Monday, November 7, 2011

Abundant Rain to Refresh the Weary Land

We were blessed with rain on the weekend. This is such an unusual event for us that we turned off the television and went outside to get cool and wet. We opened all the doors and windows to let the smell of desert rain into the house.
Palm trees are a common sight here in Phoenix, but pretty blue skies and puffy clouds are not. This is the post-rain clarity that will turn brown again in a few days.

“Abundant rain?” It’s a relative term. Here in Phoenix our annual average rainfall is between 7 and 8 inches, depending on your neighborhood. This year we’ve only had 3.2 inches so far, and that’s including the summer rainy season. Every time the sky turns gray or the humidity rises a fraction, all desert souls turn unconsciously toward the sound of thunder, even though it may be 40 miles away. Even domesticated house-dwelling creatures like ourselves remain connected to the earth, as thirsty for moisture as the native animals. I feel myself breathing deeper and expanding slightly in the rain, like the plants that survive as brown dry sticks 90% of the time and then burst into bright green leaves at the first drop of water.

The ocotillo usually looks like a bundle of dry thorny sticks, but within a few days of rain it will be covered with small leaves.source

When I lived in Northern California, I used to curse the rain as it interfered with my daily commute and conspired with the icy wind to freeze me to death. Even with my hat, trenchcoat, and boots, the soaking I would get just running from my car to a store front, or from the bus stop to work, would leave me damp and cold all day. I got so damn tired of it. There years when there were floods everywhere – parking lots, basements, schools, even streets would flood with a branch or a bit of litter stuck in the drain. Hilltop houses would collapse and slide to the bottom of the slope in a tide of mud.

Of course those years went in cycles, and when we were in a non-flood year that often meant we were in a drought year. I remember many more drought years as a child, so many summers with the dirty cars and brown lawns of water rationing. The constant rain and flooding I remember happening more in my 20s and 30s, so you have to wonder: did the climate actually change in that short a time, or is it the difference in perspective of a school girl with few responsibilities compared to a young adult trying to manage a career and family?

Now, of course, I miss the cool moist climate of the Bay Area. In the deathly dry heat of the desert summer I really miss the California rain, but at the same time I try to avoid thinking that it would be easier to live there. The grass is always greener… Ha ha!



  1. The grass is always greener ~ so very true! When I lived in Northeast Pennsylvania I hated the area and the fact that there was never anything to "do". If one desired arts and culture, a trip to NYC or Philadelphia was required. Now I live a quick commute to DC, Baltimore, Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay, and I find that I take little more advantage of all of the things to "do" than I did when traveling was required. And for the privilege of living in the center of so much, my home here is half the size and cost three times as much! The grass is always greener, indeed.

  2. Oh, it's a recurring pattern, and I don't know why we never learn. At least I don't. When we moved to AZ and the Piemaker suggested Flagstaff, I protested that it was too far away from "culture". I probably enjoyed the so-called culture for all of about a year, and now I complain about it. So silly!