Turquoise Cabochons: A Cultural Connection

Posted on August 10, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch

Turquoise cabochons have a profound connection to Native American heritage and symbolize the timeless beauty of this culture. At High Spirits Flutes, we celebrate this legacy by incorporating genuine turquoise into our flute designs.

So, what exactly is a cabochon? In the world of jewelry, a cabochon refers to a gemstone that has been shaped and polished into a smooth, rounded, and convex form, without any facets, or sides. The lack of facets allows the gem to showcase its natural colors and patterns.

 When it comes to turquoise, it's important to distinguish between genuine and fake variations. We are committed to using real turquoise in our craftsmanship. Unfortunately, Howlite is often dyed blue or green and sold as fake turquoise. Howlite – a lovely stone in its own right – is naturally white with grey veining.

Real turquoise is a gemstone formed over millions of years from the interaction of copper, aluminum, and phosphorus with water and minerals. Its blue and green hues vary due to the presence of other elements and minerals in the surrounding rock.

Turquoise holds a special place in the history of Native Americans, dating back thousands of years. This sacred stone was prized for its spiritual significance and adorned ceremonial objects, jewelry, and even weapons. Native Americans believed turquoise to be a symbol of protection, wisdom, and immortality. To this day, turquoise remains an important aspect of Native American culture, representing a connection to the earth and a link to their ancestors.

The popularity of original handmade Native American turquoise designs has surged in recent times. The craftsmanship and cultural significance has captured the hearts of art enthusiasts worldwide. 

As a company rooted in Tucson, we are proud to be part of a community known for its gem shows. The annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is one of the largest events of its kind, attracting visitors and vendors from across the globe. It takes place every winter and fall, featuring a collection of gem and mineral shows held at various locations throughout Tucson.

In fact, the Fall Gem & Mineral Show is just around the corner, taking place from August 31st to September 3rd. The larger and more famous Winter show kicks off during the final week of January and continues through the middle of February every year. It's a must-see event with a wonderful display of gemstones and fossils, authentic Native American turquoise regalia, and artifacts from other cultures around the world.

People from all around the world cherish this gemstone for its beauty and symbolism. Understanding its cultural significance connects people from diverse backgrounds and enhances our appreciation for this beautiful gemstone.

Monsoon Magic: Wondrous Storms of the American Southwest

Posted on August 02, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch

Monsoon Season in the American Southwest

Here in the Sonoran Desert, monsoon season is a much-awaited event, bringing with it a unique and captivating beauty that locals and visitors cherish. During the summer months, heavy periods of isolated rain and thunderstorms grace the desert landscape, transforming the arid terrain into a spectacle of life and colors.

The views during this season are nothing short of spectacular. Monsoons create a cacophony of sights and sounds as the late-afternoon skies fill with isolated thunderstorms that bring heavy rainfall, spectacular lightening displays, rainbows, dust storms and magnificent sunsets as the sun reflects on particles in the atmosphere. These thunderstorms usually last only a few hours, and their isolated nature allows for a unique opportunity to watch the storms in the distance as they traverse the desert.

Many people consider monsoon season in the southwestern United States to have some of the most beautiful storms. Lightning dances across the sky and colorfully lit saguaros and desert vegetation enhance the allure of the ever-changing skies, accompanied by a delightful aroma in the air. As raindrops mix with the scents of plants like creosote, a distinct fragrance fills the atmosphere, creating a unique sensory experience. 

Beyond their beauty, monsoons are crucial for sustaining the delicate desert ecosystem. The heavy rains replenish water sources for plants and wildlife, providing a lifeline during the otherwise arid conditions. Desert creatures come to life during this time, making it an excellent opportunity for nature lovers to witness the flourishing of life in the desert.

What is a Monsoon?

The term "monsoon" describes large-scale wind shifts that transport moist tropical air to dry desert locations, such as our Sonoran Desert. A monsoon pattern also affects several other locations around the world including Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America. 

Why do these wind shifts occur? Intense heating of the land over Mexico and the southwestern United States in the early summer months creates the wind shifts in the low levels. Moisture begins to be carried off of the Gulf of California and eastern Pacific Ocean. These winds transport moisture northward into Mexico and the American Southwest. This moist air cools as it rises to a higher altitude over land, which decreases the air’s ability to hold water, causing precipitation.


As beautiful and essential as they are, monsoons also come with challenges and potential dangers. Flash flooding is a significant threat in desert areas during heavy rainfall, so it's vital to stay informed about weather conditions and heed local advice. Avoid venturing into remote desert areas during the height of the storms to ensure your safety.

Despite the challenges, monsoons add excitement, beauty and nourishment to life in the Southwest. This season is a time to appreciate the raw power of nature, to witness the transformation of the desert landscape, and to celebrate the life-giving rains that sustain this remarkable ecosystem. 

Wood Wisdom: Madrone

Posted on July 10, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch

Sourced from the madrone tree (Arbutus menziesii), madrone wood carries an irresistible allure. Found along the western coastal regions from British Columbia to California, this towering tree reaches impressive heights of 50-80 feet with trunk diameters of 2-3 feet.

With its cream or pinkish-brown color and occasional dark red patches, madrone wood presents a captivating visual appeal. The wood's burl veneer, characterized by tightly-packed clusters of knots and swirled grain, further enhances its beauty. As madrone wood ages, it gracefully fades, creating sought-after pattern transitions.

Madrone wood stands out for its exceptional tonal quality, making it ideal for crafting flutes. Its clear, defined sound produces clean, high notes and a smooth voice in the lower register.

Craftsmen appreciate madrone for its workability, making it easy to shape and carve using both hand and machine tools, similar to Hard Maple. However, drying can be challenging due to its tendency to warp or twist. Madrone is used in furniture making, commonly as decorative veneer, adding sophistication to cabinetry, and finely-crafted items. The wood's density and fine grain make it suitable for turning objects, while its burn qualities also make it valuable as firewood and charcoal.  Despite its value and occasional expense, madrone wood remains a sustainable option for conscientious craftsmen.

Discovered by Scottish botanist Archibald Menzies during the George Vancouver Expedition in 1792, the species was named Arbutus menziesii in his honor.

Native Americans recognized the value of the madrone tree beyond its wood. They consumed the berries raw or cooked, often chewing them or making them into cider due to their astringent properties. The berries were also used for crafting necklaces, decorations, and as fishing bait. The bark and leaves served as remedies for stomach aches, cramps, skin ailments, and sore throats, often brewed into a medicinal tea.

Madrone wood is a true standout. Its exceptional tonal quality, captivating visual appeal, and versatility make it a top choice among craftsmen. Whether you're shaping flutes, refining furniture, or fashioning decorative pieces, madrone wood consistently delivers impressive results.

Unleashing Creativity with the Spirit Flute

Posted on July 10, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch

The Spirit Flute

At High Spirits Flutes, we take great pride in our craftsmanship, creating state-of-the-art Native American-style flutes that resonate with the essence of the traditional instruments. In addition to our renowned, Native style, dual-chamber flutes, we also offer a captivating alternative known as the Spirit Flute. With its own distinct style and structure, the Spirit Flute offers musicians a remarkable experience while embodying the spirit of Native American flute playing. In this article, we explore the Spirit Flute, delving into its unique design, the possibilities it unlocks for musicians, and the advantages it offers to all players, including beginners and those with smaller hands.

Structural Differences and Playing Techniques

The Spirit Flute sets itself apart from the traditional Native flute through its structural design and airflow characteristics. While the Native Flute features two separate chambers that guide the airflow, the Spirit Flute embraces a single chamber approach, resulting in a shorter flute. In this design, air flows directly from the mouthpiece to the sharp fipple edge, dividing the air into two paths—one entering the flute and the other directed upwards. This direct airflow grants musicians enhanced control over their breath.

To achieve the desired melodic expression with the Spirit Flute, players are encouraged to adapt their technique to accommodate the direct airflow and shorter length of the instrument. By directing air straight into the mouthpiece, musicians can achieve a smooth, uninterrupted flow that maximizes the flute's power and intonation. Unlike the Native dual chamber flute, which requires a consistent amount of pressure, the Spirit Flute responds better to a gentler breath. Applying excessive pressure may result in a slightly "breathy" sound. However, the advantage lies in the close proximity to the fipple, allowing for subtle adjustments and the potential to produce two or three additional notes in the higher range. This close proximity means that even the slightest variation in breath yields noticeable changes in sound, providing an exceptional platform for artistic expression. Furthermore, the absence of a dual chamber eliminates any buffering of the airflow, further enhancing the player's ability to modulate sound. 

Unlocking Versatility and Accessibility

The Spirit Flute's shorter length presents a range of practical advantages. Its compact size makes it highly manageable, particularly suited for beginners and those with smaller hands. Handcrafted from Spanish Cedar, a remarkably lightweight softwood, our Spirit Flutes offer a harmonious blend of ease and musical resonance. With warm high notes and firm low notes, they carry a deep and rich musical voice. This inherent ease of play promotes a relaxed finger positioning, nurturing both creativity and personal expression.

Ideal for Travel and Exploration

One of the standout features of the Spirit Flute is its all-in-one construction, removing the need for a separate block or fetish. This streamlined design eliminates the risk of the fetish shifting when the flute is stored or transported, making it an ideal companion for travel, hikes, or any musical adventure. Additionally, the short distance between the mouthpiece and fipple in the Spirit Flute minimizes moisture build-up, ensuring consistent playability and preventing any unintended disruptions.

Closing Melody

In the realm of Native American-style flutes, the Spirit Flute emerges as a remarkable alternative that combines the artistry of traditional flute making with the direct airflow principles of a recorder. This unique adaptation by Odell Borg and High Spirits Flutes offers musicians a captivating playing experience, distinctive sound quality, and a range of expressive possibilities. Whether you're an experienced flutist or a novice, the Spirit Flute presents a multitude of benefits and beckons you to embark on a musical journey.

View Our Full Spirit Flute Collection

Flutes of the World: Inti Raymi

Posted on June 26, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch

Inti Raymi: Inca Festival of the Sun

As the golden sun cast upon the ancient land of the Inca Empire, a mesmerizing celebration unfurled. Enchanting melodies of indigenous flutes filled the air, accompanying the rhythmic movements of vibrant dancers and the joyous cheers of the crowd. Join us as we delve into the past and present of this revered Inca festival, where the spirit of the Sun God dances in harmony with the captivating melodies of traditional Andean instruments like pan flutes and quenas.

In the chronicles of the past,  few celebrations rival the Inti Raymi festival — a lively gathering that celebrated the sun and marked the beginning of a new year. For the Incas, the sun, known as Inti, held a special place in their hearts and minds. The Inti Raymi, meaning "Inti festival" in the Quechua language, pays homage to this revered deity. In the southern hemisphere, where the Inca Empire flourished, this occasion fell in the months of June and July.  It marked the shortest day of the year, and the beginning of the New Year, when daylight hours would gradually lengthen once again.

In the heart of the Inca Empire, the city of Cusco, the Inti Raymi took center stage as the most significant of four annual ceremonies. According to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a chronicler of that time, the festival unfolded in the main plaza, Haukaypata. With a duration of nine days, it was a vibrant spectacle filled with dazzling dances, colorful processions, and sacred rituals. Animal sacrifices were made as offerings to Pachamama, the Earth Mother, to express gratitude and seek blessings for a bountiful harvest season.

The origins of the Inti Raymi trace back to Sapa Inca Pachacuti, a revered Inca ruler. He initiated this grand festival as a way to mark the new year and to celebrate the mythical beginnings of the Inca people themselves. In the 15th century, the first Inti Raymi took place, captivating the hearts of the Inca Empire. However, with the arrival of Spanish colonists and their Catholic priests, the festival was suppressed, and its practice banned.

Fast forward to 1944, when a remarkable event occurred – the historical reconstruction of the Inti Raymi. Directed by Faustino Espinoza Navarro, this revival was based on the chronicles left behind by Garcilaso de la Vega. Since then, an annual theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been captivating audiences at Saksaywaman, a site located two kilometers from the original celebration site in Cusco.

Although centuries have passed since the height of the Inca Empire, the spirit of the Inti Raymi still thrives in indigenous cultures throughout the Andes. Today, the celebration begins at Qorikancha, once the Incan Temple of the Sun. From there, the festivities flow to the Plaza de Armas and other significant sites of the Inca era. Thousands of visitors, both local and international, gather to witness this mesmerizing spectacle and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Inca culture. It's a time of vibrant colors and costumes, traditional dances, sharing of food, and joyous music that fills the streets. As the celebration unfolds, the Inti Raymi festival touches the hearts and minds of all who participate, fostering a deep appreciation for the ancient heritage.

Steven Rushingwind: Bridging Cultures Through Music

Posted on June 20, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch

Steven Rushingwind - Ruiz:

Steven Rushingwind (or just Rushingwind) is a multi-talented artist in music and the visual arts. As a musician of Native American and Mexican descent, Steve's music is a blend of unique influences that transcend cultural boundaries. He works with a variety of other musicians including Michael Mucklow & Age Reite. Steve performs both solo and with his band "Rushingwind & The Native Groove"

Early Inspirations and Cultural Roots: 

Steven Rushingwind-Ruiz was deeply influenced by his cultural heritage from a young age. His love for music and artistic expression blossomed within a family of talented artists, both musicians and painters. However, it was the Native American flute that truly captured Steven's heart, becoming the instrument through which he would connect with his ancestral roots and forge a remarkable musical career.

A Harmonious Friendship and Collaborative Partnership: 

Odell Borg, the visionary behind High Spirits Flutes, recognized Steven Rushingwind's exceptional talent as a flutist and embraced him as a kindred spirit. A friendship was forged between the two, fueling their shared passion for Native American music and their dedication to preserving cultural heritage. Their creative collaboration resulted in an album by Rushingwind, called “Keeper of Secrets” released in 2018 (Available on HighSpirits.com). Within the enchanting melodies of this album, Rushingwind weaves a tapestry of his roots and remembrances - a melodic journey through tranquil and, at times, energetic compositions. 

Musical Journey and Awards:

Steven Rushingwind has released several solo albums that have garnered critical acclaim and international recognition. From his debut album "Cloudrunner" to the award-winning "Bridge" and "Among the Ancients," each release showcases his artistry and deep connection with his heritage. The Native American Music Awards recognized his talent, honoring him with awards for "Best New Age Recording" and "Best Instrumental."

Visual Art: A Parallel Expression of Creativity:

Steven Rushingwind's artistic spirit finds expression not only in music, but the visual arts as well. As a self-taught artist hailing from a family of artists, he has explored various mediums and styles. From landscape and plein air paintings to wood sculptures and captivating large-scale installations, Rushingwind's artwork captivates viewers with its vibrant colors and imaginative perspectives. His artistic endeavors have been showcased in galleries across California and Washington DC, leaving a lasting impression on art enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Latest Album Release:

Rushingwind & Mucklow just released their fifth album titled: “5th Element” -  now on all streaming services. Preview Rushingwind's music at www.stevenrushingwindmusic.com

Upcoming Concert:

August 13, 2023, Rushingwind & Mucklow will be performing at the Laguna Art A Fair. This eagerly anticipated event will feature the debut of their latest album, "5th Element."

Odell Borg & Steve Rushingwind 2018

Wood Wisdom: Aromatic Cedar

Posted on June 09, 2023 by Mindy Mellenbruch


For over 30-years we have been crafting flutes from single pieces of Aromatic Cedar and in the process we have become adept at choosing planks with natural characteristics to turn into incredible sounding flutes, including those with many knots in the wood.  We are experts at a technique called Turquoise Accent, which fills the occasional cosmetic wood knot.

 Every flute we make is unique piece of functional art. When you choose one of our Aromatic Cedar flutes we guarantee high-quality sound, flawless craftmanship, and its one-of-a-kind features created by nature.


Esteemed for its exceptional durability and remarkable moisture absorption properties, this wood is highly sought after for crafting musical instruments, particularly flutes. Craftsmen hold a deep appreciation for its unwavering quality, as it consistently produces a melodious, warm, full, resonant sound.

Aromatic Cedar, also known as Eastern Red Cedar, is a versatile evergreen tree native to the eastern United States and Canada. This coniferous species, belonging to the Juniper family, has a distinctive appearance characterized by a thick, conical shape and branches that start low on the trunk, almost at ground level. It can reach heights of 40 to 50 feet with a spread of 8 to 15 feet. The bark is fibrous and reddish-brown, while the leaves vary depending on the age of the tree or branch.

Renowned for its visual allure, Aromatic Cedar boasts a captivating warm reddish-brown heartwood and an exquisite fine grain pattern. The sapwood, appearing as pale yellow streaks and stripes, often intermingles with the heartwood. Knots are also commonly found in the wood.

Apart from its musical applications, Aromatic Cedar holds various practical and cultural significances. Its durable and fragrant wood is used for fence posts and is popular for lining clothes chests and closets as a natural moth repellent. The wood has a rich history in Native American traditions, where it is considered a ceremonial plant and used for prayer, healing, and protection against disease. Indigenous peoples also utilized Aromatic Cedar for making weapons, tools, and constructing timber circles.

Ecologically, Aromatic Cedar is a pioneer species, which means that it is one of the first trees to repopulate cleared, eroded, or otherwise damaged land. It can live for over 900 years and thrives in adverse conditions, making it ideal for wind breaks and shelterbelts. The tree's berries, which are actually small cones, are a source of food for various birds and mammals.

Aromatic Cedar's natural beauty, durability, and cultural significance inspire a sense of admiration and appreciation. Whether in practical applications or artistic endeavors, this exceptional tree continues to captivate and serve diverse purposes.

Tree Trivia:

  1. Native American tribes have a history of using juniper wood poles to mark tribal hunting territories. These poles, with their reddish color, inspired the name "Baton Rouge" for the city in Louisiana. 

  2. The pre-Columbian Mississippian culture constructed the impressive Cahokia Woodhenge series in western Illinois. These timber circles, built around 1000 AD, featured massive logs of eastern juniper. Woodhenge III, for example, consisted of 48 posts forming a circle with a diameter of 410 feet (120 m), with an additional pole at the center.

  3. During the devastating Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, the Prairie States Forest Project encouraged farmers to plant windbreaks of eastern juniper across the Great Plains of the USA, serving as shelterbelts to combat the harsh conditions.

  4. In the Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma Ozarks, eastern juniper is widely used as a Christmas tree, adding a touch of natural beauty to holiday celebrations.

  5. Cedar waxwing birds are particularly fond of the juniper's "berries", hence their name. Remarkably, seeds that have been eaten by these birds have roughly three times higher germination rates compared to uneaten seeds.


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