Today, it finally rained. Real rain, hours of it. Enough to make puddles and breathe petrichor, the magical scent of desert rain. A friend took her infant daughter out in it after the thunder stopped and let the gentle rain bathe the baby. Her New Mexico baptism.
Earlier in the day, while I ran at Elephant Butte Lake State Park, the clouds gathered around the full circle of the horizon in tall white towers and thick gray sweeps, and yet I ran under a bubble of hot blue sky. As the wind picked up, the movement of juniper and creosote branches reminded me of the pine boughs carried in Pueblo corn dances. Dances that honor the oneness of humans, plants, animals, ancestors, and rain. I silenced all other thoughts in my mind and ran for rain, adding my inner voice to all the other rain-prayer songs in the desert.
Cloud People, for you,
My feet are a drum,
Pounding the rhythm of rain.
The grains of sand shushing under my feet
Softly rattle the sounds of rain.
My sweat is rain.
My blood is rain.
My thirst is the thirst of the dry earth,
For every fluid of my body
Is made of rain.
Even my breath as I push up this hill
Exhales the moisture of rain.
The plants are dancing for you,
Hopeful and eager.
Your grandchildren call,
And you come to us,
Trailing your soft gray hair over the mountains.
Images: Clouds by Child Hassam and Desert Rain by Edgar Payne
Cloudy winter days aren’t as blissfully beautiful as the sunny ones with pure bright bowls of New Mexico blue overhead, but the payoff comes later, with mind-blowing, psychedelic color and texture at sunset. The changes happen so fast, I have to time my sunset viewing exactly right and pick the right location for it. The sunsets may technically be in the west, but the colors can show up anywhere. There was a thick, creamy, red-purple display in the southeast one evening, a blazing orange total-sky event on another, then a softly glowing purple radiance in the north the next night. On a cloudless day, all we get is a pale rim of gold on the edge of the bowl.
Most of these lovely clouds haven’t rained, though. Yesterday’s shower was the first in around two months. It’s been a warm, dry winter. One day in December was actually cold. One day. High temperatures should be in the fifties, not sixties or seventies. I wonder if the snakes ever brumated. The other day, a little yellow jacket wasp was walking around on the top of my shoe while I was working out by the river. I like bees and wasps, but should they be out and about in January? The pines trees have shoots of new growth and I think they’re pollinating. The fig tree in my yard is budding. A mosquito tried to bite me. I’m comfortable, but too comfortable. The bugs and plants and I should be enduring bit of a chill. I’m sure my East Coast friends would like to ship a big load of winter to the Southwest about now, and I wish you could. Without snow in the mountains, we could be headed for a dry year.
The following is not a complaint: My home internet was down for a week and I had a cold—events so insignificant in the realm of human difficulties that they remind me my life isn’t hard. My immune system probably appreciated the chance to do a little work. I wasn’t knocked-out-flat sick for even a day. To avoid spreading germs, I was less social, but less dancing meant more writing. And while I had to schedule my limited online time and leave home to do it, my reading changed for the better. Fewer news articles, and more in articles in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, a medical journal I still find fascinating even though I’ve retired. A challenging read keeps the dust off my brain, and I occasionally get plot material from it, including the remarkable studies that help shake up Mae’s world view in The Calling and the Tibetan medicine material in Death Omen.
I can cope with minor personal discomforts and even benefit from them. The uneasy comfort of the weather troubles me more.