Sometimes when you’re working on one story, another idea or bit of inspiration falls out of the sky.

It happened to me this week, when Tribune photographer Tim Hacker and I called on Mesa Contemporary Arts to check out the paintings actor Cheech Marin has loaned to the museum.

While there, I found artists Rebecca Davis and Roger Asay hard at work, arranging river stones and pouring mounds of dirt for their show, “Wood & Stone, Substance & Spirit.”

A husband-and-wife team from Prescott, they explore Arizona washes, canyons and mesas, gathering soil, leaves and downed timber for use in their art.

The results are a compelling new look at this land we call home. Imagine a bare paloverde standing, upside-down, on the tips of its tallest branches. A dense sphere of Cottonwood branches as big around as a dining-room table. Columns of earth, pinestraw, berries, twigs and acorns, rising upright as if the wind swirled them together that way.

These were all forms I’d never seen before.

“What IS this thing?” and “How did you MAKE this?” I wanted to know, and Davis and Asay kindly stopped what they were doing to explain how they connect branches with wooden dowels, then trim and shape the unwieldy bundles with a band saw and grinder. Or how they mix the detritus of the forest floor with water and concrete bonding adhesive in a bathtub before pouring it into homemade molds.

“We try to take natural materials people are familiar with and do just enough to them to present them in a fresh way,” said Davis.

As a hiker, kayaker, former outdoor education facilitator and generally outdoorsy person, I have to say: Mission accomplished. Presented through Davis’ and Asay’s artistic lens, my senses immediately hummed with the newness of rocks and sand — things I routinely trample over or around and even stop to admire on hikes — just never in this way.

“People get to the point where they’re so preoccupied with the day-to-day, that a simple request to open your senses and experience ordinary things in a new way is refreshing,” says Davis.

The show opens Friday and is on display through Aug. 7.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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