Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Flagstaff

It usually rains 6 inches per monsoon season in Flagstaff. This year it rained 13. I kept calling it the Pacific Northwest of Arizona. It made me think about Portland but it is different. In Portland, it rains all day from October to May with a brief dryspell in February. It may rain a little or a lot but the rain suffuses everything. It's a pervasive rain. It almost rains indoors. In Flagstaff, it rained not like a temperate rainforest but like a tropical one. Whole oceans of rain gathered in the southwest, spun around, turned over the peaks, got popped by them and fell down onto ground that, unlike the northwest, distinguishes solidly between ground and water. There's only so much the dirt will soak. The Ponderosas are used to a fifteen minute per day dousing. When it rains oceans, even they resist by pummeling you with pinecones, catching you with sap. Sandbags come out. Sidewalks buckle. Streets turn into rivers. Water is so rare here--especially here--we don't even have any rivers, that the ground itself seems to shrug its shoulders and ask, what the hell is this?

In June, the monsoons hadn't started yet. The clouds would circle and darken and break apart. I would stand on the porch and lean toward them. I would almost beg them aloud to please let go. Please rain. It was all I wanted all of June. It is so much easier to love the rain when the ground isn't used to water. Supposedly, in Flagstaff, there's an aquifer 300 feet under organic rock that socks up the usual snowmelt and rain. I'm going to be like that aquifer. I bought two rain barrels. I'm going to store up this rain. I'm going to Portland up this place and make it remember water. It's not a bad guy, unless your house is in the flood zone, I tell the Ponderosas, I tell the dirt. It's good. Think of what we can grow. Mushrooms and lettuce and woollybears and mosquitoes. It is a whole new world. We don't have to put up tomatoes this year. We can grow them all year long every day--this weird mixture of rain and sun will make it easy. Living will be easy. Like in Portland, where everything grows, even tomatoes, although they often never make it to red.

Sometimes we'd get two inches a day. Thunder that would make you check your ceiling for cracks. Lightning so close, you touched your hair. Pat down the static. Make sure you weren't on fire. You could sit, because it wasn't quite cold, on the porch for an hour and watch it rain and lightning and be the stranger you'd never met before, coming to town with a lot of money, a lot of horses, a lot of delicious cherries in his basket. You loved him because he was new and different and didn't make you worry about sunburn or drought.

My neighbor said it rained like this thirty years ago, when he first moved here. The monsoons are almost over. It might not rain like this again for thirty years. The clouds are swirling today and there is thunder in the distance but I can see ribbons of blue parting the clouds, reminding them who they are. Where they are. This is not the tropical rainforest. This is not even the temperate rainforest. This is Arizona and clouds should probably go back to where they came from.

It wasn't a regular summer. It was hard to go swimming. Max is tired of mud. Zoe is tired of clouds. But I do not think I will be missing a thing so much as I will miss this rain that is as big and loud and unbelievable as everything I've ever thought I wanted.