I Love It When It Rains
It’s raining today, and that makes me happy.
I take a moment to consider that statement, and observe that while it may be widely supported here in the southwest, folks in other parts of the country would think me mad. Why do I like the rain so much? Because it feels good, smells great, and it brings texture and depth of field to the already magnificent landscapes of my chosen home in the Desert Southwest.
Last week, in the late afternoon, it was 102ºF on my back porch. The century mark, and its first grim observance is an occasion usually reserved for the first week of May for we residents of the Valley of the Sun. I mention this because last week was the second week of March, 2007. Our spring seems to have been stolen by the early transition to Daylight savings time. Our weather cycle switching from winter’s chilly mornings and pleasant afternoons to the oppressive bleached heat of summer over the span of a single weekend. Imagine my delight, then, when I walked outside this morning to see the puddles on the ground, and to feel the gentle cooling of moist air in a slow breeze.
Riding on the currents of humid air are the smells of the moistened desert. Where the sun bleaches and scours away the life giving water, the plants adapt. The Palo Verde has evolved to produce chlorophyll in its branches and stems, so that it may safely drop its leaves in the summer. By thus reducing its surface area, it breathes easier in the heat. Other plants, like the creosote and the mesquite, secrete oils in their bark to lessen the effects of evaporation and to sustain them through the long summer. When the creosote gets wet, the smell is earthy, pungent, and unmistakable. You have all smelled ozone on the wind before a summer thunderstorm; the sensation is like that.
Of its many benefits, my personal favorite is the effect rain has on the stark tableaus of the Southwestern landscape. In the weeks and months without rain, dust covers everything. The plants turn brown and go into survival mode. The skies dry up, and clouds, if they form at all, are rarely more than wisps in the distance. The air seems to lose focus, and the distant hills become little more than painted sets on the horizon, lacking even the barest detail to distinguish them from a Hollywood backdrop. With the rains come texture and light. It’s amazing how light and shadow work together to accent the hills. Camelback Mountain, in the heart of Phoenix, is the definition of drab in the summer. Reddish brown mudstones and orange granites covered with sparse vegetation do little to stand out from the adobe brick homes which dot its flanks. Within hours of the rain however, plants have turned green. Against the backdrop of pregnant clouds, the mountain is as vibrant as the Sedona landscapes. The humidity pulls particulates and dust to the ground, rendering the scenery in crystal detail.
In the desert, water is life – and rain delivers the water. As the lens focuses light, so does rain focus life in the Sonoran Desert.
I love it when it rains.