Quotes about Arizona Colors & the Painted Desert

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 –tg]

…the royalty of the Arizona pageant of hues… ~Robert Haven Schauffler, Romantic America, 1913

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. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940

Sunset fell… The red and golden rays of sunlight swept down over it, spreading light over the desert. ~Zane Grey, The Water Hole, 1927

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 –tg]

[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

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 as “Rev. Geo. Logie.” –tg]

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,” in Arizona Highways, August 1972

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. ~Marshall Trimble, Arizona: A Panoramic History of a Frontier State, 1977

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 & Claire Meyer Proctor, “Our Adventures In The Land Of The Flowering Cactus,” Arizona Highways, February 1965

The Grand Canyon is really a motion picture. 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 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 [a little altered –tg]

the seam between desert and night
glows pastel to neon to clear blue light
~Terri Guillemets, “Phoenix sunrise,” 1996

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