Books, Mission Gardens, Missionaries, & A Dearth of Bean Trees

Not long after I moved to Tucson 25 years ago I read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, this was about the same time I came to think of  the contents of seed pods of mesquite trees as beans.  It was much later that I learned about grinding flour from the beans.  Sometimes we only understand what is by what is missing, the foreground per the background.  Contrapositions, glaring absences, and reflections off the flat blade of a ‘dozer are weighty topics any morning, but were especially so Saturday morning at Mission Gardens where a gathering of highly educated, predominately white people met for a book signing with and to recognize the editor and translators of  A Jesuit Missionary in Eighteenth-Century Sonora.  This event happened almost in the shadow of A Mountain in Tucson at a place that has to be very close to where the spring at the foot of Black Mountain, which is what Stjukshon aka Tucson means, was located. This location is also the location that Kingsolver chose to have the home of her protagonist.


HRS owner examining the blossoms of a fruit tree at Mission Gardens, 3 May 2014, in the cool of the morning when the temperature was still in the low 80s.

Long before I learned that I was a great entrepreneur, and a less than great employee, I worked at the Arizona State Museum for several years.  I would not trade those years of working at the museum that care-takes the material culture of the prehistoric and early historic  Southwestern United States, the Sonoran Primaria Alta, and even some of Chihuahua. ASM  is intimately connected to both the Mission Gardens and the editors and translators of  A Jesuit Missionary… That is how Tucson is, meaningful interconnections abound and at times seem to magically coalesce through some sort of preconfigured cosmic affinity network. I attended the book signing for many reasons.

  • My agrarian roots are deep, and I love learning about how plants used people as seed dispersal mechanism to migrate around the world.
  • Dr. Thompson was the Director of ASM when I was hired as a Program Coordinator there in 1994.
  •  Two of the professors with whom I studied at Purdue studied with Dr. Thompson here in Tucson at the University of Arizona where he was a professor as well as museum director.  I’m an academic granddaughter of Ray.  I wanted to say hello and have him sign my copy of his book.
  • My husband, a chemist, has great respect for Dr. Werner S. Zimmt who is also a chemist as well as a skilled translator.
  • I wanted to see the gardens and learn more about The Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace and the Mission Gardens Project.
  • I wanted to reconnect with many of the people associated with ASM whose work I hold in very high regard.
  • I wanted you to know about this place and people, the book, and the interconnections that bridge centuries and continents in this amazing place that is Tucson, or Stjukshon, and other place names that have been lost to time in the 10,000 and more years people have been calling this place home seasonally or permanently.
  • Tucson gardens without Mesquite trees are novel.

I heartily recommend visiting the gardens and the museum and connecting to continuum through the ages that is metropolitan Tucson and a simple spring at the base of a black mountain from which nomads, pastoral nomads, and early horticulturalist peoples drank. Tucson is still a deep-wel,l resource-rich place from which we drink.

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