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Thursday, December 22, 2016



Cave Creek
Art imitating life.
In his essay The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde stated: “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” This concept has been fodder for arguments among philosophers and pundits since ancient times. Throughout history, notable minds have contributed to the fray.
 “Art is imitation and that’s bad.”  Plato
 “Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature's unrealized ends.” Aristotle
“Art is what you can get away with.” Andy Warhol

Genuine and imposter saguaros mingle on the hill.
The serene memorial gardens and trail at the Carol Bartol Preserve at Saguaro Hill is an excellent place to ruminate on the muddling of life with art and there’s a perfect subject waiting at the gateway--fake saguaros. At the top of the preserve’s entry staircase, visitors are greeted by an array of enormous sculptures imitating Carnegiea gigantean. At first glance, their too perfect, unblemished façade and pure symmetry might make you think these are superb genuine specimens, but the not-quite-right-green coloring and suspicious seams reveal the ruse. Look a little closer and high voltage signs tacked around the back eliminate any lingering doubt.
The cleaver shells disguise cellphone towers. While the structures’ purpose and placement are cause for pause, consider of the big picture before condemning. Case in point, on a recent visit, I observed a couple making comments about how awful the towers look while snapping photos of them with their cell phones.  So, essentially we have an ersatz life form concealing the means to make visual facsimiles that will undoubtedly end up on a social media forum that apes actual living.  Ironic, methinks.
Moving on, there’s more to the preserve than the gallery of paradox. If the 6-acre parcel in Cave Creek isn’t the tiniest hiking destination in Arizona, then it’s certainly a contender. Situated on a mini ridge behind the town library, the site was the first property purchased by the Desert Foothills Land Trust, a nonprofit, all-volunteer conservation organization which protects over 680 acres on 23 preserves in the Sonoran Desert Foothills.  The teeny hillside features gardens with placards identifying plants, seating areas and a short hiking trail with interpretive displays about the life cycle and survival strategies of saguaros. Want to know how to tell the difference between a barrel cactus and a saguaro? There’s a sign for that. In addition to its educational features and adjacent media center, the trail showcases views of Black Mountain and the wild ranges of Tonto National Forest. After exploring, let the aroma of mesquite drifting from local eateries lure you to a cozy table to discuss the intersection of art and nature over drinks, grub and a smart phone.
Black Mountain seen from Saguaro Hill Preserve
LENGTH: 0.5 mile
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 2240’ – 2280’
HOURS: open every day from dawn to dusk
From Cave Creek Road, turn north on School House Road and continue 0.1 mile to the Desert Foothills library parking lot.
INFO: Desert Foothills Land Trust

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