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Quotations about
Deserts & Cacti



SEE ALSO:  ARIZONA HOT WEATHER SUN WATER


The desert — beautiful, lonely, merciless. ~Creek Stewart, SOS: How to Survive, 2017


What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote. ~Edward Abbey


A mesa loomed up, spare and craggy. It was striped with horizontal layers: a vein of crimson, a seam of granite, a stratum of chalk. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018


I'm never, ever happier than when I'm in the desert. ~Jeremy Clarkson, The Grand Tour, "The Beach (Buggy) Boys," 2016  [S1, E7]


I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams… ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


If you would know the world go into a desert and study your own heart. ~Austin O'Malley (1858–1932), Thoughts of a Recluse, 1898


My favorite color… the seam of a desert horizon. ~Eileen R. Tabios


All I think about sometimes is desert. Mountains or woods will do, but where I want to be at any given moment, if you catch me staring off, is where boulders are warm to the touch, where rain rarely falls and the air feels like it's being played on the highest, tightest string of a violin, as if you could barely squeeze a drop of water from it. Some people dream in color. I dream in canyons. ~Craig Childs, March 2019, Bean Tree Farm, Tucson Mountains, Arizona, Introduction to Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019


The Desert is—
A brown maiden
Basking in the sun.
~Ruth E. Meakin (b.1888), "April's Secret"


To a man left in the desert the first passer-by becomes an intimate. ~Marie Corelli (Mary Mills Mackay)


Nothing stood between us and the vibrant desert. Staring at the unlimited space fanned out before me, I felt magnified and ethereal, yet grounded... I'd forgotten how enlivening it could feel, seeing clearly and far. Aridity frees light. It also unleashes grandeur... Desert beauty was "sublime" in the way that the romantic poets had used the word — not peaceful dales but rugged mountain faces, not reassuring but daunting nature, the earth's skin and haunches, its spines and angles arching prehistorically in sunlight. ~Julene Bair, The Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning, 2014


It was the farthest she had ever been from home, not only in miles but in feeling. The vastness of the desert frightened her. Everything looked too far away, even the cloudless sky. There was nowhere you could hide in such emptiness. ~James Carlos Blake, The Rules of Wolfe: A Border Noir, 2013


Our desert... bristles with sharp points. Its plant forms are grotesque. Its colors are not bright. It has a harsh appearance that it has acquired by virtue of centuries of heat and aridity. Life is not easy on the desert. All living things therein simply to survive have had to develop rough exteriors and there is little graciousness in that very roughness. ~Raymond Carlson, "The Happy Land," Arizona Highways, March 1953, arizonahighways.com


Content can soothe, where e'er by fortune placed,
Can rear a garden in a desert waste.
~Henry Kirke White (1785–1806), "Clifton Grove"


In the empire of desert, water is the king and shadow is the queen. ~Mehmet Murat İldan


The desert is a place of bones, where the innards are turned out... ~Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration: Old Wisdom for a New World, 2010


The snake is the desert. The fox is the desert, as is the bee... The country is not easy. Scorpions are here too, and a lush variety of cactus I would not touch... How could you not admire this sharpness? The buckled horizons and unencumbered views are nourishing. Poisonous things and needle-tip spines demand attention. A healthy agave with a fresh blade growing straight up, I never hesitate to reach out with a fingertip and touch, reminding myself every time how pointed they really are. ~Craig Childs, Introduction to Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019


What makes the desert beautiful... is that somewhere it hides a well… ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


When other plants were dying in the heat,
And disappearing, one by one, from sight,
You stood your ground, acknowledged no defeat,
And patiently and slowly won the fight.
When Nature had refused to promise more
Moisture, you set your sure and sturdy will,
And built yourself a private plant to store
Your own supply. It is effective still.
You faced the threat and calmly flung your dare
At cloudless sky, bright sun, and burning sand.
Not for a rainy day did you prepare,
But for a dry one in an arid land...
~Clarence Edwin Flynn, "To a Cactus Plant," in Arizona Highways, March 1973


A tumble from the rocks would probably land us in a cactus — and anyone who's ever tried to tangle with a teddy bear cactus knows there's a whole lot more bear than teddy to it. ~Kevin Hearne, Hounded, 2011


The cactus of the high desert is a small, grubby, obscure and humble vegetable associated with cattle dung and overgrazing, interesting only when you tangle with it in the wrong way. ~Edward Abbey, "Cliffrose and Bayonets," Desert Solitaire, 1968


Desert — a piece of Earth that God forgot to water. ~Terri Guillemets, 1996


A subtle but palpable feeling surrounded the three of us, like the scent of creosote and cactus flowers hanging heavy in the air after a long-awaited desert shower. ~Linda Kohanov, "Does the Horse Have a Buddha Nature?," Riding Between the Worlds: Expanding Our Potential through the Way of the Horse, 2003


"Desert?"
"Sand," Ragen explained. "Nothing but sand for miles in every direction. No food nor water but what you carry, and nothing to shade you from the scorching sun."
"And people live there?" Arlen asked.
"Oh, yes," Ragen said.
~Peter V. Brett, The Warded Man, 2009


Deserts are mummifiers, bone-makers. Some years, the rain won't come, clouds promising and promising, but did you say the right prayers, did you pray to the right god? ~Craig Childs, Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019


You wait in heat like this, scanning the horizon for a cloud, sometimes through a haze of wildfire smoke that turns the world orange, when a drop of rain would be a miracle. ~Craig Childs, Virga & Bone: Essays from Dry Places, 2019


There are flowers that bloom in gardens
      Under a gardener's care,
      And their lavish beauties charm me
      As they flourish in luxury there.
      There are flowers that blow in the meadows,
      Kissed by the rain and the dew
      In a riot of happy blooming
      And I love their loveliness too.
But the flower that fills me with comfort
      And makes Life's meaning sweet
      Is the flower that blooms in the desert
      In the midst of sand and heat;
      Whose roots draw strength and beauty
      From a land forbidding and wild,
      Whose face turns bravely skyward
      Nor pines for lot more mild...
~Hattie Greene Lockett (1880–1962), "To a Desert Flower"


Great big yellow mule-ear sunflowers are blooming along the dirt road... scattered more thinly over the rest of the desert are the others: yellow borage, Indian paintbrush, scarlet penstemon, skyrocket gilia, prickly pear, hedgehog cactus, purple locoweed, the coral-red globemallow, dockweed, sand verbena. Loveliest of all, however... with a fragrance like that of orange blossoms, is the cliffrose... ~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, 1968


...the prospect of living waterless in the middle of a million acres of sand and cattle-bones... ~Richard Bach, The Bridge Across Forever:  a lovestory, 1984


This is a storytelling landscape. ~Craig Childs, The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival, 2004  [Southern Utah —tg]


The desert is a scorpion's tale of stings and survival. ~Terri Guillemets


"Where are the people?" The little prince finally resumed the conversation. "It's a little lonely in the desert…" "It's also lonely with people," said the snake. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince


My dear friend:  Three or four months on the edge of the desert, all alone — how I envy you; and again, how I thank Heaven I am not in a similar position. ~Jack London, 1899


...there is something in the desert air
after the rainfall;
a clean smell, a calm, and the
freshness
of foggy clouds
that obscure the tops of mountains
as whole days become heavy with a
cool blue wetness.
for a short while the world is peaceful
and young again...
~Ken Sekaquaptewa and Candy St. Jacques, Sahuaro, 1970, yearbook of the Associated Students of Arizona State University


The desert tells a different story every time one ventures on it… ~Robert Edison Fulton, Jr., One Man Caravan, 1937


...face reddened by desert sun-heat... ~Alexander Smith, "Books and Gardens," Dreamthorp: A Book of Essays Written in the Country, 1863


Out west a favorite practice is
      To brag about our cactuses,
      Of which the west not only has the mostest,
      But also those to skin and clothes
      Inclined to stick the closest.
Opuntia warts have fuzzy hairs,
      Some chollas look like teddy bears,
      While others look like hatracks gone delirious.
      All love the sun. There's only one
      That takes night-blooming cereus.
Out west we never miss a chance
      To brag about our cactus plants,
      A theme on which we may get stuck for hours;
      But hold your scorn for spine and thorn
      Till you've seen cactus flowers!
~S. Omar Barker, "Cactus, Anyone?," in Arizona Highways, March 1973


God takes everyone he loves through a desert. It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden. ~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World, 2009


Sometimes you need to spend time in an empty desert to discover how full your soul is. ~Terri Guillemets


November, in the desert, is a time
When heat has fled the night.
When days are warm, but not too warm to climb
A mountain's rugged height...
~Mildred Breedlove, "November Is A Time," in Arizona Highways, 1970, arizonahighways.com


Some say that true love is a mirage; seek it anyway, for all else is surely desert. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


You cannot blame the Sahara alone for the troubles. But you should also not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst. ~William Langewiesche, Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert, 1996


Get plenty of sunshine
Accentuate your strong points
Be patient through dry spells
Conserve your resources
Don't desert your friends
Wait for your time to bloom
Stay sharp!
~Ilan Shamir, "Advice from a Cactus"


But let not our thoughts be only of happiness. For does not the old Arab proverb — "all sunshine makes a desert" — faithfully remind us that the cloud and the storm are likewise needed for the most complete and satisfactory results? ~William P. Finney, 1907


No rose on thorned stem
Pricks my heart as does the cactus
Flowered in spring or gaunt in December.
I remember.
~Muriel M. Alcott, "I Would Return," in Arizona Highways, August 1970


A scream into the desert returns the echo of your own soul. ~Terri Guillemets


The best gift of the desert is God's presence. ~Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World, 2009


Throughout history, the desert has been a place of trial, penance, and hard-won revelation. God lives in the desert. But Satan does, too. ~Jon Talton, Cactus Heart, 2007





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