I grew up in Florida. I know about thunderstorms. Throughout the summer, we’d get them every day around 3-5pm like clockwork. Small bursts that would congregate and dispense rain like sudden, divine punishment before slipping away to the next block. You could look out one side of the house and see sunlight and blue sky, only to go to another side and find darkness and rain. Larger storms that would stretch into the night, rain drumming louder than a rock concert.
Then there were, of course, the hurricanes. Tropical depressions, tropical storms, cat 1, cat 2, and time-to-evacuate cat 3.
I thought I was ready for monsoon season. Rain? Check. Heavy rain? Check check. Rain so thick you can’t see the hand in front of your face? Checkity check check. Gimme some hail and some close calls with lightning and it’ll feel just like home.
I was ready – for the rain. But not for the desert side of things. The way you could watch a storm approach from miles and miles away. The way clouds bubbled and boiled and burst above the mountains before spilling over in a frightening rage. The way the riverbed, always dry, suddenly filled with churning water, sweeping along anything and everything in its path. The way day turned to night and lightning streaked from one side of the horizon to the other.
And the aftermath. When a Florida storm passes, it leaves little more than wet concrete and steaming asphalt. When a desert storm passes, the world is changed. The oppressive heat is broken, cut down from its dizzying heights to something more livable, breathable. The desert perks up, cacti swelling with the rain and brush bursting with green. The crisp, tangy smells of ozone and creosote permeates everything. Toads quark loudly in the mud, emerging from their months-long hibernation only for the rain.
In Florida, rain is at worst a nuisance, at best a time to set your watch. In the desert, rain is at worst a flash flood that rips down streets and drowns cars, at best – life. The only way this barren, dusty landscape becomes livable.
Three: The Majesty of Monsoon