There’s something almost tangible about the light in Italy sometimes.  It’s hard to capture in photographs, but here are four examples:

gorgeous light 001C

magic light on fall golf course path

late light in Sostegno

last light on Rapallo-002

It’s as if you could actually slice through the light and, if you were very careful and lucky, bring it home with you.  There must be something in the atmosphere – smoke? magic? – that makes whatever you are looking at absolutely delicious.  Yellow light in Italy becomes golden; clouds are silver; roads seem to be bronze ribbons.

Arizona specializes in light too, but it’s a completely different kind of light, hard and hot.  The best time to see light in Arizona (or anywhere, I suppose) is early in the morning and in the evening; during those hours, even here, everything one looks at becomes softer.

It seems to me that the cacti catch the light very dramatically.  It’s not the soft light of Italy we see here, but the sharp western light, held for a moment, reflected in the many spines of the plants and transformed into something more benign and gentle.  They seem to glow:

cholla light


Hackberry Trail light in cholla


Teddy Bear Cholla

Teddy Bear Cholla

As evening falls in the desert the air above gets very clear, but down below the smog from the nearby city is evident.  It’s almost the same effect as a smoky evening after a field has been burned as happens all over Italy in the autumn. But, lovely as it is, knowing it is the result of smog and construction dust makes it so much less romantic.

view from Peralta Trail dinosaur

In the built-up areas and neighborhoods around the Valley of the Sun there are plenty of non-native trees, and they can be pretty spectacular in the waning light.

sunset over course - too red it was yellower

You can almost imagine yourself in New England in October, can’t you?  But no, this is Arizona, land of sharp things (about which more in the next post).

One thing Arizona has that we don’t have in our little corner of Italy is Big Sky. And with Big Sky come Dramatic Sunsets – we never get such violent skies in Rapallo, maybe because we’re on the wrong side of the Monte di Portofino.  But here in Gold Canyon, if there are any clouds in the sky we are in for a treat at sunset:

beautiful sunset

sunset over painted mountain golf course

Sunset at Painted Mountain Golf Course


Gold Canyon with the first glimmers of city lights in the distance


And even if there are no clouds, the midnight blue night sky is a perfect backdrop for stars, planets and especially the moon, sights that we often don’t notice when we’re in Italy.

sunset moon

MoonRise12-1-09 by Laura

Photo taken by my friend Laura

moon and city lights

moon setting over Phoenix

sunset moon-002

And I just couldn’t resist this one because it’s fun:

moon over cactus-1

Light: it’s around us all the time, but we seldom notice it.  Physicists may tell us that “light is simply a name for a range of electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the human eye.”  But it can be so much more than that: all it takes is a special moment, a special angle, an unusual tableau for us to stop and say, ‘Oh.  It is so beautiful!’