A-maze-ing place - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

A-maze-ing place

Oro valley man creates a dialed-in backyard

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Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Bob Mocarski's backyard has more twists and turns than a drunken snake during an earthquake.

People say that front yards are for show; if you really want to get to know someone, you've got to visit his or her backyard.

If that's the case, Mocarski is a unique individual. Unique, and energetic.

How else would you describe a person whose backyard has a maze full of curved and twisting pathways, a solar sundial, a two-foot metal rabbit, other folk art made from found materials and more than 125 plantings and re-plantings of native, desert plants?

The maze is made of rocks and stones picked up and raked together to form pathways.

"The rocks were already there, I just organized them," said Mocarski. "I would go out early in the morning with a rake, a hoe and a wheelbarrow. I guess I just ran out of things to do in my retirement. Friends of mine say I have way too much time on my hands."

Mocarski may be modest and self-deprecating, but his life has hardly been one of ease and luxury. A young volunteer in the Vietnam War, he was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, earning the Bronze Star for Valor, the Vietnamese Cross for Gallantry and two Purple Hearts.

Stateside, he owned and operated his own landscaping company on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the Massachusetts coast, where he found joy working outside and working with his hands. His celebrity clients included Carly Simon, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Loggia — "the guy who danced with Tom Hanks on the keyboard, in the movie 'Big'."

Bob and Sandra Mocarski now live on Meadow Sage Drive in Oro Valley. They have lived in Arizona just over three years.

"The desert has always fascinated me; even when I lived in Massachusetts, I had a large cactus collection, said Mocarski. "I love the desert and can really appreciate that plants and animals can survive and thrive out here in such a harsh climate."

He considers his backyard just a part of that desert environment. Mocarski has planted many desert plants, with varying degrees of success.

"Anything out here belongs to the environment and animals who live here. Everything was free, made from found materials or re-plantings from landscaping debris. Javelinas and rabbits are my architectural review committee — they will determine if what I plant survives, or not. I have tried to plant desert wildflowers twice."

"So far, rabbits – 2, Bob - 0," adds Sandra Mocarski.

You enter the maze by walking out a gate on the south side of the yard. The maze is a convoluted trail of whimsical and ingenious pathways. As you walk, sometimes you reach a dead-end and have to backtrack. Along the way, you pass flowering cacti, the stalk of a tall century plant placed in a large pot, and a pendulum made of bamboo stalks with the pendulum weight a soda bottle filled with concrete.

One of the pathways is a circle that goes 'round and 'round a large creosote bush.

"If you don't figure out how to get off the circle, you could be out here for a long time," said Bob.

In the center of the maze is a large solar sundial made from a saguaro cactus skeleton.

Onward, the trail twists and turns. There are numerous desert plants and a folk art creation made from parts of a grill, nuts, bolts and a large tin can. It looks like a cross between a Labrador retriever and a gila monster.

The trail ends through another gate on the north side, under the shade of a large mesquite tree.

Mocarski made his maze more for fun than meditation, he said.

"I just got the idea last summer and this is the culmination of seven months of work," he said. "I just started making little paths with the stones and it just kind of evolved and is still evolving."

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