The intensity of an Arizona sunset

Picture of Arizona Sunset

The quality of light in Arizona is intense, and never more so than at sunset during monsoon season. For two summer months, the afternoon clouds build, fierce thunderstorms crash and threaten. Then it is over. Or is it?

As a photographer, I’ve learned to be patient. If I wait out the storm, and stick around for the aftermath, a brilliantly hued sunset often occurs. It is time well-spent.

The end of summer is always hard on me. Trying to cram in all the goofing off I’ve been meaning to do.
~Calvin and Hobbes~

Summer green afternoon

Picture of summer green water

As you drive through Oak Creek Canyon, you’ll see a sign for Ensinoso Park. There, if you stop your car and walk down the hill you’ll find this secret place.

I’ve visited when it is dressed in winter white and fall gold, but nothing is so startling as the passionate green of summer, when the creek borrows color from the moisture-loving sycamores, alders, and ashes that line the banks.

To me, water is the ultimate “yes” person. It says, whatever you want me to be, I’ll be. Hard, soft, liquid, mist. I’ll reflect back your blue skies, your gray storms, your green leaves. Yes! I’m here. Just ask.

Summer afternoon–summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
~Henry James~

Barreling along

barrel cactus

This is a commercially planted group of golden barrel cactus, also known as mother-in-law cushions. I know this because no self-respecting barrel would choose to grow this close to another, just like a wise mother-in-law (without the thorns)!

Barrels have a single blossom in the spring. You can see the remains here. What I like is their representation of both the short-term represented by the fading blossoms and the long-term potential of life. Living beings often grow slowly in the desert, taking time to put down roots. Under the right conditions, barrels live to be over a hundred years old.

These cacti remind me that we do not need a reason to exist–sometimes it is okay to just sit there and look beautiful.

Observe the space between your thoughts.
Then observe the observer.
~ Hamilton Bordeaux

Having new eyes

barred shadows

In the hot Arizona summer, any point of shade is welcome. Here, the barred shadows represent a wooden arbor overhead, providing more an illusion of shade than actual shade itself.

But instead of looking for relief from the sun, perhaps I can appreciate the beauty of the precise latticework echoes and the way they transform once again when they hit the brick walk.

Layer upon layer the world reveals itself to us, when we pause to look closely.

The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking
new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
~ Marcel Proust ~

Always looking for more

young skunk cabbage

If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.
~ Oprah Winfrey

These young skunk cabbage were flourishing on a trail near the Museum of Northern Arizona one morning and I was struck by their vitality. There had been no rain and the ground was rocky and barren. Yet there they were.

What they had was enough: sun, air, a quiet place to grow.

I wonder if sometimes I am too focused on what I want and not enough on what I truly need to make life worthwhile.

Nothing is fixed in life’s changing pattern

San Francisco Peaks

Life at its best is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed.
~ Carl Rogers

The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona were formed from the jagged edges of a volcano that exploded many thousands of years ago. The Peaks rise to an elevation of over twelve thousand feet and are large enough to form their own weather pattern.

From July through September, each summer day creates massive thunderheads that explode lightning and heavy rain showers across the mountains. In the dry high-plateau air, the edges of the clouds are like cutouts against the blue sky.

I’ve spent many lazy summer afternoons watching these monster clouds build. They are a daily reminder that life is always changes.