The air is heavy and thick.
As I sit on the patio chair in the backyard, I lift my arm up and watch in wonder that I can’t see the air part as my arm slices through it. A fly buzzes nearby but quickly descends in the heat to a cooler spot on the brick wall behind me.
The heat seems to slow down the motion of the cars on the road opposite our home, the animals seem to have lost their usually never ending energy, and the sounds of life all around seem dampened by the pressure of the air surrounding everything.
With the exception of two little fair-skinned boys digging in the sand next to the shaded play set, nothing seems to move in the yard.
I sip my ice water and watch my precocious boys create roads and buildings for their cars, trucks and tractors. I envy their creativity. I decide the boys are fine playing outdoors for a few minutes while I go throw a load of laundry in the wash when I glance up and see the clouds. Huge white and gray thunder heads begin to form in the south, above the rim of the ravine behind us and over the mountains just beyond.
It is an exciting scene.
I begin to get ready for the storm; I cover the grill from making lunch, I take the laundry off the line, I move the dog beds inside and seal off the doggie-door. By now, I am covered in sweat and the gnats begin to fly into my ears and eyes. The boys are not plagued by gnats, I think they might be too stinky. Or too covered in sand for the gnats to know they are actually human. Either one could be true today.
Fritz whines and circles my chair; he likes thunderstorms as much as he likes fireworks and nail trims. All of which send him into a state of anxiety that requires medication.
Sitting back on my chair, I watch with awe as the white thunder heads begin to grow and change color as they crest the mountains and continue building toward the light blue sky. The change in color is subtle at first, but the more the clouds balloon upward, the darker they grow.
I think back to our first year in this home, when the monsoons blew in with such ferocity that water came in under every sealed window and flooded our front yard on a daily basis. We haven’t had rain like that in the four years since, and the earth and trees are showing it badly. In January of last year, in “The Freeze” that lasted two days, what didn’t die from the drought is dead from “The Freeze”.
The clouds build and are now a deep charcoal black, creating a seemingly impenetrable wall in the sky. I can hear and see the wind before I feel it; it begins as a soft breeze that rustles the dry, brittle grass along the ravine and then I hear the whistle as it grows into a full wind the brings with it the smell of moisture and mud and dirt; a smell that is a welcome one in this barren heat.
The breeze ebbs and flows for about 10 minutes, then stops altogether. But across the ravine, I can see the wind coming, and as it travels across the yard, it hits me and the house with a force that forces me to close my eyes. The boys jump up and come running to the house, we’ve seen and heard all this before; the monsoon is coming.
The boys in the bath, I take a quick glance out the back window to see the huge, black thunder head slide in between the sun and the earth around us. Monsoons are funny like that…they black out the sun near you, but if you look north, there won’t be a cloud in the sky. Plus, they’re kind of picky about where they let loose. Driving down the road you could be drenched to the point where your wipers don’t work one minute, to seeing sunshine and putting on your sunglasses the next. It’s rather unnerving to drive through, to say the least.
Then starts the rumble. The sign that it’s gonna be a good rain. The sound starts from behind the hills and reverberates through the ravine before bouncing off the walls of the house. The wind brings the rumbles closer and with it, the smell of…rain.
The rumbles also bring lighting, which leads to power outages 9 times out of 10. I hurry to make dinner before we lose power, all the while stealing gazes out the window at the growing storm in the coming darkness.
It starts with a few huge drops plopping into the ground so hard that dust flutters up as it falls. As the rain saturates the ground and the thunder grows in ferocity, the boys dry off and run to the sliding glass door to watch the wall of water move closer to our house.
It’s amazing. The smell is intoxicating and the torrential downpour that ensues is entertainment enough to sit and watch while we eat dinner, which turns out to be perfect as there is no power and the evening grows dimmer. The rain pours down, simply pours from the clouds like a huge bucket, which lends very well to the flood I can hear raging in the ravine below the back yard.
By the light of flashlights, I get the boys ready for bed, pausing now and then as we jump with a particularly loud thunder-clap and rating them on a number scale of 1 to 17. Each boy gets a flashlight to go to bed with as they drift off to sleep listening to this album (the most amazing and VERY BEST bedtime music I have every played for my busy boys), and I continue to watch the rain until it is too dark to see.
It continues throughout the night, this rare precious storm, but in the morning, we wake to the sun peeking in the windows, and a world washed clean and bright and…new. What a blessing, these storms.
I’ve heard that you can’t have a rainbow in the light of the morning sun, but an Arizona monsoon can prove just about anybody wrong about anything. So we enjoy the before, the during, and most definitely, the after.
(all photos courtesy of Google Images)