The Gathering, Sego Lilies and Agave, Mazatzal Wilderness, AZ
48×36 Oil on Canvas
In the Spring of 2023, after a long season of production in the studio and a successful gallery show, I happily headed into the Arizona wilderness to refresh and regroup. I intended to “not work” that day and just enjoy my hiking friends and the waterfall at the end of the trail. However, God’s spring bounty would not be ignored. There was so much blooming that after my hiking companions drove away, I stayed behind for hours; wandering the grassy slopes and photographing the many blooms and agaves that love this terrain as much as I do.
With most of our food coming from grocery stores these days, we forget that early people and pioneers had to go in search for their sustenance. You ate what you could grow, and when you couldn’t grow anything, you ate what you could gather.
In the history of the west, the sego lily was a pretty sight, but it was also food. The bulb of the sego lily was harvested, boiled and eaten. Because the bulbs are no larger than a marble, I doubt anyone pushed away from the table feeling full; but still, the pioneers were thankful to have the nutrition that sego lilies provided. If you were a hardy pioneer and wanted to boast about your suffering, you might even call yourself a “bulb eater.”
On this Arizona spring day, I was happy to have enough water and snacks in my pack not to have to harvest any lilies for eating, but I did gather a bunch of them to photograph with the majestic agave growing nearby. As the sun set behind the Mazatzals I reflected on all those who came before me, walked this land, and dreamed their dreams of life in the west.