Watching Mountains in the Catalinas of Arizona

August 14th, 2013 · No Comments

by Jane St. Clair

Growing up in Chicago, I saw only flat land and I never saw any hills, much less mountains. My idea of nature was a cemetery, more so than the city parks that were noisy and full of people.


At first when I came to Arizona, I didn’t like the mountains. They blocked your view of things and looked like big boring rocks, and I never was into rocks. They were obstacles that closed you in — after all, you have to climb over them or walk around them to get where you want to go.

Sedona Mountains Arizona

I didn’t know anything about mountains then — I didn’t know they have individual spirits, and that, as the Chinese say, some are charming enough to attract dragons. I also didn’t know mountains are always dancing with the clouds and the sky — complicated dances more tango than waltz, more grande ballet than two-step.

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I never even knew the simple thing that clouds cast shadows on mountains. Now that is obvious to anyone but a romantic like me who assumes that clouds are light weightless things that wander lonely. No, clouds cast shadows on mountains, mountains with cloud diagonolsand clouds can even give them stripes and diagonals that look like Navajo rugs.  One cloud can snuggle into the crevices of a mountain… Clouds stuck in Pusch Ridge near Oro ValleyOr a bunch of clouds can get together an obscure an entire mountain range …

 Clouds obscuring mountains

And sometimes the sun lights up every crevice of your mountain, and when that happens, you can see the intricacies of your mountain better. Certain lights can change a purple mountain into a bright red one…

bright light over pusch ridge shape changer
…And snow can even make mountains disappear ….


And then there is sunset! A good sunset can trump an entire mountain range and the whole sky itself.


I love to watch a storm come up over a mountain. Some of these great storm-rain dances can take all day!  Thunderheads carrying heavy bags of rain as ominous as a nuclear mushroom overcome parts of a sky — even as its other parts can remain relaxed and sunlit.

hallelujah sky over Mayer
So now I think mountains are magic and I think they are shape-changers and wonderful.

Big sky over Tucson mountains


 I watch mountains when there is nothing better to do,Navajo rug sunset in Arizona

because I’ve learned there is nothing better to do than watch mountains.


Tags: Arizona · Arizona photography · nature essay · Tucson