Monday, July 18, 2011

Praying for Rain

I'm beginning to remember how I felt about rain when growing up in Albuquerque. Rain is a rare event there. Three hundred ten days of sunshine a year leaves only fifty-five days of clouds, and not all of those are rain. Most of those fifty-five days occur during the summer monsoons in July and August.

I miss the monsoons. Spring might get a jumpstart from a few showers so that everything can grow and start off green. Then May and June drag on, slowly getting hotter and hotter as the plants grow browner and browner. Watering is limited--odd-numbered houses on odd days of the week, even-numbered houses on even days of the week, or something like that, and you can only water during certain hours. The heat is a dry heat, never as unpleasantly muggy as it is here, but you feel what the earth needs all the more because of it.

As July begins, you start to look for the rain. Clouds will move in, heavy with promise, then pass us by without a drop. Sometimes from the foothills you can see it raining in the valley, the rain evaporating before it ever gets to the ground, hundreds of feet in the air. The best and the worst are the thunderstorms, lightning crackling with high-altitude violence in the thin air, beautiful and deadly to the dried out forests, the parched brush.

Then, one day, the rain reaches the ground. Some warm afternoon in July, unaccustomedly muggy so the swamp coolers stop working, those heavy black clouds loose their loads on the city, and everything stops. People in offices go to the windows to look out; children rush to sail leaf boats down the gutters and splash in puddles; anyone able to sits out on the porch and watches the warm rain fall.

The dried-out dirt can't absorb it all and the water rushes into arroyos that channel it to the Rio Grande. People die in flash floods. Plants spring up overnight in what had been bare earth. Our backyard would become a jungle of weeds through which the dogs stalked like lions, hunting birds.

This would begin the pattern of the next two months, if we were lucky. Brilliant, sunshiny mornings, gathering noontime clouds, afternoon downpours, cool damp evenings. Terrifying thunderstorms, but with rain to temper the fire. The earth and its people soak it in. Flowers bloom, plants surge to life, animals can drink their fill. No one curses a rain cancellation but rejoices in this gift of life.

I forgot all this in Tulsa, this land of endless gloomy drizzles, weeks of unbroken cloudy skies. The cold winter and spring rains get into my bones and make me miserable. The humidity is chokingly thick. I long for sunshine and clean dry air.

But this year I again find myself praying for rain. Tulsa is "only" having its twentieth driest year-to-date ever, but much of the state is suffering the driest year since records began. The sunshine is glorious, but not quite as enjoyable when it's over one hundred degrees and still, somehow, humid and terrible. My garden is parched. My lawn is dead. I can see how it's affected the farmers and ranchers at the market.

We need the rain. As I did when I was little, I look for its coming, and hope it comes soon.

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