Just after sunset on Sunday, October 25, dark black clouds rolled in from the Northeast. “Looks like rain” comments passed between us. But no rain. Then Monday morning around 6:30, I heard a weird tapping sound on the skylight. Rain? We had more than sprinkles. We had RAIN.
So what’s the big deal? Here in Tucson, in the southern part of Arizona, we had a hot, hot, hot summer with over a hundred days of over 100° temps. The extreme heat and heat warnings deprived us of time outside during the day unless we got out before 7:00 AM. The smoke and then burn scars from the Bighorn Fire in June and July kept mountain trails closed. And no rain.
Our desert plants were “stressed.” Here on the east side of town the water level was so low saguaros had used up their taproots of saved rain and were looking pretty thin. The prickly pear cacti were wrinkled and emaciated. And it was damn hot.
We assured each other the monsoon season (officially June 15-September 30) would usher in the rainy season in Tucson. Those great thunderstorms and teaming rain were on their way to deliver most of our annual 12 inches of rainfall. But, going along with the pandemic and social unrest vibes of 2020, we had a “nonsoon” monsoon. The monsoon was officially over and no rain.
So that swishing and tapping of rain overhead got me up. The foothills to our north were obscured by low gray clouds. Some areas of Tucson only had “seven drops,” or “a sprinkle.” Here off Catalina Highway we had a soaking rain. I had to go out and see it, feel it, smell it, yes, even get into that face-up-mouth-open-tongue-out position to taste it.
Today I celebrate the smells of rain: the damp grassy scent off the fairway, the afterscent of creosote bushes. Scientists call it petrichor. We call it the “after rain” smell and it usually elicits a big deep breath and an “ahh” exhale.
Today I celebrate the sights out my office window: low-lying clouds that alternately obscure and reveal the foothills; the gauzy sheet look that has coated the outdoors with a gray sheen; wet ground, even a bit of a run-off down the street. I celebrate the surprise sunburst that makes our street a Technicolor scene while the foothills are still gray; and then the late afternoon sun and blue sky. Prickly pear cactus perked up from their emaciated “stressed” look.
Today I celebrate the sounds of the rain. At first it’s a soft intermittent swish. Is that really rain? Then the tck tck tck on the skylights. Then that steady cascade sound. The soft plink as more and more drops hit the water in our spool and ripple out. And the hard plunk of drops on the patio flagstones as the rain picks up.
Today I celebrate the silkiness of the air when I step out on the patio, and the cool taste of raindrops on my face. The surprise goosebumps from 59° air make me think t-shirt with sleeves, maybe, jacket. I want to savor the feeling of coolness and open all the windows after the rain stops. ~ 10/26/20 ELM
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement Ethel writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic, along with Music Improv classes at Unscrewed Theater keep her connected.