Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An ode to New Mexico summers

By S. Derrickson Moore

No matter if the weather is triple-digit-ish, summer is still my favorite season — I think.
There would have been no hesitation during my childhood in Michigan. If you loved to swim, play outside with friends, take long walks and gather wildflowers, as I did, summer was the season for you. The only season, in fact, that you could count on. Winters were very cold and very long, and prone to make untimely incursions on adjacent seasons. But summer was mostly free from awful weather, except for the occasional hail storm, maverick tornado or prolonged rains.
Here, summer is the usurper of what many consider our best seasons: fall and spring. Newcomers will notice that you frequently hear residents of Southern New Mexico complain: “We didn’t have much of a spring this year: we went straight from winter to summer.” 
You hear it so frequently, in fact, that we wonder why anyone considers it remarkable.
Weird as the weather has been in recent years, there are a few things you can expect pretty regularly during summer here: some wonderful, some — not so much.
A river will run through it (even if it’s only for 45 days this year), and we will be able to envision what summers once were like on the banks of the Rio Grande, when it was a wild river, rather than a micromanaged irrigation ditch. 
There will be what I called, in jest, a monsoon season, when I first moved here. Imagine my surprise when the term seemed to catch on with regional weather people.
While not as dependable as summer wildfires during our recent drought years, if there is going to be a rainy season, summer’s the time. And for almost all of my two decades in Las Cruces, it seems like the most likely time for a deluge, or at least some serious sprinkles, is the Fourth of July. Fireworks displays are just about the only event for which some municipalities have back-up alternative rain dates here. But most seem to decide to go ahead, even during the most impressive Independence day thunder and lightning storms, nature’s much more impressive answer to our feeble-by-comparison manmade explosions. Rain is something to celebrate.
This could even lead to a prolonged periods of what New Mexicans call humidity, a pretty laughable concept for someone who has lived in the Midwest, drizzly Oregon and in South Florida and Jamaica, where you can literally get mugged by desperado tsunamis of humidity which fog your sunglasses and leave you drenched, the second you step out of air conditioned DMZs.
Of course, many of us still have swamp coolers, which are severely compromised by prolonged monsoons.
Still, New Mexicans are so elated by any prospect of moisture, that you’re likely to find us pretty cheery during the summer, welcoming legitimate reasons (like survival) to take it slow, sip a cool drink, slip into places with the best AC, and sing and dance in the rain, when it comes. 
Even when it seems the triple-digit heat will never end, many of us will consider summer way too short, because school will start in August, rather than September, post-Labor Day, as it does in most of the country. 
And some will feel obligated to start contemplating back-to-school issues in July, or even June. 
New Mexico’s tax-free back-to-school weekend is Aug. 2 through 4 this year, so you don’t have to think about all that for another month. And though I just looked it up, I’m not going to mention exactly when school will start for teachers and students.
The older you get, the faster it goes.
 So slow down, kick back and enjoy it while you can. Savor your Southwestern summer in all its steamy, chile-enhanced, hopefully-monsoon-blessed glory.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

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