Silence on the mountain

The fall of one more civilization on Tumamoc Hill.

by Paul Mirocha

Tumamoc Sketchbook has been quiet for the past 6 months. This is partly because the Desert Lab (“the Hill”) has been in a transition, culminating in the removal/resignation of Ben Wilder as director in June. Then came the great silence. Nobody can speak about exactly what happened except to say that it’s confidential, it’s best for all involved, the lab is closed, and no one knows what comes next.

It’s given me a bad case of writer’s block.

In January 2022 I resigned as artist-in-residence. The identity of “artist” no longer suits me. It was a tough decision, not because I lost my passion for drawing, art/science, place-based creative work, or my attachment to Tumamoc. This was simply the only honest thing to do. Besides losing my funding, the work environment had become stressful for my health, neither collaborative nor creative. I’m leaving several of my Tumamoc projects unfinished. For now. 

There is talk of a new “vision committee” whose recommendations may surface later in the Fall. I may be part of that, but I honestly don’t know. A lot can happen in the state of unknowing and I’ll leave it at that. Accepting and working with uncertainty is part of the creative process.

I first set up this website in 2011 to document the activities of a grass-roots community of artists and writers that came to the Hill on their own, inspired by the beauty, history, and science on Tumamoc Hill. That project no longer exists. So this site has fulfilled its mission.

What’s Paul doing?

There are reasons to let go of the “Artist” identity. It has limitations and can become a box like any other. Instead of doing work that is personal self-expression, I’m interested now in being a part of creative working groups or teams. 

You can now find me down in the valley, on the UA campus in the ERN2 building, working as a user experience designer for NEPAccess, a big data environmental science website. I can’t see any saguaros or mountains from my window, but it’s a good group of 20-25 people from multiple fields working together. I love design work that can be beneficial in a small way to the world, in this case, connecting science to government decision-making.

I own and have paid for this site as a volunteer on the Hill. I am considering several future directions for it, but no decisions have been made. I could pivot, or at least archive it for history.

Please write me if you have any thoughts, questions, or input. I care aboutthe place and want to hear all perspectives about the Hill. Conversations with readers are much appreciated. Please stay tuned.


Sunrise shadows on the western slope of Tumamoc Hill after last summer’s monsoon.

2 thoughts on “Silence on the mountain

  1. I have really missed your Tumamoc Sketchbook posts. I always learn something new, but more importantly I almost always feel some kind of positive internal shift after I read them—e.g. more settled, or inspired, or reminded of some earlier place of balance. I hope you will continue posting SOMETHING that I will be able to read. ❤️ Peace, brother.

  2. Thank you for sharing news of the Hill. I have missed the Sketchbook posts and look forward to hearing about your work with the design team. Wishing you much success and fulfillment.
    I was hoping to take a class or participate in a sketching on the hill program, so please keep me on the contact list, if you put on your artist cap again.

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