The Colors of the Desert
The road to Monument Valley from the west leads across the Navajo Nation. I love this part of the country. It is vast and filled with color. The varying elevation changes take you from abundantly green vegetation to neutrally barren sand. Exposed layers of rock along the red cliffs weave waves of cream, lavender, and a hint of pale green through them. There is creative color as well, signs of the modern-day Indigenous artists who have painted murals on the walls of water tanks and the lone buildings. What I love best about the drive is the opportunity to pull off the road and meet the locals. I savor the time talking to the Indigenous people who love their land despite the challenges of isolation. And, I can’t lie, I stop for the fry bread. The “real” kind.
The time of the drive to Monument Valley is irrelevant. I’ve been there numerous times. What elates me is knowing that the road leads to the most definitive image of the American West—and one of the most photographed points on earth. I am always excited to see that very first formation in the horizon.
My most recent trip was an awakening to the colors that saturate Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. A friend and I traversed the off-road trail (4x4 required) that winds through the 91,696 acres crossing both Arizona and Utah borders. The formations towering hundreds of feet into the air are the remnants of the sandstone layers that once covered the region. The Navajo people call Monument Valley, Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii meaning “Valley of the Rocks”.
The road we were on climbed uphill to the edge of a plateau noted as Artist’s Point. We got out of the car and looked into the distance—miles of flat land stretched before us spotted by the iconic “monuments”. It was the hour of alpenglow and we had a front row seat to Mother Nature’s transformation to twilight. As the sun began its descent, the red color of rock began to warm, then seemingly ignited into a blazing pillar of fire. Simultaneously, the bright blue sky erupted with vibrant orange and red tones. It was glorious. It was surreal. And before any of it made sense, the blazing red color that lit up Monument Valley began to fade. The sky began to dim as well, turning to shades of pink and lavender, and then to purple as twilight took the stage. I stood in wonder at how perfect this performance of light was. Out of one color came a multitude of hues and shades, working in tandem to create something chromatically spectacular. I likened it to the colors of the human race working in tandem together to create a perfect world.
The fall issue of Etched Magazine has risen from the very canyons and cliffs that we call home. The imagery has taken our photographers to places where words cannot do the beauty justice. Our contributors have sought the stories of the dunes and canyons, as well as the people who live and survive, some for centuries, in this colorful, ever-changing landscape. The Colors of the Desert is a saturated smattering of the best that the Southwest has to offer from a different perspective.
I continue seeking treasures in a desert filled with them—it is a colorful world all on its own. What if we deepened our appreciation for color? What if we saw color in a new light? I believe we would see something more than what we just perceive.
Darci, Editor in Chief