Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring, Winter, Summer, Spring

It was snowing on Thursday night as we drove into Prescott, Arizona; the brief storm deposited about an inch of fluffy crystals on the town.  After checking into the Hotel Vendome (built in 1907), where we had a lovely corner room at the back of the second floor, we went out for a short walk around the historic downtown.

Prescott was Arizona’s territorial capital and is proud of its history.  The town is built around a central plaza, site of the old courthouse and of many community events.
The pinkish-amber glow of the streetlights made photography problematic, but it was wonderful to be out in the crisp, cold air after the snowfall.  The moon was waxing (it will be full tomorrow) and its cool glow added to the overall effect.
Next morning there was still a little snow, but it didn’t last long.  Spring was well underway before the snowstorm, with ornamental fruit trees in bloom along the sidewalks, highlighted with icy crystals for just a couple of hours early in the day.
     I was there for the spring colloquium at Prescott College, where one of my students was presenting her master’s thesis.  Prescott College is a small liberal arts school with a strong commitment to the environment and social justice which is reflected in the physical campus itself as well as in the work done by its students and faculty.  It offers both residential and distance learning; I had never actually been to the campus before.
      What one first sees from the street is unprepossessing—a series of small, low buildings that appear to have been converted from other uses—but the central core of this very small campus is more interesting.  The two main buildings—the library and student center (with classrooms, meeting rooms, food service, etc.)—face each other over a xeriscaped courtyard, all of  it above a small creek, Butte Creek, that is the focus of a restoration project by the college and its neighbors.
     Here you can see terraces built to prevent erosion and also to hold organic gardens. Like the courtyard walls, these are constructed from slabs of recycled concrete that might otherwise have gone into landfills.  In addition to being functional, they also look great.
 This little crossing is made entirely of recycled materials.  The sculptural quality of the handrails comes from used rebar twisted into fanciful shapes.
     The bathrooms are fantastic, the most polished parts of the campus (in every sense of the word) with walls made up of slices of rock and even little artifacts found with the rocks—note the little bottles embedded on the right side of the picture.
     Joe and I both had a good time there.  The faculty, staff, and students are all very interesting people and we attended some informative and thought-provoking presentations, including one by a professor on the tradition of sacred trees in Norway and Sweden.  And my student did a fine job with her thesis presentation. 
     On Sunday morning we headed home, but with a stop in Scottsdale for a long and long-overdue visit with one of my old friends (we're not old, of course, but we first met the summer before third grade!).  What a lovely way to end our trip! It was nice to cool off in mile-high Prescott before returning to the low desert, where the temperature is predicted to reach 90 in Tucson today (for the first time this year), followed by a roller coaster weather ride the next few days—we’ll soon be back down in the 70s.  As this weekend illustrates, weatherwise—and in other ways, the Southwest can be a land of extremes.

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