Saturday, August 13, 2011

Streams in the Desert

Rainy seasons in Arizona are a curiosity. Even though it is called the Monsoon Season more often than not, it is a non-soon. This year has been a blessed exception for a dry and barren desert, one fraught with savage wildfires.

An 11-year-old drought has bruised Arizona's billion-dollar cattle ranching industry, pushing one of the vaunted “Five C's” of the state's traditional economy closer to extinction. Arizona's five major resources: Cattle, Citrus, Climate, Copper, and Cotton are commonly referred to as the “Five C’s”.


I reside in the southeastern corner of the state. It is rural and the only one of the five C’s that eludes us is the citrus. We also don’t have the saguaro cacti – the Sentinel’s of the desert. We are considered high desert and are prone to freeze in the winter months. Last winter we lost our huge 15-year old eucalyptus tree and a number of cacti due to an exceptionally cold snap.

We have stunning views: weathered ridges studded with desert brush, mesquite and prickly pear cactus, rocky foothills that climb the horizon, azure skies unmarred by urban pollution. Snow falls in the highest reaches during the winter but not enough to shut down the community.

Having been raised in Ohio, I was familiar with rain. A lot of rain. And thunder. And lightening. I grew up with tornado warnings and advisories and knew exactly what to do in the event of an emergency. That was to head for the basement! We have no basements in Arizona houses – at least for the most part.

Ohio spring rains were cleansing. The smell after the rain was so fresh and clean. How I wish that scent could be bottled and sold. I would purchase it by the gallon.

The rains here in Arizona are different from those in the east. They have a scent of their own and unlike anything I’d ever smelled before. It is almost a deep, dusty, musty smell. Not unpleasant, but just different. My friend Roxanne says it is the smell of the rain when it hits the creosote bush.

My 38-mile commute to work takes me through the PinaleƱo Mountains. Earlier this spring I witnessed the dry, stubble of the grazing areas for the cattle. It appeared that if I would step out of my vehicle onto the grass (for lack of a better word) it would crunch and crack like brittle straw. The fear was constant that some careless person would throw a cigarette butt out their car window and ignite the wildfires.

Then the monsoon arrived. Some days it was only a hint of rain with the distant smell that graced our olfactory glands. Other days it was an abundant downpour that blessed our souls and the parched earth.

Almost overnight the barren desert became an oasis of green that could rival those views of Scotland or even Ireland with the major difference being the prickly pear cactus and the ocotillo bush. The ocotillo looks like a dead stick for most of the year, but once it is touched by rain, it greens up and has the most beautiful blossoms protruding from the top. Ranchers often use it for fencing. It (like almost everything else in Arizona) has evil thorns. Early settlers to the area would cut off a branch and weave it through the barbwire fence. According to the old-timers, the plant thwarted rattlesnakes from entering the property.

Our Arizona rains are also different in the fact that perhaps we don’t have rain at our house, but five blocks away they are experiencing a veritable downpour. 21-years later and I still find this amazing.

Last evening it rained. It thundered and there was lightening. It was a wonderful storm. It was the type where I sit wrapped up in a quilt and enjoy the display. This morning I am enthralled by the greens of my garden.

Gathering Storm
Isaiah 35:5   the Message
Blind eyes will be opened, deaf ears unstopped, Lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song. Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. Hot sands will become a cool oasis, thirsty ground a splashing fountain. Even lowly jackals will have water to drink, and barren grasslands flourish richly.
Tamara
Roadside Poppies

P.S. - one of the reasons I changed my background to the poppies is because we didn't have any this spring due to how dry it was, but they are blooming now! And they are gorgeous!

A Blooming Ocotillo
My Arizona Raised Bed Garden
with Tomatoes & Asparagus