Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rain is Life

If your religion is the desert, rain is the blessing.  In the desert rain is life.  Pure and simple.

Rain in the desert is a wake your spouse up event.  A go out and stand in it with your face to the sky event.  A time to suck in all the sweet moist smells of the ancient creosote bush that perfumes the air with the falling of the first drops.

Without rain, and enough of it, our Sonoran desert would cease to be what it is, one of the most lush and diverse places on the planet.

No, I did not misuse the word "lush".

Our part of the Sonoran desert has an incredible volume of biomass,  all plants that are adapted to hot and dry, and just as adapted to be opportunists who know how to quickly capture and store any moisture that comes their way.

There is incredible diversity here, both plants and animals, which is due in large part to the two distinct rainfalls we expect each year, rainfall seasons that provide a bridge for surviving a year in the desert.

The monsoons usually start in July and provide most of our average   (in a good year) ten inches of rain; ten inches is the upper limit in the definition of "desert".  These summer rains are tropical in nature and origin, towering cumulus building from the heat of the summer desert.  They fling lightning bolts with careless abandon, their thunder ricochetting off the mountains through the valley, black curtains of rain filling the bone dry arroyos in a matter of minutes.  The indigenous people here, the Tohono O'odham, call these the masculine rains -- sweeping in, suddenly hard and furious, and quickly gone.  Our winter rains, the feminine rain, are in contrast soft and gentle and can last a day or two, their slower pace soaking into the desert floor, nurturing with gentle abundance.

My husband woke me at 4 AM with one word.  Rain.  Five hours later it is still falling steadily from the sky.  I can barely make out the Tucson Mountains that loom a very few miles to our west.  Our backyard creosotes, trunks purple black in the rain, are filling the air with their sharp clean smell.  Our constant and intrepid hummingbirds (they may look cute, but are truly fierce) are zipping through the raindrops; the mourning doves are hunkered down, enduring on the garden wall.

Later, when the rains pass and the sun comes out, the desert will be clean and fresh and sparkling.  More plants and animals will have been assured of the potential of a good year for procreation, and we can look forward to a prolific bloom of our trees, cactus, and perennials, and long strings of baby quail.  A blessing indeed.