Saturday, July 19, 2014

Singing and Dancing in the Rain

Ah, rain!
The real stuff has finally made an appearance: the deluges that come with thunder and lighting and the aromas of ozone and mesquite and something else that pervades high-desert country. I suspect it’s a mixture of settled dust and damp piƱon and assorted other plants, native and domestic, that have finally enjoyed the deep, refreshing drinks they’ve been longing for these last, long, bone-dry months.
I call it the smell of gratitude.
When I first moved to New Mexico, a colleague told me to brace myself for the first big rain of the season.
“People actually go out and dance in it,” he said.
I found that hard to believe, recently arrived from Oregon, weary from decades of Portland winters: long, drizzly months of gray skies, grumpy, soggy souls with migraines and Seasonal Affective Disorder — exacerbated by light deprivation, giant slugs and pervasive mold and mildew.
Lured by Chamber of Commerce promises that nearly every day would be sunny in the Land of Enchantment, I settled in for my first summer in Santa Fe. A few weeks later, I awoke to sounds that reminded me of the then-recent eruptions of Mount St. Helens.
I called an old buddy and asked what kind of natural disaster had befallen us.
“It’s just a thunderstorm,” he told me.
I’d lived so long in Pacific Northwest, land of perpetual drizzle, that I’d forgotten what a real thunder and lighting storm was like. I liked it, especially since the sun usually emerged soon afterwards. I started writing, slightly tongue-in-cheek, I’ll admit, about New Mexico’s summer monsoon season.
There were chuckles, but before long, it seemed to catch on. Though we then tended to associate the word with places in the world that experienced deluges in a few hours or a few days comparable to the amount the desert skies bestowed on us during an entire year, a monsoon, is, after all, a monsoon: a season of heavy rains.
The word may evoke dread on some parts of the planet, but here, a monsoon is generally a good, even a blessed, prayed-for event.
I haven’t forgotten 2006, when communities like Hatch and Ruidoso were tormented by overgenerous monsoons, but I also remember that all of Southern New Mexico seemed to turn Oz-emerald green, and fields of wildflowers emerged that I’d never seen before. Birds and bunnies and other assorted wildlife had their own little fiestas. Even a sometimes destructive monsoon offered wonderfully compensatory beauties and benefits.
I’ve been thinking about that green year since July stormed in, bringing purple blossoms to all the neighborhood sage bushes and almost-overnight patches of greenery wherever lurking weeds could get a toehold and slurp a few drops of water in our mostly gravel yards.
“The rain is like a fertilizer to the weeds,” said Mr. Rubio, a nice man who lives nearby and knows all about wrangling vegetation in high desert country.
No matter. Pulling a few weeds is a small price to pay for all the good stuff that happens when the monsoons come in.
As I now regularly inform newcomers and remind natives, “Singing in the Rain” was written by someone from our territory, Nacio Herb Brown, of Deming, NM.
We know about that impulse, and I’m surprised that we haven’t come up with some kind of monsoon festival, here in the fiesta capital of the planet.
But then, we never know quite when, or if, the monsoon season will roll in. The surprise is part of the fun.
So, when it comes at last, gather your family and friends, or just slip out on the porch all by yourself, and enjoying a little joyous, life-renewing singing and dancing in the rain.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter or Tout or call 575-541-5450.

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