of our home again after months of isolation. We are exploring, and exploring safely. Almost all of our time is spent outdoors (hiking being the main activity). We wear masks whenever we get within 10-12 feet of people on a trail (as do others). It’s simple and pretty easy: if we all just follow simple rules and respect each other, we can beat this virus.

And when we beat this virus we can get back to doing fun things in life.

Happy trails!