The Quote Garden ™
I dig old books. ™
Quotations about Arizona
Welcome to the Web's first collection of quotes 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. Enjoy the beauty, humor, heat, and eccentricity that is AZ!
SUNRISE & SUNSET,
Almost everyone in the world knows something about Arizona, and some of it is even true. ~Jim Turner, Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State, 2011
There's something wonderfully healing in Arizona air. ~Zane Grey, The Call of the Canyon, 1924
...the sweet, sun-purified, sun-vivified air of the desert... ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
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]
This country is geology by day and astronomy at night. It offers a broad view of what is happening generally in the solar system, with no particular reference to Man. But it has a magnificent routine. The early mornings, in winter, are cold, very fresh and pure. Then, under the burning noons, the red cardinals and the blue-birds flash among the cotton-woods, as if nature had turned outrageously symbolic. The afternoons are simply so much sunlight and aromatic air. But at sunset, the land throws up pink summits and saw-toothed ridges of amethyst, and there are miracles of fire in the sky. Night uncovers two million more stars than you have ever seen before; and the planets are not points but globes. ~J. B. Priestley, Midnight on the Desert: A Chapter of Autobiography, 1917
Land of extremes. Land of contrasts. Land of surprises. Land of contradictions. A land that is never to be fully understood but always to be loved by sons and daughters sprung from such a diversity of origins, animated by such a diversity of motives and ideals, that generations must pass before they can ever fully understand each other. That is Arizona. ~Arizona: A State Guide, compiled by Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Arizona, 1940
She 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
"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"
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
Few countries in the world present so marvellous a variety of scenic features as does Arizona... the youngest of the American States, and yet one of the oldest lands of the whole continent... What a wonderland of wild cactus growth, of solitude, of mystery, of silence it is!... Miles and miles of such weary, cactus-strewn, alkali solitude... ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
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. –tg]
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
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
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
You know that Arizona is going to really be understood and get somewhere some day. ~Will Rogers, 1932
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 –tg]
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, 1971, arizonahighways.com
Nowhere on this planet is the desert as fascinating as it is in Arizona. ~Joseph Stacey, "The Incomparable Desert," Arizona Highways, March 1973, arizonahighways.com
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. ~Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917
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'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
The area that is now southern Arizona and northern Mexico was known by the Spanish as the Pimería Alta, or Upper Pima Country, named after the natives of the area whom the Spanish called Pima. Within this area was a place that the Spanish called Arisona, Arissona or Arizona... The use of the term Pimería dates from the late seventeenth century, first appearing on a 1696 map prepared by the indefatigable explorer Fr. Eusebio Kino. The term appeared on eighteenth century maps, and on a few early nineteenth century maps. The name Pimería was one of five names proposed for the new Territory of Arizona established in 1863. ~AZLibrary.gov and Arizona.edu
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
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
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
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, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, 1989
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, arizonahighways.com [a little altered –tg]
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
So you think of going way out West to Arizona. I suppose Tucson is miny and hot. I am sure you will feel much freer and happier. ~Laura L. Livingstone (Herbert Dickinson Ward), Lauriel: The Love Letters of an American Girl, 1901
Tucson is perhaps the most liveable town in Arizona. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
As it closes in on the million-souls mark, Tucson's charms have made it one of this country's fastest-growing cities. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Called Home," Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, 2007
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
Five miles more, and the reason for Roosevelt Dam lay before our eyes. Five miles of blistering country, so dry, as a guide said, that "when you spit you can't see where it lands"; a country burnt to a crisp by withering sunshine so intense that shadows, sharp-edged as razor blades, look vermilion purple. Only horned reptiles, poisonous and thorny-backed, can exist here, and plants as ungracious, compelled to hoard their modicum of moisture in iron-clad spiny armament. And then, a line of demarcation the width of a street, and the Water-God has turned this colorless ache of heat to emerald green. Thwarted cactus gives way to long rows of poplars and leopard-spotted eucalyptus bordering blue canals... We were in the famous Salt River Valley, the boast of parched Arizona. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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
Now Phoenix has paved streets and electric lights and a Chamber of Commerce, a State House and a Governor. But somehow, Phoenix had no charm for us. Phoenix may be Arizona, but it is Arizona denatured. All Salt River Valley seemed denatured. It had taken its boom seriously, and the arch crime of self-consciousness possessed it. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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
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, arizonahighways.com
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
Among all the geographic areas of the United States, the Southwest in general and Arizona in particular is blessed with a panoramic beauty that almost defies description. Only a limited number of poets, painters, and photographers have been able to do justice to her splendor. ~Marshall Trimble, Arizona: A Panoramic History of a Frontier State, 1977
You know you live in Phoenix when you can drive two hours in any one direction and never leave the Valley. ~Modern local saying
I remember when I was a kid seeing road signs at the edge of Phoenix, after the last subdivisions, upon which people spray-painted SAVE OUR DESERT. Curve Ahead: SAVE OUR DESERT. Do Not Enter When Flooded: SAVE OUR DESERT. I hadn't put two and two together, I didn't know why the desert needed to be saved. Those places are gone now, stripped and replaced, little sense of what might have once been there. ~Craig Childs, March 2019, Bean Tree Farm, Tucson Mountains, Arizona, Introduction to Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019 [In the 1970s and 80s, my family would sometimes to drive out "past the edge of the city" to go on picnics, near I-17 and Happy Valley Road. Nowadays, you can't drive in any direction out past the city — it's all city. —tg]
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 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
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
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
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, 1933 [a little altered –tg]
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," in Arizona Highways, February 1971, arizonahighways.com
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, arizonahighways.com
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," in Arizona Highways, January 1971, arizonahighways.com
Never have I seen such lavishness of cactus in bloom. The prickly pear creeps with its giant claws across the sand... ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
Saturday the sun returned to a sky scrubbed flawlessly blue by the rain. It would take Phoenix at least a day to dirty up the air again. ~Jon Talton, Cactus Heart, 2007
Well, the trip from then on across Arizona and east of Los Angeles was just one Oasis after another. You can just throw anything out and it will grow there. I like Arizona. ~Will Rogers
Phoenix, Arizona: an oasis of ugliness in the midst of a beautiful wasteland. ~Edward Abbey, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, 1989
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
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
God lives everywhere — but — He vacations in Arizona. ~Joseph Stacey, "Drive America First," Arizona Highways, May 1973, arizonahighways.com
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, arizonahighways.com
Welcome to Arizona, where summer spends the winter — and hell spends the summer. ~Local saying, modified from a booster slogan in the 1930s
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. ~“Arizona holds record for devilish place names,” Tucson Citizen, 1994
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
I drove and drove. That is what you do in the West. You drive and you drive and you drive, advancing from one scattered town to the next, creeping across a landscape like Neptune. For long, empty hours your one goal in life is to get to Dry Gulch or Cactus City or whatever. You sit there watching the highway endlessly unfurl and the odometer advancing with the speed of centuries and all you think about is getting to Dry Gulch and hoping by some miracle it will have a McDonald's or at least a coffee shop. And when at last you get there, all there is is a two-pump gas station... and you realize that you have to start the process all over again with another impossibly isolated hamlet with a depressingly unpromising name: Coma, Doldrum, Dry Well, Sunstroke. ~Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, 1989
Arizona is young and daring. She is not tied to precedent, to convention, to other states' ways of doing things... She is bent on making her own ways, and in her own way. Her mistakes will be her own, and her triumphs likewise. ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
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 know you live in Phoenix when you drive a mile around a parking lot looking for a shady spot — even in the dead of winter. ~Local joke
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
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]
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 Reed Windes (1849–1936), "God in Nature," 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]
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, arizonahighways.com
Just after sunset everything has a pinky purple tone and the light is soft and perfect... ~Jane Zarzynski, photographer, quoted in The Arizona Republic, 2016
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. ~John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939
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." –tg]
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
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
Saw-toothed ranges, high and stormy, snow-topped, shadowed our trail. The wide amphitheater of our golden valley was encircled with mountains of every size and color; blue, rosy, purple, and at sunset pure gold and transparently radiant. The gray sage turned at sun-down to lavender; mauve shadows lengthened on the desert floor; gorges of angry orange and red cliffs gave savage contrast to the delicate Alpine glow lighting white peaks; a cold, pastel sky framed a solitary star, and frosty air, thinned in its half-mile height to a stimulating sharpness, woke us keenly to life. We felt the enchantment that Arizona weaves from her grey cocoon toward sunset, and wondered at eyes which could look on it all, and see only sand and cactus. Show them the unaccustomed, and they would doubtless have been appreciative enough. A green New England farm with running brooks and blossoming orchards would have spelled Paradise to them, as this Persian pattern of desert did to us; beauty to the parched native of Arizona is an irrigation ditch, bordered by emerald cottonwoods. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
Arizona... the air-cooled-by-nature pine clad northern area... the air-cooled-by-man desert area... ~Thomas T. Tormey, 1940
The morning was, like nearly all Arizona mornings, clear and beautiful. ~Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars, 1917
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
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
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, arizonahighways.com
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," in Arizona Highways, August 1971, arizonahighways.com
If you were a giant and wanted to eat the state of Arizona, you would find that, roughly, it would make three large and widely differing mouthfuls.
Starting at the northeast corner (the only point in the United States where four states meet — Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona), you would bite out a large quarter circle, sinking your dental work in to encompass the Little Colorado River. This corner takes in the vast Navajo and Hop Indian reservations — a wildly beautiful land where the prehistoric dinosaurs roamed and left their tracks behind — where Indians dwell in picturesque canyons and atop high plateaus. It includes the Painted Desert... and the famous Petrified Forest.
The second mouthful in this mystical meal would serve as a complete "greens" course. Here you would chew off a huge crescent consisting almost entirely of pine forest — the largest unbroken expanse of virgin Western Yellow Pine in America. The northern tip of the crescent is slashed through by a mile deep gash — the Grand Canyon.
The remaining bite would be a mouthful even for a giant. It is that portion of the state which most people think is typical of the whole — the so-called "desert." But if you think this desert is of the Sahara variety, then you've got a shock coming. Cacti? Yes, cacti — millions of 'em — growing in veritable forests. Cacti an inch tall — or forty feet. But in the "desert" are also irrigated valleys where farms order their rainwater by phone — and get it — where lettuce, grapefruit and resort hotels "grow" in profusion.
Here then are your three bites of Arizona; a mouthful of Indian Country, a great swath of pine forest and, for dessert, the desert. ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "Arizona, in Three Bites,"Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
In the silence, slowly picking my way, I thought about this Arizona country. The New World! It seemed to me the oldest country I had ever seen, the real antique land, first cousin to the moon. Brown, bony, sapless, like an old man's hand. ~J. B. Priestley, Midnight on the Desert: A Chapter of Autobiography, 1917
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
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," in Arizona Highways, July 1970, arizonahighways.com
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
Welcome to Arizona, where summer spends the winter — and hell spends the summer. ~Local saying, modified from a booster slogan in the 1930s
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 above "History of Arizona," entitled by this author "Arizona—4000 B.C." –tg]
McGee: Looks like we just went from a snowball's chance in hell of getting out of here, to a snowball's chance in—
McGee: I'll take it.
~NCIS, "House Divided," 2017, written by Steven D. Binder [S15, E1]
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, 1864 (Fort Yuma travels)
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 (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: XXVII," A Soul's Faring, 1921 [Strode was born in Illinois and later lived in California, New York, and other places, but she lived her final 35 years in Tucson. –tg]
The dry lands end here, and a dense pine forest begins, one that goes on to blanket an eighth of the state of Arizona. ~Craig Childs, House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest, 2006
Northern 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
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," in Success with Flowers, February 1898
What is this bright confetti that litters the desert floor?
Why, it's sequins from the spangled gown a Palo Verde wore!
Poor yellow Cinderella, so gay at the Springtime ball,
Then the wind-swept stroke of Summer left her no gown at all!
~Florence Priest, "Stripteuse," in Arizona Highways, March 1951, arizonahighways.com
The paloverde... is well named. Its branches are as green as its leaves. In late spring it is covered with lemon-yellow lacy blossoms that make it fairly blaze. When the paloverde is in bloom, it changes the whole color scheme of the desert. ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "The Paloverde," Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
~Terri Guillemets, "Poem of the April Palo Verde," 2012
Arizona is more than what newcomers expect …more than cowboys, indians …a desert filled with beauty …a contrast of climates... ~University of Arizona Desert yearbook, 1982, edited by Eleanor McDaniel and Suzan Johnson
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, arizonahighways.com
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," in Arizona Highways, November 1970, arizonahighways.com
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
Aloof as aged kings,
Wearing them like the purple,
The mountains ring the mesa
Crowned with a dusky light;
Many a time I watched
That coming-on of darkness
Till stars burned through the heavens
~Sara Teasdale, "Day's Ending (Tucson)"
In the deserts of Arizona, tall monoliths, pinnacles and buttes guard the silence. At dawn and again at sunset, mountains glow with a purple hue and Saguaro cacti silhouette against the sky. Many Arizonans worship the desert and its magic... Environmentalists and preservationists are drawn to the unscarred nature so scarce in other parts of the country. ~University of Arizona Desert yearbook, 1982, edited by Eleanor McDaniel and Suzan Johnson
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
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... ~Zane Grey, The Man of the Forest, 1920
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
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
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?," in Arizona Highways, November 1971, arizonahighways.com
If I tint these pages with too many sunsets, it is not from unawareness of my weakness, but because without them a description of Arizona does not describe. In the afternoon hours, between four and eight, the country wakes and glows, and has its moment, like a woman whose youth was plain but whom middle age has touched with charm and mystery. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
Sunsets remain as synonymous with Arizona as saguaros, snowbirds and the Grand Canyon. ~Mark Nothaft, "Why are Arizona sunsets so dramatic?," azcentral.com, 2016
sand-dust with cream
intensely mauve'd rust
velvety blue-grey-indigo —
layers of early winter's
desert dawn horizon
~Terri Guillemets, "Muted striations," 2019
Indigo and amethyst,
Morning glory blue,
Saffron, mauve, vermillion,
Combine to make the hue
Of sunset on the desert
Where knolls barely intrude
Between the earth and sky's
~Christine Lund Coles, "Desert Sunset," in Arizona Highways, June 1953, arizonahighways.com
the seam between desert and night
glows pastel to neon to clear blue light
~Terri Guillemets, "Phoenix sunrise," 1996
A three-inch rain in Phoenix means three inches between drops. ~Local joke
Hardly enough rain falls in a year to puddle the dust on the panting plants. ~“In the Illini Vineyard: Robert H. Forbes, ’92, and his Arid Arizona,” The University of Illinois Alumni Association Quarterly & Fortnightly Notes, 1917
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.” ~“Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree,” Everybody's Magazine, 1909
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
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, arizonahighways.com
"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 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
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 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
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
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
Then we left the made road, and meandered up and down bumpy paths through forests of the finest, most varied cacti we had seen anywhere. Steep slopes were covered with the giant sahuara, standing bolt upright and pointing a stiff arm to heaven, like an uncouth evangelist. Demon cholla forests with their blurred silver gray haze seemed not to belong to this definite earth, but to some vague, dead moon. Among them wavered the long listless fingers of the ocotilla, and the many-eared prickly pear clambered over the sands like some strange sea plant. In this world of unreal beauty, tawny dunes replaced green slopes, and such verdure as appeared was pale yet brilliant, as if lighted by electricity. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
The saguaro is Arizona. ~Herb & Dorothy McLaughlin, c. 1973
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, arizonahighways.com
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, arizonahighways.com
To have a ramada in the desert and rainwater in the cistern is enough. To have time to sit and take it in is double the blessing. From the roof I took advantage of this blessing and watched saguaros do nothing, all of them silent... ~Craig Childs, March 2019, Bean Tree Farm, Tucson Mountains, Arizona, Introduction to Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019
a shrug, a hug
waving, curling, sprouting
disco, vogue; praise, prayer
skeletonized, or multiplied
flower and fruity fingered
flipped, frail, or fallen off
perfected, nested, crested
~Terri Guillemets, "Saguaro arms," 2020
...the crowning glory of America's Arizona rock garden, the saguaro cactus. Supreme symbol of the Southwest, the saguaro is a giant among cacti, a 20- to 50-foot-high fluted column of chlorophylled plant flesh that comes in as many different shapes and sizes as human beings do. Like planted people, no two alike, individual and idiosyncratic, each saguaro has its own form, its own character, its own personality... When nobody else is around, I talk to them. ~Edward Abbey, "The Real Desert," Cactus Country, 1973, Time Life Books, timelife.com
...in the desert even the saguaro
hold on as long as they can
twisting their arms in
protest or celebration...
~Lucille Clifton, "questions and answers," quilting: poems, 1987–1990, 1991
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
Cactus of many kinds is found all over the Southwest, but it is not until one approaches the center of Sonora that it attains its most imposing development, and becomes a giant forest in every sense of the term. A walk took me to the heart of the giant cactus forest, the big-spined trunks seeming magnified in the moonlight, and casting strange shadows. The cactus forest completely captivated me. Mountain ranges and peaks rose over the cactus-trees and the edge of the world and came into life, like ships at sea.
From the slope of the various peaks which environ the delta, the vast plain appears covered with brush; but once on the level, and in it, the verdure resolves itself into a cactus forest of extraordinary attraction and solidity. I can compare it only to some artificial scene in a riotous extravaganza, where the artist in striving for scenic effect has drawn liberally upon his imagination to produce weird shapes, brilliant tints, and strange contrasts of color, unreal and fantastic.
The largest and most persistent was the saguaro, a gigantic cactus, a splendid, fluted column, rising erect, sometimes in a single pillar forty or fifty feet, with symmetrical, branching arms forming a colossal candelabrum. The trunks of the largest saguaros were over three feet in diameter, richly fluted, and savagely spined in long, regular lines. Nature had painted them in greens of an entrancing variety, tone, and tint. The blossoms were a rich yellow, and clinging to them here and there were large woodpeckers. ~Charles Frederick Holder, "Motoring in a Cactus Forest: A Trip Through the Giant Cactus of the Yaqui River," in The Century Magazine, 1910 [a little altered —tg]
That afternoon we reached a small town, an oasis of struggling greenery in the desert... There were saguaros everywhere. I had never seen these cacti in such numbers... Their flesh varied in color from tropical green to gunmetal. The churchyard was full of massive plants standing sentinel. Each cactus had a different number of limbs, ranging from a single erect arm to a crown of fat, prickly oblongs... ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018
Foremost in the cactus family is the well known candelabra cactus by Mexicans called sahuaro. This plant, with its enormously tall, pale green and prickly body, from which extend at different places in different specimens gigantic arms, reaches at times the incredible height of fifty feet, although the average may be stated as from twenty to thirty feet. On the hillsides, among very rocky ground, where it flourishes in spite of all reasonable expectation, it hardly ever exceeds over twenty feet, while on the high tablelands, where it receives more nourishment from the sandy ground mixed with loam, it attains its most majestic proportions. ~Richard J. Hinton, The Hand-Book to Arizona, 1878
The cactus most outstanding in scenic appeal is the gigantic saguaro, the largest succulent in the United States. The flowers are nocturnal, opening between 9 and 12 o'clock at night. They open slowly, full expansion requiring about two or three hours; and persist in full flowering stage until late the following afternoon when they begin to close and wither. The large and beautiful white flowers are not fragrant but have an odor like that of ripe melon. The white-wing dove feeds largely on the seeds of the sahuaro during the fruiting season. ~Thomas H. Kearney and Robert H. Peebles, Flowering Plants and Ferns of Arizona, 1942 [a little altered —tg]
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 [Bushby was adopted as "Chief Whispering Pine." –tg]
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," in Arizona Highways, September 1970, arizonahighways.com
The saguaro, or giant cactus, is one of nature's rare and curious productions. It has appropriately been named "The Sentinel of the Desert." Its fruit is delicious and has the flavor of fig and strawberry combined. When the tree dies its pulp dries up and blows away and there remains standing only a spectral figure composed of white slats and fiber that looks ghostly in the distance. ~Joseph A. Munk, "Some Desert Plants," Arizona Sketches, 1905 [a little altered —tg]
If your idea of a desert is a sandy waste, with not more than one tuft of grass growing every hundred square miles, you'll have to revise your mental picture when you see the "desert" that blankets Southern Arizona. After a study of the government reports of rainfall in this region, it is hard to believe that anything could grow on such a stingy ration of water, but Nature has brought in a tremendous number of plants that seem to get along O.K. almost without liquid. As a matter of fact, these plants do require water, but they are so constructed that they can save up excesses from a rainy spell and stretch it out over the long dry periods. Outstanding example is the saguaro...
Usually the arms point up, but often they are twisted around like a man trying to reach the itchy spot in his back... Trunks and branches are corrugated top to bottom, which allows the plant to expand ah-la-accordion, to store more water in its pulpy interior during the rainy season. In this way it can retain enough water to last as long as four years without a refill. What an idea that'd make for a new fountain pen. ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "The Saguaro," Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
Sahuaro flowers are handsome, whitish and waxen, and very perfect in form. ~George Wharton James, "The Flora of Arizona," Arizona the Wonderland, 1917
With fruity-fingered arms, I hug the sky. ~Terri Guillemets, "Summer saguaro," 2018
Aided by an expansible, bellowslike skin, the saguaro may increase its girth by 50 per cent or more as its spongy interior sops up one summer's rainfall. After a relatively wet desert summer, a large saguaro may weigh as much as seven tons...
Even under conditions ideal for the species, the saguaro's growth rate is ponderously slow... nine years to grow six inches tall... a plant that reaches the age of 40 will be no more than eight to 10 feet tall. Yet a number of saguaros have lived to roughly 200 years, and attained a height of 50 feet...
To the nonscientist, standing in a saguaro forest, statistics matter less than the sense of awe that engulfs him in the presence of these splendid desert colossi. ~Edward Abbey, "The Anatomy of a Colossus," Cactus Country, 1973, Time Life Books, timelife.com
The 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
But why are sunsets so dramatic in our neck of the woods? There's a few reasons, meteorologist Paul Iniguez of the National Weather Service of Phoenix says. “One of the [factors] that would go toward our sunsets is the dryness,” he says, citing that moisture diffuses light and makes the sky “milky” when there's moisture in the atmosphere... “It scatters the light.” Plus, Arizona has high-level storm systems with clouds at 20,000 to 30,000 feet, he says, “and we experience bright orange and red iridescence looking through the atmosphere at shallower angles later in the day and at sunrise.” ~Mark Nothaft, "Why are Arizona sunsets so dramatic?," azcentral.com, 2016 [I lived in Tucson in 1991 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, and the sunsets were even more spectacular than usual. We were told it was due to the volcanic ash settling back down to earth. —tg]
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," in Arizona Highways, January 1971, arizonahighways.com
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 poppy is a miner,
Hardy, brave and bold,
Who digs into the arid hills,
And brings out petalled gold.
~Thelma Ireland, "Golden Poppy,"in Arizona Highways, July 1954, arizonahighways.com
In the average opinion Arizona is hot — all of it and all the time. In truth the climate of Arizona is so varied that a man may, by a few miles travel, choose what he likes as much as if it were made to order. The northern half of Arizona is cool in the summer and cold in winter, varying with locality and altitude, and subject to snows. About midway of Arizona, north and south, the mountain plateau breaks down to broad valleys and broken plains and declines in altitude toward the south. This is the Arizona of the average imagination; of the health-seeker who would turn winter into summer; the Arizona of semi-tropic products and deserts covered with strange cactus and unfamiliar plants. Winters are mild and delightful; summers are hot but dryer than the moister lands of other parts of the United States. ~Sharlot M. Hall, "Arizona," 1906 [a little altered –tg]
In Arizona we salt margaritas, not sidewalks. ~Local joke
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
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. ~Local saying
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
Anything after 115 degrees doesn't register anyway, so it doesn't really matter. ~Alice Cooper, interview with Cal Fussman, 2008, for Esquire's January 2009 eighth annual Meaning of Life issue
Welcome to Arizona, where summer spends the winter — and hell spends the summer. ~Local saying, modified from a booster slogan in the 1930s
Fort Yuma is probably the hottest place on earth. The thermometer stays at one hundred and twenty in the shade there all the time — except when it varies and goes higher. It is a U. S. military post, and its occupants get so used to the terrific heat that they suffer without it. There is a tradition... that a very, very wicked soldier died there, once, and of course, went straight to the hottest corner of perdition, — and the next day he telegraphed back for his blankets. ~George Derby, quoted in Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1872
The great desert of Arizona... quivering in the heat of the southern sun. ~Mark Daniels, "Mesa Verde and Casa Grande National Parks," in American Forestry, 1916
You know you live in Phoenix when the cold-water faucet is hotter than the hot-water faucet. ~Local joke [In summer it's really true! –tg]
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
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
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 –tg]
Welcome to Arizona, where the heat is sick of the heat. ~Internet meme
But it's a dry heat… ~Arizona saying
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
Phoenix weather forecast: Just stay inside. ~Internet meme
All other seasons in Phoenix are just hyphenated summers: spring-summer, autumn-summer, winter-summer. ~Terri Guillemets, "A dash of heat," 1994
September... in Phoenix... still has a lot of summer left in it. ~@cityofphoenixaz, Instagram post, 2019
You know you live in Phoenix when the four seasons are: tolerable, hot, really hot, and are you freakin' kidding me?! ~Author unknown
Winter in 'Zona is springtime
Spring is summer askew
Summer is torturous hellfire
Autumn is summer part II
~Terri Guillemets, "Spring sun," 1993
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
In Phoenix, Jack Frost doesn't nip — he tickles. ~Terri Guillemets
A palo verde
is sunlit laughter
when Spring walks
~Lorraine Babbitt, "Tree Portraits," in Arizona Highways, September 1961, arizonahighways.com
Long before the Wild West. Even before the extinction of saber-toothed cats and the mammoth. As far back as 12,000 years ago, indigenous cultures made their home in what, today, we affectionately call Arizona. ~“History & Heritage: American Indian Tribal Lands,” VisitArizona.com, 2020
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
The Navajo Nation has a land base of 27,000 square miles, extending into the States of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. This area has a long history going back as far as pre-historic times and the subsequent arrival of Spanish and European settlers...
Centuries before Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas in 1491, Navajos were already settled in the Four Corners area of the Colorado Plateau. However, Navajos weren’t the first inhabitants of the land. According to Anthropologists and historians, Ice-Age Paleo-Indian hunters (12,000–6,000 B.C.) roamed the Monument Valley area thousands of years earlier, followed by archaic hunter gatherers (6,000 B.C.–1 A.D.). Evidence of Anasazi in Monument Valley is still visible through their sites and ruins dating before 1300 A.D. But it wasn’t until 1581 that the first Spaniards made contact with the Navajo. ~“Navajo History,” Navajo Tourism Department, DiscoverNavajo.com, 2017
The Hopi people trace their history in Arizona to more than 2,000 years, but their history as a people goes back many more thousands of years, making the Hopi one of the oldest living cultures in documented history. ~“Arizona Indian Communities,” Heard Museum, www.heard.org, 2014, hopi-nsn.gov
The Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community is a sovereign tribe located in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The Community is made up of two distinct tribes: the O'odham (Pima), or River People, and the Piipaash (Maricopa), or "People Who Live Toward the Water." Centuries ago, the Pima's ancestors, the Hohokam, farmed the Salt River Valley and created elaborate canal irrigation systems. The Maricopa originally came from the lower Gila and Colorado Rivers. In the 1800s, the two tribes began to combine their forces for protection against settlers and other tribes. ~VisitArizona.com, 2020, DiscoverSaltRiver.com
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 [My unofficial addendum to Don Dedera's 1993 (and otherwise hilarious) book You Know You're an Arizona Native, When... Arizona indigenous peoples include: Navajo Nation (Diné), Hopi Tribe, Hopi–Tewa, Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tohono O'odham Nation, Hia-C’ed O’odham, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Tonto Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Yavapai–Apache Nation, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Yavapai–Prescott Indian Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Havasupai Tribe, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Mohave, Chemehuevi, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe, and Cocopah Indian Tribe. –tg]
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
...the clouds of spring-green creosote bushes and big-padded prickly pear cactus... swelling and shrinking with every rain and drought... ~Craig Childs, March 2019, Bean Tree Farm, Tucson Mountains, Arizona, Introduction to Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019
In the desert, the slow quiet entrance of autumn lets us breathe a sigh of relief — exhaling all the hot, stifling air built up over summer. ~Terri Guillemets, "Re-blooming," 2015
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," in Arizona Highways, October 1971
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, an old race horse –tg]
A mesquite, that strange desert tree that gives shade, shelter, firewood, flour, sugar and horse-feed... ~George Wharton James, Arizona, the Wonderland, 1917
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," in Arizona Highways, January 1971, arizonahighways.com
The completion of the dam made Salt River Valley realize that the climate she had always possessed, crowned with fruit and flowers, made her California's rival. She began to cultivate oranges, pecans and a professional enthusiasm for herself. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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, 1898
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, arizonahighways.com
...the low Sonoran Desert... At an early age it was obvious to me that water was the element of consequence, the root of everything out here... The desert surface is carved into canyons, arroyos, cañoncitos, ravines, narrows, washes, and chasms. The anatomy of this place has no other profession but the moving of water. ~Craig Childs, The Secret Knowledge of Water, 2000
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 [This is the thing I dislike most about living in Phoenix — irresponsible, unchecked growth being allowed in the midst of water availability issues. –tg]
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
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
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 (1929–2020), "Phoenix Upmanship: Camelback's Tops," in The Arizona Republic, 1963 [American West saying: "Water flows uphill towards money." —tg]
We followed these shady canals into Phoenix, bumping over dismally paved roads, and making wide detours where some irrigator greedy for water had flooded the street. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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 2017 my home state is up to more than 7 million, with 4.8 million in the Phoenix Metro area. Yikes! When will the politicians admit that incessant development in our desert without sufficient water is dangerous, irresponsible, and downright vile? –tg]
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
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," in Arizona Highways, March 1973, arizonahighways.com
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"
...shining Arizona athirst in the sun... ~Harriet Monroe, "America," in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1918
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," in Arizona Highways, October 1973, arizonahighways.com
Castle Dome, which looks down on the Colorado River from Western Arizona, is a turret of granite — gray, red, brown, rock-colored, whatever color you please. With that antecedent knowledge in mind how difficult it is for us to believe the report of our eyes which says that at sunset the dome is amethystine, golden, crimson, or perhaps lively purple. ~John C. Van Dyke, The Desert, 1901
There 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
He was tired of heat, glare, dust, bare rock, and thorny cactus. ~Zane Grey, Tappan's Burro, 1923
In Phoenix summer is
the title, the refrain,
and every other verse.
~Terri Guillemets, "Poems in heat," 2007
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, arizonahighways.com
The jumping cactus, or cholla... has the worst reputation of any desert plant. Really it is most affectionate. With the slightest encouragement it will become very attached to you... There is one sure way to tell which cacti are cholla. Just take a short run through the desert — all those pieces sticking to your shins will be cholla. ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "The Jumping Cactus," Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
I encountered varied cacti: cholla (in Spanish the word means head or skull), teddy bear, chain fruit, buckhorn, and cow's tongue prickly pear, clock-face prickly pear, Engelmann's prickly pear. Then came the realm of the many-armed flame-flowered ocotillo, 10 to 20 feet high, looking something like a squid or octopus buried head downward in the sand; and fat leaning barrel cactus, fishhook cactus, pincushion cactus — empires of spine and thorn, needle and hair, hook and point and knife and dagger... ~Edward Abbey, "The Real Desert," Cactus Country, 1973, Time Life Books, timelife.com
A shadowy dance,
While pixies prance,
And chollas sway.
Black arms swirling,
As west winds play.
~Gertrude J. Hager (b.1886), "Dancing Cholla"
Seen close at hand, there is nothing very attractive about these hills, so prickly with cactus, or the savage rocky peaks behind them. There is no foreground prettiness here... The vast distances do the trick. The air seems to act like a powerful stereoscopic lens. Everything far away — and you can see scores of miles — is magically moulded and coloured. The mountains, solidly three-dimensional ranges and peaks, are an exquisite blue in the daytime and then turn amethyst at sunset. Things near at hand are dusty green, greyish, brownish, rather drab, but everywhere towards the far horizon rise chunks of colour unbelievably sumptuous. ~J. B. Priestley, Midnight on the Desert: A Chapter of Autobiography, 1917
...the University of Arizona, a very fine school, well liked and spoken of by everybody that knows about it. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)
The Tempe Normal School is the oldest Territorial educational institution in Arizona, being established in 1885. 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. 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, or ASU, the Sun Devils. Available athletics for the 1911 school year were tennis, basketball, track, and baseball. Quotation a little altered. –tg]
The Arizona Normal College at Flagstaff has an invigorating climate at an altitude of 7,000 feet and at the foot of the San Francisco Mountains, surrounded by the most beautiful scenery, prehistoric ruins, and its nearness to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, Canyon Diablo, and the petrified forest and other natural scenic wonders to which excursions are made, make it an especially attractive place for a summer school. ~Annual Report of the Governor of the Territory of Arizona, 1911 September 15th [Northern Arizona University, or NAU, the Lumberjacks –tg]
The University of Arizona is ably conducted and has achieved an excellent reputation, not only throughout Arizona, but in neighboring States. It is located near Tucson, one of the largest towns in the Territory. The university was established in 1885 and opened to students in 1891. The site selected is upon high ground about a mile from the business center of the city. On every side it commands a view of mountain scenery of remarkable extent and grandeur. There is no charge for tuition in the university. All students are required to pay upon entrance a matriculation fee of $5. ~Report of the Governor of Arizona to the Secretary of the Interior, 1900 September 1st [That sure wasn't the tuition when I went to the U of A 90 years later! –tg]
The purpose of the University of Arizona is to provide the inhabitants of this Territory with the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the various branches of literature, science, and the arts, and so far as possible a technical education adapted to the development of the peculiar resources of Arizona — agriculture, the mechanic arts, mining, and metallurgy. ~Report of the Governor of Arizona to the Secretary of the Interior, 1904 August 18th
The first big college football game ever staged in Phoenix took place at the Indian School today, the contestants being the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona. The U. of A. team was accompanied by a large number of students who came on a "Wildcat" special with the University band. The pupils were all admitted free and sure enjoyed the treat. The yelling of the Arizona rooters was a joy to the fans. The best yell was the imitation of a wildcat which was a hair-raiser. The Arizona yell leaders made quite a hit in the morning parade in town, giving Phoenix a taste of college life. ~P. A. V., "Big Football Game at Phoenix," The Native American, 1916 December 9th [Go Wildcats! —tg]
The University of Arizona is situated in the newer part of the town. Its buildings are of classic architecture, well proportioned, their simple, dignified lines suited to the exuberance of nature surrounding them. Still new, its landscape gardening has been happily planned in a country which aided the gardener rapidly to achieve his softening effect. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, "Tucson," Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
I love Tucson (UA); it's so clean compared to the concrete campus of ASU. I mean, how can you resist the green of the mall and beauty of the mountains! ~Nancy Eliscu, quoted in the University of Arizona Desert yearbook, 1982, edited by Eleanor McDaniel and Suzan Johnson
Back in 1897, when ASU was then known as Tempe Normal School, the mascot was The Normals. Two years later, the school toughened up their image by changing the mascot to the Owls of Tempe, and later to the Bulldogs. It wasn't until 1946 that the student body voted on changing its mascot to the Sun Devils. The school hired Berk Anthony, an employee of Walt Disney, to design the signature symbol of Sparky that is still used today. ~Emily Holexa, "The Face Behind the Mascot: The Real Life of Sparky the Sun Devil," The Devil's Tale, cronkitezine.asu.edu, 2005
ASU West is the first state university in Arizona to be planned and built in this century. We are an institution of the future, with the future in mind. ~Vernon Lattin, Vice President and Provost of Arizona State University West, as quoted by Lynn Adair, "Arizona State University's West Campus," in Arizona Highways, September 1989, arizonahighways.com [My alma mater! — well, one of them, anyway. For a couple of years in the mid-90s, I was a fixture in Fletcher Library. —tg]
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)
The Painted Desert is not painted — it is dyed. Quite a few million years ago, this country was the floor of the ocean. Successive layers of sediment were stained or "dyed" by the mineral laden waters... The result is a wild land of mounds and bluffs, that looks like someone had gathered all the rainbows from the sky, boiled 'em like spaghetti, then spilled the whole kettle full all over the desert. ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "The Painted Desert," Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
Chandler is typical of the whole Valley. Sand-besieged from the north, it sets a flame of verdure to meet the devastating onslaught of the desert, blossoming defiantly till the air is saturated with perfume. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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"
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," in Arizona Highways, August 1971, arizonahighways.com
"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"
Once we made a day's excursion to Casa Grande, forty miles away, over the Maricopa reservation. No spot could look more untouched by human life than this wind-ribbed and desolate palimpsest of sand on which layer on layer of history has been scratched. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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
Phoenix's Mexican American community dates back to the founding of the city in 1868. From these earliest days, Phoenicians of Mexican descent actively participated in the city's economic and cultural development, while also fiercely preserving their culture and heritage in the thriving barrios, by establishing their own businesses and churches... As the century progressed, the Mexican American population grew and expanded into several areas of Phoenix, and today the substantial community is flourishing. ~Frank M. Barrios, Images of America: Mexicans in Phoenix, 2008
They, like many other Mexican American families in southern Arizona, led a life of hard work, solitude and self subsistence in harmony with the land. It is difficult to imagine and appreciate the historical presence and economic and cultural contributions made by these pioneer families in the Sonoran Desert. But where there are now freeway interchanges and suburban housing tracts and shopping centers and golf courses, there were once vital and energetic and close knit communities of Hispanic settlers who brought with them the skills of living off the land from their native state of Sonora, as well as a legacy of Mexico's Native American, Spanish and Mestizo cultures...
The legacy of the Mexican American pioneers in the Sonoran desert is an enriching and enduring one. Although many of their monuments — their farms, ranches, chapels, homes and corrals — may have been bulldozed in the name of progress, it is important that we gather their stories and respect their memories and culture which has contributed so much and is still evident in the southwestern lifestyle that we cherish. ~Patricia Preciado Martin, "The Mexican American Culture in the Sonoran Desert," in sonorensis (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum), Spring 1996
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, arizonahighways.com
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, arizonahighways.com
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
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," in Arizona Highways, February 1971, arizonahighways.com
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
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, arizonahighways.com
Superstition Mountains loomed clear and cold on our left. But what caught and held our eyes in this pastel land was a riot, a debauch of clear orange-gold. Born overnight of a quick shower and a spring sun, a million deep-centered California poppies spread a fabulous mosaic over the dull earth, fairy gold in a fairy world, alive, ablaze. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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," in Arizona Highways, September 1970, arizonahighways.com
Most roads in Arizona are amphibious; to be ready for all emergencies, a motor traveling in that region of surprises should be equipped with skates, snow-shoes and web-feet. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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
The brittle ground of ancient battle... ~Lester Ward Ruffner, "What Arizona Means To Me?," in Arizona Highways, November 1971, arizonahighways.com
Arizona looks like a battle on Mars. ~Author unknown
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," in Arizona Highways, May 1973, arizonahighways.com
Arizona's vale of mountain-temples... ~Robert Haven Schauffler, Romantic America, 1913
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," in Arizona Highways, July 1971, arizonahighways.com
It's the Southwest... Where nature rubs belly to belly with subdivision and barrio. ~Barbara Kingsolver, "Making Peace," 1996
Are wild stallions
With silver manes flung high
In triumph, knowing they shall not
~Lenore McLaughlin Link, "Sandstorms," in Arizona Highways, August 1968, arizonahighways.com
The bleak and thorny mesquite is transformed by masses of feathery leaves, and its heavily pollened yellow catkins fill the narrow valley with a scent like lilies and willow sap. ~Winifred Hawkridge Dixon, Westward Hoboes: Ups and Downs of Frontier Motoring, 1921
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
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
Arizona... the best of it is the January sunshine. The air is enchanting, quite unlike any I have known before, being crystal clear and faintly but persistently aromatic. ~J. B. Priestley, Midnight on the Desert: A Chapter of Autobiography, 1917
They must've abbreviated us AZ because we have the entire spectrum of weather extremes: Ablaze in the Phoenix sun to Zero-degree snow in Flagstaff. ~Terri Guillemets, "Arizona Alphabet," 1989
Ribbed arms and heads of saguaros studded the skyline where Gila woodpeckers and curve-billed thrashers kept up conversation, and quail bobbed on the ground like sly, pear-sized hens. ~Craig Childs, March 2019, Bean Tree Farm, Tucson Mountains, Arizona, Introduction to Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019
A "star" — celestial, not movie — is buried in Arizona. Whenever anyone sees a shooting star, the thought often pops into mind, "I wonder what would happen if one of those babies was to smack into Earth head on?" 20 miles west of Winslow is the answer... Meteor Crater.
Throw a rock into smooth mud and it will make a hole with puckered edges. Magnify that hole in your mind's eye till it measures almost a mile from rim to rim, (4000 feet to be technical,) by 500 feet deep, and you get a pretty fair idea of what this crater looks like. Only it is gouged out of solid rock instead of mud. The "pucker" raises its rim a hundred feet above the surrounding plain. ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "Meteor Crater," Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
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
These lands are too parched,
Please rain-bless our hearts!
~Terri Guillemets, "It's a dry heat," 2011
Bessie cried. "I ain't movin' to Arizona! Damnit, there is nothin’ there but gravel and scorpions..." ~Mary Doria Russell, Doc, 2011
I cannot imagine your living in such a place, fit only for scorpions and Gila monsters... ~Laura L. Livingstone (Herbert Dickinson Ward), Lauriel: The Love Letters of an American Girl, 1901
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
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"
Camelback Mountain... A mountain entirely surrounded by mansions... ~Reg Manning (1905–1986), "Things to See in the Salt River Valley," Cartoon Guide of Arizona, 1938
Each season of adventure reality television gets more challenging. I'm waiting for a Survivor: Phoenix in July edition. ~Terri Guillemets, "Desert, ay, land," 2006
published 2004 Sep 10
revised Apr 2016, Sep 2022
last saved 2023 Jan 14