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Quotations about Arizona & Deserts
Welcome to the Web's first (and thus far, only) page of quotations about Arizona — my home state, born and raised. My family has been here since the 1940s, and I've been collecting these quotes since the 1980s. There are locals and travelers, writers and celebrities, modern words alongside many from the 1800s and early 1900s when we were a territory and not yet a state. There are also quotes about deserts, cactus, hot weather, and our summer thunderstorms which supposedly aren't actually monsoons but that's what we call them anyway. Enjoy the beauty, humor, heat, and eccentricity that is AZ!
Arizona's vale of mountain-temples... ~Robert Haven Schauffler, Romantic America, 1913
You know you're an Arizona native, when a rainy day puts you in a good mood. ~Marshall Trimble, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
I'll take heat rash over frost bite any day. ~Ken Travous
I am enamored with desert dew because it's usually the closest thing we get to rain. ~Terri Guillemets, "Glistening grass is that moment," 2006
You know you're from Arizona when you drive a mile around a parking lot looking for a shady spot — even in the dead of winter. ~Local saying
My favorite color… the seam of a desert horizon. ~Eileen R. Tabios (b.1960)
...the royalty of the Arizona pageant of hues... ~Robert Haven Schauffler, Romantic America, 1913
[N]orthern Arizona.... surrounded by a fragrant piney forest under a peaceful turquoise sky.... what a perfect retreat, he thought, from the pace and pressure of modern living. ~Paul Harvey, "The Ghost and Don Dedera," December 1972
Where the shimmering sands of the desert beat
In waves to the foot-hills' rugged line,
And cat-claw and cactus and brown mesquite
Elbow the cedar and mountain pine...
~Sharlot M. Hall, "Two Bits," 1902 [a sad poem of the death of Two Bits, a "Lassie" of an old race horse
Once, it was so damned dry, the bushes followed the dogs around. ~Nancy Dedera, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
In Phoenix summer is
the title, the refrain,
And every other verse.
~Terri Guillemets, "Poems in heat," 2007
...letting the desert scratch its own thorny poetry on the enormous moon. ~Douglas Woolf (1922–1992), Wall to Wall
In the empire of desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen. ~Mehmet Murat İldan (b.1965)
You know you're an Arizona native, when you run to the window just to watch a dust storm. ~Marshall Trimble, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
I leaped quickly through the opening into the starlight of a clear Arizona night. The crisp, fresh mountain air outside the cave acted as an immediate tonic and I felt new life and new courage coursing through me.... I lifted my head to fill my lungs with the pure, invigorating night air of the mountains. As I did so I saw stretching far below me the beautiful vista of rocky gorge, and level, cacti-studded flat, wrought by the moonlight into a miracle of soft splendor and wondrous enchantment. Few western wonders are more inspiring than the beauties of an Arizona moonlit landscape; the silvered mountains in the distance, the strange lights and shadows upon hog back and arroyo, and the grotesque details of the stiff, yet beautiful cacti form a picture at once enchanting and inspiring; as though one were catching for the first time a glimpse of some dead and forgotten world, so different is it from the aspect of any other spot upon our earth. ~Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917
There's something wonderfully healing in Arizona air. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
One person's picture postcard is someone else's normal. This was the landscape whose every face we knew: giant saguaro cacti, coyotes, mountains, the wicked sun reflecting off bare gravel. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
It is said that baseball is "only a game." Yes, and the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. ~George F. Will, The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses, 1981–1986, 1986
You know you're from Arizona when you feed your chickens ice cubes to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs. ~Local saying
[T]he great desert of Arizona... quivering in the heat of the southern sun. ~Mark Daniels, "Mesa Verde and Casa Grande National Parks," American Forestry, March 1916
In Arizona, shade trees are your best friends — and occasionally the basis of small civil wars over parking. ~Terri Guillemets, "Behind the yucca," 1992
I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams… ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Having spent the night and morning drenched in transfixing beauty, neither of us could stomach the thought of erecting our tent in the campground, so we gassed up and headed for more remote desert.... Nothing stood between us and the vibrant desert. Staring at the unlimited space fanned out before me, I felt magnified and ethereal, yet grounded.... I'd forgotten how enlivening it could feel, seeing clearly and far. Aridity frees light. It also unleashes grandeur.... Desert beauty was "sublime" in the way that the romantic poets had used the word—not peaceful dales but rugged mountain faces, not reassuring but daunting nature, the earth's skin and haunches, its spines and angles arching prehistorically in sunlight. ~Julene Bair, The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning, 2014
Arizona... a land where a good spring is far better than a gold mine... ~E.E.A. from Ohio, "Some Notes of a Trip to California," Success with Flowers, February 1898 ['Spring' meaning water, not the season.
The Arizona desert takes hold of a man's mind and shakes it. ~David W. Toll, "Bristlecone to Saguaro: The Story of Arizona's Trees and Forests from Timberline to Desert Floor," Arizona Highways, January 1971
I live in the dry dusty desert
Where we're always short on water
And even if the sun fell upon us
It couldn't get any hotter.
~Terri Guillemets, "Dry spell," 1993
You know you live in Phoenix when the cold-water faucet is hotter than the hot-water faucet. ~Local saying
It's so hot even my fake plants are wilting. ~Terri Guillemets, "Summer doors open," 2005
You know you live in Phoenix when the four seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and are you freakin' kidding me‽ ~Author unknown
[W]aiting for the end of the drought becomes an obsession. It's literally 110 degrees in the shade today, the kind of weather real southwesterners love to talk about. We have our own kind of Jack London thing, in reverse: Remember that year (swagger, thumbs in belt) when it was 122 degrees and planes couldn't land at the airport?... We revel in our misery only because we know the end, when it comes, is so good. One day there will be a crackling, clean, creosote smell in the air and the ground will be charged and the hair on your arms will stand on end and then BOOM, you are thrillingly drenched. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Making Peace" [Ah, yes, the 122º Phoenix day, June 26th 1990. We all remember where we were! It actually only hit 117º that day in Tucson, still their record high.
Then the wind blew cool through the pinyons on the rim. There was a sweet tang of cedar and sage on the air and that indefinable fragrance peculiar to the canyon country of Arizona. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
You know you live in Phoenix when you can drive two hours in any one direction and never leave the Valley. ~Modern local saying
What makes the desert beautiful... is that somewhere it hides a well… ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount, a perfect ratio of water to rock, of water to sand, insuring that wide, free, open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here, unless you try to establish a city where no city should be. ~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom — and lakes die. ~Gil Stern
Give a man secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him nine years' lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert. ~Arthur Young, Travels in France, 1792
Nature is neutral. Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or to make the deserts bloom. There is no evil in the atom; only in men's souls. ~Adlai Ewing Stevenson II, 1952
For Phœnix is not merely well supplied with water; she is extravagantly supplied, since she joined forces with Uncle Sam's practical scientists, who, guided years ago by that greatest of America's practical geniuses, Major John Wesley Powell, arrested the melted snow-waters of the peaks of Central Arizona, and stored them for man's use. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
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Arizona mesas are arid and barren—broad plateaus of wild, rugged, waterless deserts; the marvelous mountains are rugged, ragged, rough, red, and rude—barren to summit and bleak to every sense. The shadeless mesquite is not essentially handsome or inviting; the valde-verde tree, with its mockery of leafless branches, is not an object of delight; the clouds of hot alkali dust that arise are not agreeable to eye or taste... the numerous varieties of the grotesque cactus, from the little cotton-like bulb of the smallest that hugs the earth, to the monstrous columnar fungus that outlines itself against the sky, are not especially inviting specimens of the freaks in which dame Nature occasionally indulges. Yet, and yet, the wonderful atmosphere that bends above and embraces us, is the most marvelous of magicians. ~Richard J. Hinton, "Over Valley and Mesa," The Hand-Book to Arizona, 1877
...the sweet, sun-purified, sun-vivified air of the desert... ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
The morning... was, like nearly all Arizona mornings, clear and beautiful... ~Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917
It was now morning, and, with the customary lack of dawn which is a startling characteristic of Arizona, it had become daylight almost without warning. ~Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917
Here, one sees the Painted Desert with its fantastic coloring, the petrified forests, deep lateral cañons, the great Cohonino Forest, through which one may ride for five days without finding a drop of water except during the rainy season. Truly, it is a wonderland, and in the Grand Cañon one can think of nothing but the Abomination of Desolation. There is no place in the world at present so accessible, and at the same time so full of the most romantic interest, as are the territories of Arizona and New Mexico. ~John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook, 1891 [A little altered. Description is from 1874 travels, when it was the Arizona Territory. G.W. James paraphrases Bourke: "Arizona is the Wonderland of the Southwest."
Each season of adventure reality television gets more challenging. I'm waiting for them to come out with a Survivor: Phoenix in July edition. ~Terri Guillemets, "Desert, ay, land," 2006
One hundred sixteen degrees…I live in the Sun Belt.... To spell it out for you, I haven't been able to cross my legs at the knee since the last of May.... If any of you has an ounce of charity for your fellow person, you will indulge me while I share with you an Arizona summer. It's where a woman puts on a pair of oven mitts so she can touch her steering wheel.... Where deodorant ads are considered fiction. Where you cultivate fat friends so you'll always be around shade. ~Erma Bombeck, "An Arizona Summer" (At Wit's End column), July 1979
When the East and Midwest are suffering through the brutal winters, no one is interested that we are having good weather. It's depressing and considered bad taste to talk about it. When we are suffering through agonizing heat waves and droughts, no one cares. During the snowstorms last year in the East our papers were filled with stories of sacrifice, hardship, and devastation. During our summer, we get an occasional page-one picture of a blonde with three ounces of clothing on her back... frying an egg on the sidewalk. ~Erma Bombeck, "An Arizona Summer" (At Wit's End column), July 1979
I turned off my tape-recorder and just sat looking at him for a moment, this strange time-traveller from the year 1890 or so, who remembered when there were no cars, no electric lights, no airplanes, no state of Arizona. ~Stephen King, It, 1986
It's the Southwest.... Where nature rubs belly to belly with subdivision and barrio. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Making Peace"
Tell me: have you ever seen stars in a more black-velvety sky, or seen them so large, vivid and intense? Was ever mountain coloring more tender, soft, alluring than at dawn, or more richly radiant than at sunset? ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917 [a little altered
There's magic in a desert night
When stars fall down to human height;
I filled my pockets, filled my hands,
And more stars fell upon the sands.
The gentle breeze that shook the sky
Sent starry windfalls sailing by,
And whirlwinds scuffling on the ground,
Kicked stars into a silver mound.
Despite this bounty in my clutch,
Millions more were there to touch —
The desert night must play a trick,
Hanging stars low down to pick!
~Lenore Eversole Fisher, "Desert Harvest," in Arizona Highways, February 1965
How far away
are the countless stars
which softly light
the clear desert night?
Just stand on tiptoe,
for it's easy, you know,
to gather an armful,
~Florence M. Emmons, "Desert Stars," Arizona Highways, November 1970
In Arizona we salt margaritas, not sidewalks. ~Author unknown
You know you're an Arizona native when you were here before Marcos de Niza, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, Eusebio Kino, Tubac, Brigham Young, James Gadsden, Jefferson Davis, Jack Swilling, and Phoenix! ~Terri Guillemets, 2004 #Hohokam #Mogollon #Anasazi #Hopi #Yavapai #Navajo #Apache #Pima #Paiute
Illegal aliens have always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian. ~Robert Orben (b.1927)
Can we give a true picture by describing a typical, or average, Arizonan? No, for there is no such person.... When one speaks of an Arizonan, does he mean one of the 46,000 Indians whose ancestors were here first? Does he mean one of the 145,000 Mexicans, who may be descended from seventeenth century invaders or have crossed the international line only yesterday as an immigrant? Does he mean a grizzled pioneer... [or those] who have come in the last decade from every other state in the Union and from almost every country on the face of the earth? ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
Arizona owes much of its color and individuality to the Mexicans, who largely retain their own culture and customs in an environment constantly growing more alienized. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
I speak as much Spanish as anyone who has grown up in Southern California or Texas or Arizona. ~Will Ferrell, interview with Randy Cordova of The Arizona Republic, regarding his movie Casa De Mi Padre, 2012
Content can soothe, where e'er by fortune placed,
Can rear a garden in a desert waste.
~Henry Kirke White (1785–1806), "Clifton Grove"
She looked out of her window. How blue the sky. The mountain peaks stood up like dark spears. Patches of snow shone in the sunlight, running down to the edge of the vast green belt of forest land.... Arizona! There was no place in the world so full of romance and beauty, and the natural things that stirred the soul. ~Zane Grey, The Water Hole, 1928 [One does tend to feel this way in the pines; in the more arid areas, not so much. Dust isn't very romantic.
Have you slept in a tent alone—a tent
Out under the desert sky—
Where a thousand thousand desert miles
All silent round you lie?—
The dust of the aeons of ages dead,
And the peoples that trampled by?
Have you looked in the desert's painted cup,
Have you smelled at dawn the wild sage musk,
Have you seen the lightning flashing up
From the ground in the desert dusk?
Have you heard the song in the desert rain
(Like the undertone of a wordless rhyme)?
Have you watched the glory of colors flame
In its marvel of blossom time?...
If you have, then you know, for you've felt its spell,
The lure of the desert land,
And if you have not, then I could not tell—
For you could not understand.
~Madge Morris Wagner (1862–1924), "The Lure of the Desert Land," c.1909 ["Mrs. Wagner has not written of the desert from a car window. On the contrary she knows and she loves the desert as a sailor knows and loves the ocean. Her tent is there season after season, and the mercury is above par. For she and her enterprising husband, Harr Wagner, believe in Arizona..." ~Joaquin Miller, 1892
Sunset fell.... The red and golden rays of sunlight swept down over it, spreading light over the desert. ~Zane Grey, The Water Hole, 1927
[A] tumble from the rocks would probably land us in a cactus—and anyone who's ever tried to tangle with a teddy bear cactus knows there's a whole lot more bear than teddy to it. ~Kevin Hearne, Hounded, 2011
You know you're an Arizona native, when you "hug" a cactus only once in your lifetime. ~Nancy Dedera, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
Reach for the stars, even if you have to stand on a cactus. ~Susan Longacre
The world is full of cactus, but we don't have to sit on it. ~Will Foley
The Grand Canyon is too grand for a steady diet. It is so overwhelmingly impressive that you can not continue indefinitely on that exalted emotional level. In the parlance of the connoisseur of paintings, the Canyon is a "museum-piece." Let the beauty-lover beware of going anywhere else on earth! For the Zambesi, the Yellowstone, the fjords of Norway, Switzerland, the Rocky Mountains will by comparison all seem tame and colorless. There is only one way by which he can avoid a jarring anti-climax. That is to lay in a proper supply of oxygen and condensed foods and take airship for a tour of the chief Martian winter resorts. Yes, and there is one alternative: Let him take armchair for those wonderlands of the human imagination which alone are more sublimely fair than the irised mountain range that God inverted in the heart of Arizona. ~Robert Haven Schauffler, Romantic America, 1913 [a little altered
The desert tells a different story every time one ventures on it… ~Robert Edison Fulton, Jr. (1909–2004), One Man Caravan, 1937
One comes here to live
In the openness of skyward mountains...
And one comes here, to lose and find himself...
~Reeve Spencer Kelley, "Generally, You Know This Land," Arizona Highways, October 1973
Let us hover over the bad lands of the Painted Desert, El Desierto Pintado. Here and there and everywhere, are patches of red, green, blue, yellow, madder, lake, orange, green, violet, pink and every color known to man. It is as if this was the place where divine thoughts were tested for man's benefit, and then the pallet-board was left for man to see, to wonder at and revere. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917 [a little altered
"I had a pard who came from Arizona. All day long and half the night that broncho buster would rave about Arizona. Well, he won me over. Arizona must be wonderful.
"But Pan, isn't it desert country?"
"Arizona is every kind of country..."
~Zane Grey, Valley of Wild Horses, 1947
Arizona and New Mexico, they are similar In lots of respects. They have great climates, almost any kind you like. They are both States that kinder wear well on you. Don't just look out of the train and condemn 'em. It just looks like nothing couldent live by looking out of a sleeper window. ~Will Rogers, weekly article, 1933 January 1st [slightly altered
Out west a favorite practice is
To brag about our cactuses,
Of which the west not only has the mostest,
But also those to skin and clothes
Inclined to stick the closest.
Opuntia warts have fuzzy hairs,
Some chollas look like teddy bears,
While others look like hatracks gone delirious.
All love the sun. There's only one
That takes night-blooming cereus.
Out west we never miss a chance
To brag about our cactus plants,
A theme on which we may get stuck for hours;
But hold your scorn for spine and thorn
Till you've seen cactus flowers!
~S. Omar Barker, "Cactus, Anyone?", in Arizona Highways, March 1973
I like Jackrabbit as a place, but especially as a name. Town names in Arizona have a realistic ring to them, probably because they were settled by realistic people. Oh, there are towns called Carefree and Friendly Corner and Eden in Arizona, even Inspiration and Paradise. And, of course, Phoenix. Chamber of Commerce names. But most of those old settlers told it like it was, rough and rocky. They named their towns Rimrock, Rough Rock, Round Rock, and Wide Ruins, Skull Valley, Bitter Springs, Wolf Hole, Tombstone. It's a tough country. The names of Arizona towns tell you all you need to know. ~Charles Kuralt, Dateline America, 1979
The Desert is—
A brown maiden
Basking in the sun.
~Ruth E. Meakin (b.1888), "April's Secret"
He wanted to know what I missed from home.... I tried to describe impossible things like the scent of creosote — bitter, slightly resinous, but still pleasant — the high, keening sound of the cicadas in July, the feathery barrenness of the trees, the very size of the sky, extending white-blue from horizon to horizon, barely interrupted by the low mountains covered with purple volcanic rock. The hardest thing to explain was why it was so beautiful to me — to justify a beauty that didn't depend on the sparse, spiny vegetation that often looked half dead, a beauty that had more to do with the exposed shape of the lane, with the shallow bowls of valleys between the craggy hills, and the way they held on to the sun. ~Stephenie Meyer, Twilight, written 2003, published 2005
A subtle but palpable feeling surrounded the three of us, like the scent of creosote and cactus flowers hanging heavy in the air after a long-awaited desert shower. ~Linda Kohanov, "Does the Horse Have a Buddha Nature?", Riding Between the Worlds: Expanding Our Potential through the Way of the Horse, 2003
Arizona is a land of contrasts geologically, racially, socially, and culturally. Its mountains tower a mile or more into the air; the rivers have cut miles deep into the multicolored earth. Snow lingers on the peaks while the valleys are sweet with the fragrance of orange blossoms. Here are sere deserts and the largest pine forest in the world. Here are fallen forests turned to stone, and forests of trees that have survived the slow change from jungle to desert by turning their leaves to thorns. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
The windmills stare at the sun.
The yellow earth cracks and blisters.
Everything is still.
In the afternoon
The wind takes dry waves of heat and tosses them,
Mingled with dust, up and down the streets...
~John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950), "The Windmills" (Arizona Poems), 1915
You are between vast walls, that rise a quarter of a mile or less apart, made of brilliant red sandstone, the walls reaching up to the very stars.... A thousand, two thousand, feet high, the walls surely must be. Wonderful. Awe-inspiring. Majestic. You see a Navaho camp-fire and dancers; the song you hear is a death chant, sung to aid the spirit on its long journey to the other world beyond. You are in the Canyon de Chelly, the home of the ancient Cliff-Dwellers and also of the present-day Navahos. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917 [a little altered
The land of the Navajos is a big land. It is a land where the horizon dances seductively in the distance, a beckoning sorceress tempting with promises unfilled. The land of the Navajos is a big land, big enough for the wind to romp in and to get lost in, big enough for the sun to assume its regal role as a pompous dictator, which it does in royal and imperious splendor. It is a color-drenched, sun-drenched land whose intense coloration can be hard on the eyes but pleasing to the soul. It is a land worthy of the people who live in it — the Navajos as colorful as their land... ~Raymond Carlson, "Delano: Beauty in Navajoland," Arizona Highways, August 1968
Many things bind Phoenicians together... Fearing insects, because even though we have fewer insects than other places, the insects we do have actively try to kill us... ~Dominic Verstegen, "The Seven Stages of Dealing with Arizona's Heat," July 2015
Strange and inscrutable
the desert lies
Austere its every mood;
Yet peace and beauty
In solemn quietude.
~F.J. Worrall, "Desert," in Arizona Highways, March 1973
Now meet the "devil" of the cactus characters. Pronounced "choy-ah," Cholla is the common alias for Cylindropuntia. Cholla is a pretty word whether you say it or spell it. In Mexican it means "head." In American Cholla means you'll be sorry if you don't use your head and not your hands in the study and appreciation of these notorious but strangely charming characters. Driving through Cholla country during the late afternoon or early morning hours one cannot help but be fascinated by the silhouetted backlighted forms whose outlines seem to glow like bright sparklers etching the dark stems in outline with their effervescent halo. It's a tableau you won't see anywhere else on earth. The desert stage seems strangely alive as each character appears to be stopped in motion, like the dancers in a bizarre ballet. ~Joseph Stacey, "Arizona… Premier Cactus State," Arizona Highways, March 1973
A shadowy dance,
While pixies prance,
And chollas sway.
Black arms swirling,
As west winds play.
~Gertrude J. Hager (b.1886), "Dancing Cholla"
You know you live in Phoenix when you are willing to park three blocks away because you actually found shade from a palm tree imported 300 miles from California and nurtured with water piped 250 miles from Nevada. ~Author unknown
To describe the Grand Canyon is as impossible as it is unnecessary.... Its motionless unreality is one of the first and most powerful impressions it makes. And yet the Grand Canyon is really a motion picture. There is no moment that it does not change. Always its shadows are insensibly altering, disappearing here, appearing there...
There is the Grand Canyon of the early morning, when the light slants lengthwise from the Painted Desert. The great capes of the northern rim shoot into the picture, outlined in golden light against which their shapes gloom in hazy blues. Certain temples seem to rise slowly from the depths, or to step forward from hiding places in the opposite walls. Down on the green floor the twisting inner gorge discloses here and there lengths of gleaming water, sunlit and yellow.
An hour later all is wholly changed. The dark capes have retired somewhat and now are brilliant-hued and thoroughly defined. The temples of the dawn have become remodeled, and scores of others have emerged from the purple gloom....
And so, from hour to hour, the spectacle develops.... as afternoon progresses the spectacles of the morning creep back, now reversed and strangely altered in outline. It is a new Grand Canyon, the same but wonderfully different.
And just after sunset the reds deepen to dim purples and the grays and yellows and greens change to magical blues. In the dark of a moonless night the canyon suggests unimaginable mysteries. ~National Park Service, Rules and Regulations: Grand Canyon National Park, 1920
But let not our thoughts be only of happiness. For does not the old Arab proverb—"all sunshine makes a desert"—faithfully remind us that the cloud and the storm are likewise needed for the most complete and satisfactory results? ~William P. Finney, 1907
[A] broken reef of purple clouds appeared beaten upon by contending tides of silver and rose. Through a ragged rent the sinking sun sent shafts of radiant light down behind the horizon. In the east the panorama was no less striking and beautiful. The desert sent its walls and domes and monuments of red rock far up into the sky of gorgeous pink and white clouds. Cherry drew a deep full breath. Yes, Arizona was awakening her to something splendid and compelling. How vast and free and windswept this colored desert. ~Zane Grey, The Water Hole, 1927
[S]he was actually learning to love Arizona. The beauty and color and solitude, the vastness of it had called to something deep in her. First she had complained of the dust, the wind, the emptiness, the absence of people. But she had forgotten these. ~Zane Grey, The Water Hole, 1927
We've had Eastern tenderfeet here before. And never was there a one of them who didn't come to love Arizona. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
And me—I was glowing as brightly as the warm Arizona evening. Pink clouds were striped across the twilight sky. It was country to fall in love with. ~David Gerrold, The Martian Child, 2002
And the sunshine, too, of Arizona is equal to the atmosphere. It is direct, positive, unadulterated. The clarity of the air allows it to reach man and the earth just as it was divinely intended it should, and the result is it brings healing, strength and power on its wings. Pure air, pure atmosphere, pure and unadulterated, unrestrained sunshine bless every inhabitant, making the strong stronger, and bringing new hope, new brightness, new life to the weak and ailing. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
You know you're an Arizona native, when you say, after the sermon about Noah and the 40 days and nights of rain, "Yep, we got about a half inch ourselves that year." ~Jack Williams, former governor of Arizona, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
These lands are too parched,
Please rain-bless our hearts!
~Terri Guillemets, "It's a dry heat," 2011
He'd always had a quickening of the heart when he crossed into Arizona and beheld the cactus country. This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaro standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite. Because there had been some winter rain, the desert was in bloom. The saguaro wore creamy crowns on their tall heads, the ocotillo spikes were tipped with vermilion, and the brush bloomed yellow as forsythia. ~Dorothy Belle Hughes (1904-1993), The Expendable Man, 1963
In the weeks following the winter rains the desert literally springs to life as nature, in her inimitable creative genius, transposes the desert into a tapestry of panoramic beauty. Cactus blossoms and desert flowers burst forth with broad, bold brush strokes of colors upon the landscape. The sunscreenlike paloverde trees explode with a profusion of gold, and the ironwood tree complements its gray-green leaves with a crown of beautiful pale violet blossoms. The flaming red torches atop the ocotillo, and the yucca with its magnificent white candelabra dispel the myth held by some that the desert is nothing but an intractable, barren, forbidding sea of inhospitableness. They will bloom only briefly, for the long, hot summer is not far behind and the hardy desert flora will have to regroup their resources or "tighten up their belts" so to speak, and through the cycles of change in the changeless land, they will cling to life, fighting for survival every day of their existence. ~Marshall Trimble, Arizona: A Panoramic History of a Frontier State, 1977
East away from the Sierras, south from Panamint and Amargosa, east and south many an uncounted mile, is the Country of Lost Borders.... Desert is the name it wears upon the maps.... Here are the long heavy winds and breathless calms on the tilted mesas where dust devils dance, whirling up into a wide, pale sky. Here you have no rain when all the earth cries for it, or quick downpours called cloud bursts for violence.... This is the country of three seasons. From June on to November it lies hot, still, and unbearable... then on until April, chill, quiescent, drinking its scant rain and scanter snows; from April to the hot season again, blossoming, radiant, and seductive.... The desert floras shame us with their cheerful adaptations to the seasonal limitations. Their whole duty is to flower and fruit, and they do it hardly, or with tropical luxuriance, as the rain admits. ~Mary Austin, "A Land of Little Rain," The Atlantic Monthly, January 1903
The saguaro is Arizona. ~Herb & Dorothy McLaughlin, c.1973
A swift streak of color,
A silhouette in jade,
A flash of silver underneath
On all will be seen.
~Margaret Wheeler Ross (1867–1953), "Spring Styles on the Desert: The Lizard"
a painted lizard appears — elbows tense,
hands gripped hard against the earth,
and stares off to the empty horizon
as if something were about to happen.
~Susie Lightfoot, "A Desert," Arizona Highways, July 1971
Many are repelled by the desert's vast stretches of mesas and buttes with their sagebrush and yucca; by its gigantic masses of sharp, broken rock; and by its wind-beaten wastes, so still at times beneath the blazing sun that the wavering heat vibrations are the only movement. Under the withering summer heat, the cacti droop, the desert fauna seek the shade of the mesquite; only the lizard, skirting swiftly over the parched floor, braves the sun's glare.... Yet the desert has a compensatory beauty. The cacti bear brilliant flowers.... Under clouds and oppressive heat the sky often glows with carmines, chrome-yellows, magentas, pinks, grays, and browns and at times these are reflected on the desert floor till it becomes a symphony of color. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
"Sand," Ragen explained. "Nothing but sand for miles in every direction. No food nor water but what you carry, and nothing to shade you from the scorching sun."
"And people live there?" Arlen asked.
"Oh, yes," Ragen said.
~Peter V. Brett, The Warded Man, 2009
Desert springtime, with flowers popping up all over the place, trees leafing out, streams gushing down from the mountains. Great time of year for hiking, camping, exploring, sleeping under the new moon and the old stars. At dawn and at evening we hear the coyotes howling with excitement—mating season. ~Edward Abbey (1927–1989), Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
What ideal, immutable Platonic cloud could equal the beauty and perfection of any ordinary everyday cloud floating over, say, Tuba City, Arizona, on a hot day in June? ~Edward Abbey
Santa Cruz County... Climatically the region is one of the highly favored districts for which Arizona has already become world famed. One neither roasts, fries, bakes, or frizzles in summer nor freezes, crystallizes, or solidifies in winter. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
[T]he University of Arizona, a very fine school, well liked and spoken of by everybody that knows about it. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935) [Go Wildcats!
Tuition is free to all students who enter the Normal with the intention of completing the work leading to graduation in either the professional or the academic course. A fee of $5 per quarter, payable in advance, is due from all students who desire to engage in work of a special or irregular nature without intention of completing either a professional or an academic course. The necessary outlay for books and stationery varies from $10 to $15 per year. Examination paper, pens, ink, pencils, and the like are furnished the students without expense.... It will be noted from the foregoing that the Territory of Arizona provides the advantages of a first-class education at an expense to the student not greatly in advance of that incurred by the average young man or woman at home. ~Twenty-Sixth Annual Catalogue of The Tempe Normal School of Arizona for the School Year 1911–1912 [Renamed in 1958 to Arizona State University. Available athletics for the 1911 school year were tennis, basketball, track, and baseball.
If you would know the world go into a desert and study your own heart. ~Austin O'Malley (1858–1932), Thoughts of a Recluse, 1898
God takes everyone he loves through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. ~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World, 2009
And how hot it is! It seems a veritable Sahara, for it is midsummer, and the heat rises from this vast plateau as from a fiery furnace. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
Winter in 'Zona is springtime
Spring is summer askew
Summer is torturous hellfire
Autumn is summer part II
~Terri Guillemets, "Spring sun," 1993
But there is still too much to see and marvel at, the world very much alive in the bright light and wind, exultant with the fever of spring, the delight of morning. Strolling on, it seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here, in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. ~Edward Abbey (1927–1989), Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness
We raced, the tumbleweed and I,
beneath a blue and whipped-cream sky
along the mesa, running free,
breath-full of sun and wind and glee.
What joy to sing and run and race
across this wide and windblown place!
~Jeanne DeLamarter Bonnette, "Wind Running," Arizona Highways, February 1971
...gaunt and neat and thoughtful and smiling. Smiling that dry desert smile. ~Stephen King, It, 1986
What most people don't understand is that UFOs are on a cosmic tourist route. That's why they're always seen in Arizona, Scotland, and New Mexico. Another thing to consider is that all three of those destinations are good places to play golf. So there's possibly some connection between aliens and golf. ~Alice Cooper, interview with Cal Fussman, 2008 August 2nd, for Esquire's January 2009 eighth annual Meaning of Life issue
Governor Glasscock of West Virginia, while traveling through Arizona, noticed the dry, dusty appearance of the country. "Doesn't it ever rain around here?" he asked one of the natives. "Rain?" The native spat. "Rain? Why, say, pardner, there's bullfrogs in this yere town over five years old that hain't learned to swim yet." ~Everybody's Magazine, "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree," November 1909
You know you're an Arizona native, when you know that dust devils are not fur balls under the bed. ~Norbert Pope, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
It is doubtful if any other area of equal extent in the world has greater diversity of natural phenomena than Arizona. From desert tracts to valleys of extraordinary fertility; from torrid heat to frigid cold, from lowland to highland, from plains as level as a floor to a succession of frightful gulches and cañons that amaze the beholder; from solitude to populous cities; from savage squalor and filth to civilized purity and refinement, from the simplest plant to the giant cactus, from rainfall to brightest sunshine... almost anything that can be imagined can be found in this delightful clime. ~A Historical and Biographical Record of the Territory of Arizona, 1896
Along the mountain ridges,
Across the desert floor;
Arms like verdant armor,
Stalwarts guard our door.
Shading for the lizard,
Haven for the wren,
Source of inspiration,
For past and present men.
~Earl Bloss, "Saguaros," in Arizona Highways, March 1973
You know you're an Arizona native, when you know that "javelina" is not a spear thrown in the Italian Olympic trials. ~Allan Perry, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
She flung her query out to the winds of the desert. But the desert seemed too gray, too vast, too remote, too aloof, too measureless. It was not concerned with her little life. Then she turned to the mountain kingdom. It seemed overpoweringly near at hand. It loomed above her to pierce the fleecy clouds. It was only a stupendous upheaval of earth-crust, grown over at the base by leagues and leagues of pine forest, belted along the middle by vast slanting zigzag slopes of aspen, rent and riven toward the heights into canyon and gorge, bared above to cliffs and corners of craggy rock, whitened at the sky-piercing peaks by snow. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
The desert is a place of bones, where the innards are turned out, to desiccate into dust. ~Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration: Old Wisdom for a New World, 2010
A rainbow on the desert is truly the Creator's touch. It is a sign of life renewed, and the verdant growth brought forth by these storms is perennial enrichment to man and animal alike. Covering a vast area of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, the Sonoran Desert is like a giant botanical laboratory. Here, in this land of strange climatic conditions and even stranger plants, the astute observer is brought to the sudden realization that these life forms, like man, must balance themselves with their environment in order to survive. ~Joseph Stacey, "Arizona… Premier Cactus State," Arizona Highways, March 1973
She noted, too, that the whites and yellows of earth and rock had begun to shade to red — and this she knew meant an approach to Arizona. Arizona, the wild, the lonely, the red desert, the green plateau — Arizona with its thundering rivers, its unknown spaces, its pasture-lands and timber-lands, its wild horses, cowboys, outlaws, wolves and lions and savages! ~Zane Grey, The Man of the Forest, 1920
Colors of dusk
sweep down in tender shades
to smooth the desert's
seared and weary face.
A vagrant breeze
touching the sage and cactus
to muted music tones.
Hushed sounds and moonglow
relax the tired desert,
and shimmering peace walks tall
in soft-soled sandals.
~Violet G. Leighty, "To a Desert Night," Arizona Highways, February 1971
...face reddened by desert sun-heat... ~Alexander Smith, "Books and Gardens," Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country, 1863
And the Grand Canyon—well, I just don't want to hurt their feelings talking about it. No, sir, Europe has nothing to recommend it but its old age, and the Petrified forest in Arizona makes a Sucker out of it for old age. Why, that forest was there and doing business before Nero took his first Violin lesson. ~Will Rogers
June is the cruelest month in Tucson.... Every plant looks pitiful and, when you walk past it, moans a little, envious because you can walk yourself to a drink and it can't.... In June there is no vital sign, not so much as a humid breath against a pane of glass, till the summer storms arrive. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Making Peace" #monsoon
The arid country! I look out over the sagebrush plain, panting and parched, and sense its long thirst for the rain.... Does its soul stifle when the hot winds blow and the burning sands beat down? Is its throat cracked and aching in the alkali heat? Does it know a yearning as deep as death for the sound of a purling stream? ~Muriel Strode Lieberman (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: XXVII," A Soul's Faring, 1921 [Strode was born in Illinois but lived the final 34 years of her life in Tucson.
She is young and beautiful—my country—
Mother of many children.
She is free...
She rose and walked like the sun into the west...
Past rivers like a sea,
And mountains that snowily, secretly, kiss the moon—
Out to shining Arizona athirst in the sun
And Oregon shaggy with firs by her northern ocean,
Whom the silver Sierras link together forever...
~Harriet Monroe, "America," in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, December 1918 [Note: The 'She is free' line wasn't added until 1920, so the attribution here isn't perfectly accurate to this wording but it does indicate the original publication date of the poem.
I had always feared walking into the desert, not because of its desolation but because of its dunes repetitive and endless to the horizon. Wandering through the same yellow sand, under the same burning sun, through the same sandstorms. Having abandoned my sanctuary, I would enter the desert alone, to leave in the sand endless footprints only to be obliterated by the wind, to walk the same path each day expecting the same path tomorrow, and perhaps to cease wondering at the bloom and wither of lilies only to linger for death. But no, even in the desert, I would seek a new sanctuary, to contemplate a grain of sand in a sea of dryness... ~Leonard Seet, Meditation on Space-Time, 2012
Have you heard
Whispering on the desert winds
From midnight peaks
They whisper, "Silence,"
They whisper… "Peace."
~J.A. Christensen, "Desert Murmurs," in Arizona Highways, October 1978
The cold, clear, silent night brought back the charm of the desert. How flaming white the stars! The great spire-pointed peaks lifted cold pale-gray outlines up into the deep star-studded sky. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
For all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars. ~Mary Austin, "A Land of Little Rain," The Atlantic Monthly, January 1903
"It's only a desert!" Yes, I know.
Sometimes I think God left it so,
That mortals, weary of their strife
Could breathe its air, and feel new life
Come pulsing from these solitudes
So calm, so grand in all their moods.
~Flossie Edna Ritzenthaler Cole Wells (1889–1987), "Coconino Wilderness"
Apart in my rock-hewn pathway, where the great cliffs shut me in,
The storm-swept clouds were my brethren, and the stars were my kind and kin.
~Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870–1943), "The Song of the Colorado," Cactus and Pine: Songs of the Southwest, 1910
[T]here are miles and miles of land purely desert, and clothed only with thorny cacti and others of that ilk. ~John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook, 1891
Yellow as sunlight,
Nod and drowse...
The painted sky,
Meshes of green
To catch and hold
This prodigal wealth
Of desert gold.
~Ethel Jacobson, "Palo Verde," Arizona Highways, May 1973
A palo verde
is sunlit laughter
when Spring walks
A pepper tree is
a lace mantilla
through which the
has gypsy breeding
that laughs at wind and rain;
Gnarled sycamores sing
where canyons are deep,
a peace-filled, calm refrain…
But high on mountains,
the pines stand praying,
their voices whisper low
as they chant together
an ageless measure,
"Reach out and up, and grow!"
~Lorraine Babbitt, "Tree Portraits," in Arizona Highways, September 1961
Like to Lillith's hair down-streaming, soft and shining, glorious, golden,
Sways the queenly palo verde robed and wreathed in golden flowers;
And the spirits of dead lovers might have joy again together
Where the honey-sweet acacia weaves its shadow-fretted bowers.
~Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870–1943), "Spring in the Desert," Cactus and Pine: Songs of the Southwest, 1910
My ENORMOUS thanks to… The staff of the Moore's Creek Bridge battlefield Visitors' Center... for explaining to me what an ice-storm is, because they had just had one. We do not have ice-storms in Arizona. ~Diana Gabaldon, "Acknowledgments," A Breath of Snow and Ashes, 2005
She left in August after the last rain of the season. Summer storms in the desert are violent things, and clean, they leave you feeling like you have cried. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Hallie's Bones," Animal Dreams, 1990 #monsoon
The sun is rolling slowly
Beneath the sluggish folds of sky-serpents,
Coiling, uncoiling, blue black, sparked with fires.
Above the smell of scorching, oozing pinyon,
The acrid smell of rain.
And now the showers
Surround the mesa like a troop of silver dancers:
Shaking their rattles, stamping, chanting, roaring...
~John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950), "Rain in the Desert" (Arizona Poems), 1915 #monsoons
It was another one of those dry, windy nights that defy description. The air is restless and the trees start whispering secrets to each other. A discomforting reminder of the desert that sprawled here before the city was built—it makes the world ephemeral and temporary, as if by morning all this will be dust again. ~David Gerrold, The Martian Child, 2002
Once again I felt myself frozen by the sense of something irreparable. And I knew that I could not bear the thought of never hearing that laughter any more. For me, it was like a spring of fresh water in the desert. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
God bless the cottonwood trees, whose ranks
Still spread their shade along the banks
Of old canals, and country ways!
God give them strength, and length of days!
And save them from the vandal hand
Which moves to cut them from the land,
Or mar their native form and grace
For sordid ends, or commonplace!
Give each its meed of soil and sun;
About their roots let waters run:
Let each forever be a psalm
Of living praise, in storm and calm...
~V.O. Wallingford (b.1876), "The Cottonwood Trees"
All through the summer's drouth and heat,
How many hearts have found retreat
And comfort, in the friendly shade
Which these old cottonwoods have made...
They gently spread a checkered shade
O'er swelling bud and springing blade...
~V.O. Wallingford (b.1876), "The Cottonwood Trees"
You know you're an Arizona native, when you have to look up "mass transit" in the dictionary. ~Paul Johnson, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
The climate in winter is incomparably finer than that of Italy. It would scarcely be possible to suggest an improvement.... Perhaps fastidious people might object to the temperature in summer, when the rays of the sun attain their maximum force, and the hot winds sweep in from the desert.... I have even heard complaint made that the thermometer failed to show the true heat because the mercury dried up. Every thing dries; wagons dry; men dry; chickens dry; there is no juice left in any thing, living or dead, by the close of summer. Officers and soldiers are supposed to walk about creaking; mules, it is said, can only bray at midnight; and I have heard it hinted that the carcasses of cattle rattle inside their hides, and that snakes find a difficulty in bending their bodies.... ~J. Ross Browne, "A Tour Through Arizona," in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, October 1864 (Fort Yuma travels)
You know that Arizona is going to really be understood and get somewhere some day. ~Will Rogers [Ummm, no comment.
Here is a master's etching
In the crimson flood of dawn—
A thousand monks are marching
With a prayer to cheer them on.
Their pleading arms are reaching
Ever upward thru the haze;
I think they must be preaching
For the souls of other days…
~Don Maitland Bushby (1900–1969), "Desert Monks (Impressions of the Sahuarro)," c.1958 [adopted as "Chief Whispering Pine"
As in a children's game
a sudden command
in the desert night
must have stopped
who now stand
fixed in a landscape
like strange people
from other times
and other places.
~Jeanne DeLamarter Bonnette, "The Saguaros," Arizona Highways, September 1970
Lucy did not know what she yearned for, she did not know why the desert called to her, she did not know in what it resembled her spirit, but she did know that these three feelings were as one, deep in her heart. For ten years, every day of her life, she had watched this desert scene, and never had there been an hour that it was not different, yet the same. Ten years—and she grew up watching, feeling—till from the desert's thousand moods she assimilated its nature, loved her bonds, and could never have been happy away from the open, the color, the freedom, the wildness....
Hers always the desert seasons: the shrill, icy blast, the intense cold, the steely skies, the fading snows; the gray old sage and the bleached grass under the pall of the spring sand-storms; the hot furnace breath of summer, with its magnificent cloud pageants in the sky, with the black tempests hanging here and there over the peaks, dark veils floating down and rainbows everywhere, and the lacy waterfalls upon the glistening cliffs and the thunder of the red floods; and the glorious golden autumn when it was always afternoon and time stood still!
~Zane Grey, Wildfire, 1916
In the desert, the slow quiet entrance of autumn is like breathing a sigh of relief — exhaling all the hot, stifling air built up over summer. ~Terri Guillemets
There is gold in every sunset,
There's a whisper in the breeze.
Quiet night birds are calling
As they nestle in the trees.
Yucca candles, snow-white candles
Pointing to the sky,
Lending color to the desert
With a glow to magnify.
Stately pines are swaying
Making music soft and still.
As silence spreads her mantle
Over crag and over hill.
There is a hush at every twilight
With sunset curtains drawn.
While the glow of yucca candles
Awaits the light of dawn.
~M. Denise Shea, "Yucca Candles," in Arizona Highways, March 1973
You know you're an Arizona native, when you always knock the heels of your shoes on the floor before putting them on, because once—out fell an angry scorpion. ~Don Dedera, You Know You're an Arizona Native, When…, 1993
Bessie cried. "I ain't movin' to Arizona! Damnit, there is nothin' there but gravel and scorpions—" ~Mary Doria Russell, Doc, 2011
Scorpions are a mix of lobsters, spiders, wasps, and nightmares. ~Author unknown
The best gift of the desert is God's presence. ~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World, 2009
On the desert southwest of Valentine changes of weather effect sudden and complete transformation. Under a clear blue heaven this is a land of tawny yellows and reds; when there are clouds they throw dark purple shadows on the ground and intensify the golden glow of the sunlight; but as columns of rain advance over the mesas it is a world of blue and gray-green shadows. Desert rains are usually so definitely demarked that the story of the man who washed his hands in the edge of an Arizona thunder shower without wetting his cuffs seems almost credible. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
The first 100 degree day provokes sadness, especially if it's in early April. We wonder why the first settlers decided to make a home here in the Valley, not up in Prescott. Or why didn't they all settle in California? Did they predict the high taxation and that weird thing where motorcycles whip between lanes on the freeway and scare the bowel movement out of you? ~Dominic Verstegen, "The Seven Stages of Dealing with Arizona's Heat," July 2015
The first 110+ degree day, hopefully in June, occasionally in May, always surprises us by reminding us just how hot that is. Like, it hurts to touch things that have been in the sun, including your shirt. ~Dominic Verstegen, "The Seven Stages of Dealing with Arizona's Heat," July 2015
A hundred and ten in the shade is hot — but you don't gotta shovel it off your driveway. ~Arizona saying
The desert is quiet,
and it's listening.—
It's thirsty, and
A cactus grows
one hundred years
& spares no water.
~Terri Guillemets, "Sparse," 1992
The Arizona desert to us is starkly beautiful at all times, but when touched by the magic of spring it becomes a land of enchantment. The weirdly beautiful cacti that dominate the landscape strangely resembles the vegetation of a past era, millions of years ago. ~Raymond Carlson and Claire Meyer Proctor, "Our Adventures In The Land Of The Flowering Cactus," Arizona Highways, February 1965
Black, brown and gold
In diamond checks prevail;
Coats will be worn skin-tight,
Six to twelve amber buttons
On the tail.
~Margaret Wheeler Ross (1867–1953), "Spring Styles on the Desert: The Rattlesnake"
"Where are the people?" The little prince finally resumed the conversation. "It's a little lonely in the desert…" "It's also lonely with people," said the snake. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Many adjectives have been used in an attempt to describe the Superstitions. They vary from mysterious and sinister to spectacular and beautiful. If these mountains could speak, what tales they could tell, what mysteries they could solve! Many will still enter these mountains only to search for gold, but to me the treasure lies in its mysterious, rugged beauty and the only gold I seek is that visible in early spring when brittle bush and poppies gild the steep slopes. ~Iris Webster, "The Spectacular Superstitions," Arizona Highways, November 1970 [a little altered
They climbed into the high country of Arizona, and through a gap they looked down on the Painted Desert.... They crawled up the slopes, and the twisted trees covered the slopes. Holbrook, Joseph City, Winslow. And then the tall trees began, Flagstaff, and that was the top of it all. Down from Flagstaff over the great plateaus.... The water grew scarce.... The sun drained the dry rocky country, and ahead were jagged broken peaks, the western wall of Arizona. And now they were in flight from the sun and the drought. ~John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939
If you thrill to vivid beauty
Go where the world was drawn;
At dawn watch the glowing palette
God wiped His brushes on.
~Grace Shattuck Bail, "Painted Desert," in Arizona Highways, August 1968
God must have made the desert,
The sun-clad desert,
The age-old desert—
The rugged rimmed, and gray-green land,
By solitude and silence spanned.
God gave the brush to nature,
"Paint," said he,
"This myst-ry-hidden, wondrous land for me."
~Maggie Anne Reid Windes (b.1849), "God in Nature," c.1923
The home of timeless canyons,
Whose splendor stills the soul;
While triumphant in strength amid beauty,
Foaming the cataracts roll.
A sea of radiant mountains,
Where sunshine plays with clouds,
And the slopes of dead craters at twilight
Rest in their cinderous shrouds.
A song of light at evening
Where silent deserts lie;
All the myriad hues of the spectrum
Filling the earth and the sky.
The soul of a mystic! beholding
The heart of God and His hand
As He painteth through ages and ages
His Arizona land!
~George Logie (1868–1958), "His Arizona Land" [I call him Reverend Geology because his name was typically published "Rev. Geo. Logie."
Beyond the canyon the cedared desert heaved higher and changed its aspect. The trees grew larger, bushier, greener, and closer together, with patches of bleached grass between, and russet-lichened rocks everywhere. Small cactus plants bristled sparsely in open places; and here and there bright red flowers — Indian paintbrush, Flo called them — added a touch of color to the gray. Glenn pointed to where dark banks of cloud had massed around the mountain peaks. The scene to the west was somber and compelling. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
Far on the desert rim the thunder breaks
And white clouds turn to steel above the plain.
Now it will rain.
~Sylvia Lewis Kinney, "August," in Arizona Highways, August 1968 #monsoon
In the desert, I had discovered the West of my imagination, my childhood canyon infinitely magnified. I went there for inspiration and insight. ~Julene Bair, The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning, 2014
A two-toned ensemble,
A rhythmic Levantine pose;
Coral-pink and black,
From pert cocked head,
To tips of polished toes.
~Margaret Wheeler Ross (1867–1953), "Spring Styles on the Desert: The Gila Monster"
The aspect of much of the scenery along this gray valley road, bleak, rocky mesa track, lined on either side by volcanic ranges of jagged peaks and serrated slopes, so brown and sere, and with not a growing thing to relieve the barrenness of their sides, is not of a character to be desired for a steady landscape. But it has its own beauty—rare, because it is so different from what one sees elsewhere—and possessing charms that are all its own, unique and captivating. The graceful mesquite and malverde trees grow everywhere, and the numberless varieties of the cactus make the scene still stranger to an unaccustomed vision. ~Richard J. Hinton, "Over Valley and Mesa," The Hand-Book to Arizona, 1877
Bonfires of the evening sun
Merge in final unquenched glory
From horizon up to heaven,
While grotesque saguaro fingers
Paint lofty silhouettes against the sky.
~Helen Castle, "Saguaro at Sunset," in Arizona Highways, March 1973
Indians, Mexicans, pioneers, engineers, cowpunchers, ranchers, miners, tourists; ruins that crumbled when Rome was young, mighty dams not yet complete; forests, deserts, mountains, mesas; mines, farms, orchards. These are Arizona, land of contrasts and contradictions, never to be fully understood by the most understanding, always to be loved by those who know the state. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
Here on this arid spread of golden sand,
One never sees a violet nor rose;
But hardy squatters rooted to the land,
Unmindful of inferno's wind that blows.
Proud, lanky ocotillas, sun caressed;
In spring the patriarchs keep watchful eye
When their progeny wave red bandannas
And boldly flirt with every passer-by.
~Margaret Woodin, "Desert Flirtation," Arizona Highways, September 1970
It was the farthest she had ever been from home, not only in miles but in feeling. The vastness of the desert frightened her. Everything looked too far away, even the cloudless sky. There was nowhere you could hide in such emptiness. ~James Carlos Blake, The Rules of Wolfe: A Border Noir, 2013
Cactus, mesquite, and greasewood;
Greasewood, cactus, mesquite;
The turquoise blue of the heavens
That the age-worn mountains meet...
~Ida Flood Dodge, "One of Us," 1920
You know you're an Arizona native, when you not only know what a zanjero is, but you call one a friend. ~Bill Leverton, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
Get plenty of sunshine
Accentuate your strong points
Be patient through dry spells
Conserve your resources
Don't desert your friends
Wait for your time to bloom
~Ilan Shamir, "Advice from a Cactus"
Yes indeed, there is nothing like a day in a flower-carpeted desert to convince a man that everything spiritual and material is born of the earth, and Man is no more important to God than the dormant seed waiting to be born again. ~Raymond Carlson, "Wildflower Paradise," Arizona Highways, August 1971
There was a time, millions of years ago, when there were no flowering plants, and no seasons as we know them now. There was also a time when there were no cactus plants in certain moist valleys, but only the ancient ancestors of the roses. When earth upheavals created the deserts, the roses in those areas that survived, changed their leaves and stems to cactus to retain moisture, and their thorns to spines for better protection from hungry animals, but they kept their rose-like blossoms. Science explains the transforming morphosis in technical terms, but I, whose business it is to translate technical terms into laymen's language, and who love the desert flowers because they give my spirit a lift, still wonder what inscrutable force gave them the knowhow of survival. ~Ida Smith, "Mysteries of the Desert Flowers," Arizona Highways, August 1971
In that hushed and breathless moment when day is almost done, and the trees of the forest are filled with mysterious colors that have no name, clouds descend the stairway of the sky to mingle with the mountain peaks. From the copper canyons of the west they steal the glowing embers of the dying sun, and scatter them in blazing climax to light camp fires in the sky. ~John Martin Scott, "Vagabonds of the Sky…The Aquarians," Arizona Highways, August 1972
Prickly pear in a pebbly patch,
"If you pluck me or pull me,
I'm liable to scratch."
Stalwart saguaro, stretching up high.
"Sunset blossoms I steal from the sky."
Sprayed ocotillo, octagon arc,
"I'm just desert octopus out for a lark."
Yucca with stalk blown so wispy and free,
"Bell blossomed springtimes are my symmetry."
Friends of the desert, what will you sing
When all of your promises burst into spring?
~Jeannette Shean, "Desert Mnemonic," Arizona Highways, January 1971
Arizona is a state generously endowed with spectacular scenic beauty, gorgeous sunsets, lavishly colored landscapes and impressive cloud formations. There are many who contend, however, the state's most prized and cherished gems of beauty are the cactus blossoms which are found in practically every part of the state. Even the ugliest cactus plant becomes a thing of radiant beauty when it comes under the miracle touch of spring. ~Raymond Carlson, "The Fairest Flowers of Them All," Arizona Highways, February 1965
Trillions of sun-gold and flame-red faces
Decorating earth's desert places...
To cactus-wisdom mankind should bow,
Glorying in the here and now...
~Cleoral Lovell, "Kindred," in Arizona Highways, March 1973
The extent and magnitude of the system of cañons is astounding. The plateau is cut into shreds by these gigantic chasms, and resembles a vast ruin. Belts of country, miles in width, have been swept away, leaving only isolated mountains standing in the gap—fissures, so profound that the eye cannot penetrate their depths, are separated by walls whose thickness one can almost span, and slender spires, that seem to be tottering upon their base, shoot up a thousand feet from vaults below.... The region is, of course, altogether valueless. It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but leave. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended by nature that the Colorado river, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed. ~Joseph Christmas Ives, Report upon the Colorado River of the West; Explored in 1857 and 1858 [Grand Canyon prophecy fail
Maricopa County in some respects may be called the banner county of Arizona.... What the next fifty years will develop in the Salt River Valley can not now be realized. This county contains other flourishing cities besides Phœnix. Tempe is a beautiful city on the Salt River's southern bank... and bids fair to be a city of importance. ~Sidney R. DeLong, The History of Arizona, 1905
What started it all, and gave birth to the nearly 6 million diverse acres we now call Maricopa County, was, of course, water. More specifically, the water of the Salt River. It formed up from a filigree of creeks with colorful names... draining the snows of the White Mountains.... Then it flowed briskly southwestward, past tawny, low-slung mountains, through canyons and across the desert, to a confluence with the Verde northeast of present-day Mesa, thence into the valley of the Salt. We are the children of that river. If it hadn't been there, we wouldn't be here. ~Joseph Stocker, "The Big One," Arizona Highways, February 1971
The Developers.... They cannot see that growth for the sake of growth is a cancerous madness, that Phoenix and Albuquerque will not be better cities to live in when their populations are doubled again and again. They would never understand that an economic system which can only expand or expire must be false to all that is human.... Time and the winds will sooner or later bury the Seven Cities of Cibola—Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, all of them—under dunes of glowing sand... ~Edward Abbey, "Water," Desert Solitaire, 1968 [In 1876, the territory of Arizona had a recorded population of 9,658. One hundred years later, nearly 2½ million. And as of 2014 my home state is up to nearly 7 million. Yikes! When will the politicians admit that incessant development without sufficient water is dangerous, irresponsible, and downright vile‽
Today's threats of Camelback development, upon which the public chokes, are like gnats compared with the camel to be swallowed tomorrow.... The Chamber of Commerce values an unspoiled Camelback. Surrounding resorts plead for a scenic mountain. Horsemen and climbers want Camelback left alone, and everybody living in sight of it seemingly wants it natural, and all over Arizona are people wishing for preservation.... Just as surely as God sculpted a three-mile-long camel cartoon out of granite and sandstone, man is going to brand its hide.... Unlike its living facsimile, Camelback is dry in the humps. Water will not run up hill.... But what will drastically change the appearance of the old camel, make it look like a zebra or a skunk, are roads.... This, then, is the present and the prediction: An economy and society pressing prices and people upward. ~Donald Everett Dedera (b.1929), "Phoenix Upmanship: Camelback's Tops," in The Arizona Republic, 1963 May 1st ["Water flows uphill towards money." ~Anonymous, saying in the American West, quoted by Ivan Doig in Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert, 1986
Arizona is still an agricultural state. Even after the population boom of the mid-nineties, 85 percent of the state's water still went to thirsty crops like cotton, alfalfa, citrus, and pecan trees. Mild winters offer the opportunity to create an artificial endless summer, as long as we can conjure up water and sustain a chemically induced illusion of topsoil.... Living in Arizona on borrowed water made me nervous.... But these gardens of ours had a drinking problem. So did Arizona farms. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
In thorned regions
Stand the ranks
Of patient cactus
Watching with vegetable
The deserts' dying
The winds' empty voice
In well meant ignorance
~Steve Coppinger, "Cactus and the Cottonwood," Arizona Highways, October 1971
No rose on thorned stem
Pricks my heart as does the cactus
Flowered in spring or gaunt in December.
~Muriel M. Alcott, "I Would Return," Arizona Highways, August 1970
He was tired of heat, glare, dust, bare rock, and thorny cactus. ~Zane Grey, Tappan's Burro, 1923
Rocks protruding from the earth
Cactus proud and high
Gentle flowers at their feet
Peaks reaching for the sky.
A picture painted by the hand
Of seasons come and gone
This artful unveiling
Each spring goes on and on.
~Dorothy L. Whitaker, "Unveiling," Arizona Highways, July 1970
By early October, long after the vacations, when it's still 100, even the gentlest Phoenicians are so tired of the heat that they just want to get into a fight. With anyone. It's not that any single day of our heat is that bad; it's certainly better than a bad winter day in the Midwest. The difference is a week after their -20 day, they get a +20 day that feels like summer. Here, every day is 100+ for five months. I transform from a reasonable, caring man to an indecent, offensive neck-puncher.... But then all is forgiven on that October morning when you walk outside to a chill in the air (i.e., low in the upper 60s)... ~Dominic Verstegen, "The Seven Stages of Dealing with Arizona's Heat," July 2015
Road Runner, I am curious,
You've got me wondering why
You're always in a foot race,
I've never seen you fly.
You run along the yucca ridge,
And across the desert floor,
You run and keep on running,
And then you run some more...
~Harry Golden, "The Road Runner and I," in Arizona Highways, September 1971
The skies and clouds of Arizona are the two great elements which set this land apart from any other part of the world.... There is nothing unique or remarkable about the clouds in the skyscapes of our Southwest. They are the same clouds that come and go to and from other places, except light, color background and the arrangement of earthbound elements. The compositions vary from hour to hour, day to day, season to season depending on the temper of the sun, the position of the clouds and the pattern and formations of the landscape. ~Jose Izuela, "The Soul Stirring Skies of Arizona," Arizona Highways, April 1971
The great epics of man and his love of the sublime in nature involve the sky, the sea, the desert and the mountains. They are the great soul stirrers. If you imagine the heavens to be an inverted sea of blue, a measure of each soul stirrer is in every Arizona skyscape, whether the mood is fair or stormy, by day or by night, the celestial kaleidoscope above you shifts perpetually into an infinite spectacle of never repeated masterpieces. Immensity, space and magnitude create a peculiar beauty not found anywhere else on this planet....
There are no rehearsals for Nature's celestial tableau. Whether it be one golden sunshaft shot through the cloud canyons, the gentle kiss of dawn's first light, the passionate crescendo of an October sunset, or the requited beauty of a rainbow after the storm, one thing is sure as heaven itself — no computer yet designed can see, register and express the color, mood and beauty of even one square inch of this vast enchanted land. Only man has this God given gift. ~Jose Izuela, "The Soul Stirring Skies of Arizona," Arizona Highways, April 1971
The cacti holding their wristless arms
To the trembling sky, yucca, tumbleweed,
And clumps of mauve grass, drawn like wire,
Dotting the desert earth...
~Reeve Spencer Kelley, "Generally, You Know This Land," Arizona Highways, October 1973
They must've abbreviated us AZ because we have the entire spectrum of weather extremes: "A"blaze in the Phoenix sun to "Z"ero-degree snow in Flagg. ~Terri Guillemets, "Arizona Alphabet," 1989
Flagstaff... situated in the grand pine forests of Arizona. The beautiful scenery from this point at sunset, snow-capped mountains whose sides are all clothed in tall pines upward of one hundred feet high, and the soft light of the setting sun in the distance, form a view which must be seen to be appreciated. ~E.E.A. from Ohio, "Some Notes of a Trip to California," Success with Flowers, February 1898
Arizona's forests center on a broad, bold brushstroke of green beginning at the New Mexico border in the White Mountains and curving about two hundred fifty miles northwestward along the course of the Mogollon Rim as far as the San Francisco volcanic field near Flagstaff and Williams. There the brush was raised from the canvas to splash green across the Kaibab Plateau on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, drip it on the Defiance uplift near Arizona's northeast corner and on the mountains around Prescott, and then to spatter the summits of the Cerbat and Hualapai ranges in northwestern Arizona... and other mountain ranges in the southeast.
Most of this inland sea of green is pine forest, giving way at its high elevations to fir and spruce, and at its lower edges to broad foothill fringes tufted with pinyon and juniper. There is marvelous variety to Arizona's forests, but it is the green-grizzled ponderosa pine flowing along the length of the Mogollon Rim in the longest unbroken stand of any state in the union that give the wild pagan cathedral of Arizona's upland forests their character. ~David W. Toll, "Bristlecone to Saguaro: The Story of Arizona's Trees and Forests from Timberline to Desert Floor," Arizona Highways, January 1971
When other plants were dying in the heat,
And disappearing, one by one, from sight,
You stood your ground, acknowledged no defeat,
And patiently and slowly won the fight.
When Nature had refused to promise more
Moisture, you set your sure and sturdy will,
And built yourself a private plant to store
Your own supply. It is effective still.
You faced the threat and calmly flung your dare
At cloudless sky, bright sun, and burning sand.
Not for a rainy day did you prepare,
But for a dry one in an arid land...
~Clarence Edwin Flynn, "To a Cactus Plant," in Arizona Highways, March 1973
I'm never, ever happier than when I'm in the desert. ~Jeremy Clarkson, "The Beach (Buggy) Boys," The Grand Tour [S1, E7, 2016]
A boy is a boy and he is the place he inhabits.... those mountains and deserts live in me still and when I go back into that country my heart surges with sudden blood. The past hurls itself at me at times. My bones remember the water and the stones. I grew my body from that mountain earth, and my cells remember the cactus and pines, the lilies and grasses. ~Patrick Lane, What the Stones Remember: A Life Rediscovered, 2004
Could I but speak your tongue
I would sing of pastel colored cliffs
Where, under sapphire skies,
The raincloud gently drifts.
Of wondrous sunlit valleys wide,
Timeless home of your clan — your tribe.
Could I but speak your tongue
I would sing a prayer that in future days
You would ever honor your ancient ways,
And that the Gods of health and peace
In their boundless blessings, never cease,
To be generous to these children here below,
These children of the Desert.
~C.J. Colby, "Song to the Indian," Arizona Highways, August 1973
However, it is not until late April and early May that nature turns on her magic charm and turns the sunwashed desert into a vast garden. The spreading boughs of the blue palo verde trees fringing the desert washes, hide under veils of delicate golden blossoms, completely obscuring their bluish-green stems and leafless branches. The nearby whiplike ocotillo, leafless during rainless periods is now clothed in clusters of small emerald leaves over its swaying lengths, each wand tipped with a crowded panicle of flame colored blossoms. Two members of the yucca family add their tall spikes of creamy waxlike flowers to form the background for the fragile loveliness of the flowering cactus. In favorable years following winter rains, a large number of short lived herbaceous plants appear almost overnight it seems, carpeting the desert floor with a brilliant display of color from the simultaneous blooming of several hundred species... ~Raymond Carlson and Claire Meyer Proctor, "Our Adventures In The Land Of The Flowering Cactus," Arizona Highways, February 1965
We rode from daybreak; white and hot
The sun beat like a hammer-stroke
On molten iron; the blistered dust
Rose up in clouds to sere and choke...
~Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870–1943), "The Trail of Death," Cactus and Pine: Songs of the Southwest, 1910 [Jornado del Muerto, the desert trail across southern New Mexico and Arizona
You cannot blame the Sahara alone for the troubles. But you should also not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst. ~William Langewiesche, Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert
Even better than the low god density in Arizona is the near total absence of faeries. I don't mean those cute winged creatures that Disney calls "fairies"; I mean the Fae, the Sidhe... each one of them as likely to gut you as hug you.... They have all sorts of gateways to earth in the Old World, but in the New World they need oak, ash, and thorn to make the journey, and those trees don't grow together too often in Arizona. I have found a couple of likely places, like the White Mountains near the border with New Mexico and a riparian area near Tucson, but those are both over a hundred miles away from my well-paved neighborhood near the university in Tempe. I figured the chances of the Fae entering the world there and then crossing a treeless desert to look for a rogue Druid were extremely small... ~Kevin Hearne, Hounded, 2011
[T]he dark and jagged ramparts of Arizona stood up against the sky, and behind them the huge tilted plain rising toward the backbone of the continent again. ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley, 1962
Gray wisps of greenwood and mesquite that stand
In withered patches like an old man's beard,
Ragged and grizzled: nearer, dark and weird,
The river slips along the cringing land...
Foam-ribbed and sullen, staggering with the weight
Of forests spoiled, he takes his price in full,
Stern toll for every drop to land and men;
In witness here—Poor pawn of love or hate!—
Caught in a drift a grinning human skull.
~Sharlot Mabridth Hall (1870–1943), "The Colorado River," Cactus and Pine: Songs of the Southwest, 1910
If it crosses your mind that water running through hundreds of miles of open ditch in a desert will evaporate and end up full of concentrated salts and muck, then let me just tell you, that kind of negative thinking will never get you elected to public office in the state of Arizona. When this giant new tap turned on, developers drew up plans to roll pink stucco subdivisions across the desert in all directions. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
What Arizona means to me?
Perhaps just a Palo Verde tree;
A star filled night, a sun warmed day,
A dusty Indian child at play.
A desert bloom, a snow capped peak,
Roaring river, dry stone creek.
~Lester Ward Ruffner, "What Arizona Means To Me?", Arizona Highways, November 1971
The brittle ground of ancient battle... ~Lester Ward Ruffner, "What Arizona Means To Me?", Arizona Highways, November 1971
Jim: London Bridge is in Arizona? When the [f*@%] did this happen? Does London know about this? The queen has got to be pissed.
Claire: It was on "Real Housewives" so you know it's true...
~Tara Sivec, Futures and Frosting, 2012
When the ancient myth-maker conjured out of the depths of his vivid imagination the story of the phœnix, classic bird of the ancients prior even to his time, that it had the power inherently within itself to rise from its own funeral pyre, he little dreamed he was preparing a name for the Capital City of the last great State of the American United States. Unlike Tucson and Prescott, she was not born in the early days of strife, race-conflict, and the thrill of newly-discovered great mines. She is a sister of the later day. The first comers who roamed over the valley of the Rio Salado of the Spaniards, soon found scattered here and there the remains of a prehistoric people. Great irrigation canal systems led from village to village, and clearly indicated that a prehistoric race long before had seen and utilized the agricultural advantages of this highly favored region. So, when the settlers came together and decided to start a city, one of them, an Englishman familiar with his classics, suggested that as the new city of the new civilization was to rise on the ruins, the ashes, of a former civilization, he deemed Phœnix an excellent name. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
You know you're an Arizona native, when you know that Prescott rhymes with "basket." ~Rick Kingsbury, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
November, in the desert, is a time
When heat has fled the night.
When days are warm, but not too warm to climb
A mountain's rugged height...
~Mildred Breedlove, "November Is A Time," Arizona Highways, November 1970
The spectacular summer thunderstorms that send torrents of water, rock, and cactus down usually dry desert washes and the soft Pacific rains of the winter serve as a catalyst to the survival of most desert animals and reptiles. Getting their moisture from seeds and other forage, other desert critters can go their entire lifetime without a drink of water. ~Marshall Trimble, Arizona: A Panoramic History of a Frontier State, 1977 #monsoons
"It's only a desert!" Yes, I know.
But then, the dear God made it so,
And since His work is always good
He must have loved it, else how could
He scatter flowers far and near,
Or keep trees green thruout the year?
He must have loved these mighty rocks
That came thru fire and earthquake shocks,
The mountains and the little hills,
The murmur of the dwindling rills;
He must have loved the deep blue sky,
The glistening cloud-bands floating by,
The gorgeous splendor, when the day
Is passing on its westward way.
~Flossie Edna Ritzenthaler Cole Wells (1889–1987), "Coconino Wilderness"
The Colorado desert, with the exception of some fifty miles, is a mass of light clay, which, when dry, rises in the finest form of dust, and yet supports a peculiar vegetation of the mesquite tree, which is a low feathery acacia with large spreading roots. This shrub covers scores and hundreds of miles almost exclusively, where there is no grass, no other flowers, but everywhere this mesquite. It would be a pleasing shrub if not associated with such disagreeable remembrances of dust for days together. ~W. Tallack, "The California Overland Route," 1860
[A] mesquite, that strange desert tree that gives shade, shelter, firewood, flour, sugar and horse-feed to the desert aborigine... ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
We halted beneath a mesquite-tree and bore away an armful of pods that horses, mules, and Indians love. They are several inches long, in clusters, bright buff changing from green, and filled generously with beans which rattle as they mature. ~Estelle Thomson, "An Autumn Drive in California," 1892
...that accursed mesquite-tree... ~Louise Palmer Heaven, Chata and Chinita, 1889 [Accursed in the book because Don Juan had been found murdered under said tree. Accursed in modern-day Arizona because they litter their tiny leaves and shattering yellow catkins and rotting pods everywhere! If only we'd all go back to using the trees' gifts as food and medicine it might be 'that blessed mesquite-tree.'
I am the runt, with blackened branches bent,
The stunted sentinel men scoff to see.
I twist with grief for elements misspent,
While dustwhirls drone their lonely song to me.
What other tree is lowlier than I
...Against the western sky,
I crouch, roots deep, in thirsty western sand...
~Teddy Gillen, "Mesquite in Winter," Arizona Highways, January 1971
Located just north of the Phoenix Zoo, Papago Park is an odd formation of isolated hills surrounded by teddy bear cholla, creosote, and saguaro. The hills are steep red rock and riddled with holes, fifteen-million-year-old remnants of ancient mudflows that petrified and eroded over the ages. ~Kevin Hearne, Hounded, 2011
What are the just deserts for a species too selfish or preoccupied to hope for rain when the land outside is dying? Should we be buried under the topsoil in our own clean cars, to make room for wiser creatures? ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
Are wild stallions
With silver manes flung high
In triumph, knowing they shall not
~Lenore McLaughlin Link, "Sandstorms," in Arizona Highways, August 1968
The desert attracts the nomad, the ocean the sailor, the infinite the poet. ~Author Unknown
Some say that true love is a mirage; seek it anyway, for all else is surely desert. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com
One simile, that solitary shines
In the dry desert of a thousand lines...
~Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, "Epistola I: Ad Augustum," 1730s
You know you're an Arizona native, when you were so excited about getting to be on The Wallace and Ladmo show that you threw up in your grandma's car, but it's OK, 'cause you won the Ladmo bag! ~Bonnie Helene Irvine, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
There are flowers that bloom in gardens
Under a gardener's care,
And their lavish beauties charm me
As they flourish in luxury there.
There are flowers that blow in the meadows,
Kissed by the rain and the dew
In a riot of happy blooming
And I love their loveliness too.
But the flower that fills me with comfort
And makes Life's meaning sweet
Is the flower that blooms in the desert
In the midst of sand and heat;
Whose roots draw strength and beauty
From a land forbidding and wild,
Whose face turns bravely skyward
Nor pines for lot more mild...
~Hattie Greene Lockett (1880–1962), "To a Desert Flower"
At times we would march for miles through a country in which grew only the white-plumed yucca with trembling, serrated leaves; again, mescal would fill the hillside so thickly that one could almost imagine that it had been planted purposely; or we passed along between masses of the dust-laden, ghostly sage-brush, or close to the foul-smelling joints of the "hediondilla." The floral wealth of Arizona astonished us the moment we had gained the higher elevations of the Mogollon and the other ranges.... The flowers of Arizona are delightful in color, but they yield no perfume, probably on account of the great dryness of the atmosphere. ~John G. Bourke, On the Border with Crook, 1891
For the dews adown the night-winds drifted
Mingle with the brown and sterile earth,
And, by some miraculous urgance gifted,
Bring this marvelment of bloom to birth.
Briefly lift these flowers their fragile faces,
For when dowers the vale the blaze of day,
As ephemeral as frost's filmy laces,
Into nothingness they fade away.
Spreads afar once more the desert glooming,
Like a shore with desolation rife;—
Aye, and who has not beheld them blooming,—
These dew-flowers upon the wastes of life!
~Clinton Scollard, "The Dew-Flowers," Dixie, August 1899 [Death Valley
You know you're an Arizona native, when your lungs don't deflate when you bite a jalapeño pepper. ~Cappy Kirby, quoted in You Know You're an Arizona Native, When… compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
Tucson had opened my eyes to the world and given me... a taste for the sensory extravagance of red hot chiles and five-alarm sunsets. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
I lived in a little stuccoed house in a neighborhood of barking dogs and front-yard shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Making Peace"
Sometimes a saguaro looks like it's giving the middle finger to the world, an "F you, it's hot out here!" ~Terri Guillemets, "Take a hike," 1996
The Devil was given permission one day,
To select him a land for his own special sway;
So he hunted around for a month or more
And fussed and fumed and terribly swore,
But at last was delighted a country to view
Where the prickly pear and the mesquite grew.
With a survey brief, without further excuse
He took his stand on the banks of the Santa Cruz...
An idea struck him and he swore by his horns
To make a complete vegetation of thorns...
He saw there was one more improvement to make,
He imported the scorpion, tarantula and rattlesnake...
He fixed the heat at one hundred and seven
And banished forever the moisture from heaven,
But remembered as he heard his furnace roar,
That the heat might reach five hundred or more...
And now, no doubt, in some corner of hell
He gloats over the work he has done so well,
And vows that Arizona cannot be beat,
For scorpions, tarantulas, snakes and heat.
For with his own realm it compares so well
He feels assured it surpasses hell.
~Charles O. Brown, "The History of Arizona: How It Was Made, And Who Made It," c.1876
How time now has altered the devil's great scheme!
For the olden conditions have gone like a dream.
Rich mines in the mountain, rich farms on the plain,
Fine fruits in the orchard, in the field golden grain;
Where the devil's waste acres existed one day
The flowers and shade-trees are holding their sway —
And the healthiest, happiest folks on the sphere,
The best of God's sunshine receive all the year.
~Anonymous, "Arizona — 1905 A.D." [in response to Charles O. Brown's c.1876 "The History of Arizona" entitled by this author "Arizona — 4000 B.C."
As any booster will tell you, Arizona is a helluva state. In fact, for the number of places named after the devil's playground, Arizona is No. 1. The U.S. Geological Survey lists 60 places in Arizona with hell in their names, more than any other state. Arizona has more circles of hell than Dante ever visited. A tour through Arizona might take you from Hell's Gate in the Coronado National Forest to Hell's Hip Pocket near the Horse Mesa Dam in Maricopa County, and on to Hell's Tank up near the Grand Canyon. Near Payson, you can stroll through Hell's Half Acre, and Yavapai County offers three Hell canyons to choose from. The really adventurous might want to descend into Booger Canyon, on the Graham-Pinal county line, to visit a place known simply as Hell Hole.
Jim Griffith, head of the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona, said complaining about conditions to folks back home was "a kind of reverse bragging. It meant you had to be a really tough character to make it in a place like this," he said.
Arizona historian Marshall Trimble... divides Arizona history into BAC — Before Air-Conditioning — and AAC — After Air-Conditioning — [and] said some of the new names are whimsical in their own way. "You have all these real-estate developers giving places pretty Spanish names that don't make any sense when they're translated into English," he said. For example, Marbrisa Ranch sounds a lot nicer than Hell's Gate, but home buyers looking at the development at 59th and Peoria avenues may wonder where, exactly, are the sea breezes. ~"Arizona holds record for devilish place names," Tucson Citizen, 1994 August 11th
[T]he Morrigan replied. "A mortal doom gathers about you here, and you must fly if you wish to avoid it."
"...If it isn't Thor coming to get me, it's one of the Olympians. Remember that story last year? Apollo was offended by my association with the Arizona State Sun Devils.... So he was coming in his golden chariot to shoot me full of arrows.... The Greek deity of the sun being offended by an old Druid's tenuous relationship with a college mascot on the other side of the globe..."
~Kevin Hearne, Hounded, 2011
The devil plays a dry, scorching tune and its name is Arizona Summer. ~Terri Guillemets, "Devilish heat," 2013
Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day. ~Harry S. Truman
'Heat, ma'am!' I said, 'it was so dreadful here, that I found there was nothing left for it but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.' ~Sydney Smith (1771–1845)
What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance. ~Jane Austen (1775–1817), letter to sister Cassandra, 1796 September 18th
But it's a dry heat… ~Arizona saying
You know you're an Arizona native, when you have more than ten years' of Arizona Highways, a four-wheel-drive, comfortable jeans, a chili addiction, turquoise jewelry, fluency in Spanglish, at least four Hopi kachina dolls, aversion to Daylight Saving Time, a "lizard crossing" driveway sign, a Navajo rug on the wall, and lawn furniture of welded horseshoes. ~Don Dedera, You Know You're an Arizona Native, When…, 1993 [a little altered
But at the end of the day, all Phoenicians — no matter if we're from Iowa, Mexico, or in rare instances, Arizona — can band together and commiserate about the relentless heat and awe in wonder at the storm building on the horizon that occasionally brings magic water from the sky. We're all in this together. There's nowhere else we'd rather be. ~Dominic Verstegen, "The Seven Stages of Dealing with Arizona's Heat," July 2015