I have serious PMS - Pre-Monsoon-Syndrome - it's a common affliction at this time of the year, just about everyone I know is suffering. Symptoms are not limited to heavy sighing; pacing back and forth to windows to scan the horizon; irritability; listlessness; a desire to head for the hills.
These dog days of summer - diēs caniculārēs - the most sultry, dulling days of the season enticing dog to seek out a cool spot on the polished concrete floor of my study, position himself under the fan and stretch out, panting. I'm inclined to do the same.
If the old ones are to be believed there was a time here when the monsoons arrived like clockwork on the 24th. of June - Fiesta of San Juan Bautista. My first monsoon season in Tucson, 1982, I remember 4th. of July bringing in the monsoons and washing out firework extravaganzas. It seems that their advent gets later each year. Here we are on July 15th. still being teased, waiting, watching the cloud build up from the South East.
The monsoons are major flirts - they dangle all kinds of promises - a cloud mass, a certain wind, humidity in the air - they hold these portents of imminent action just beyond reach only to take them away and leave us with another night where the temperature hovers around 80F for a low and by noon the next day a blast furnace greets you as you open a door. And they they are selective - even in full flow they skirt your neighborhood capriciously and drench an area not five miles away - you can see the "walking rain" clouds, you can smell the damp desert - and yet remain bone dry.
Conversation in line at the coffee shop with total strangers centers on the one topic - not the controversial anti-immigration Bill, not the economy but the promise, the 'will it be today', the yearning for the monsoons. Friends call to report, "we got a few drops" - it's an obsession. Our arroyos and washes remain bone dry, the desert vegetation takes on a parched, shriveled dull brown facade; prickly pear pads hang limply. Birds and beasts alike seek shelter under what shade they can find - this morning going down the front steps I brush past a clump of lavender spilling out of a window box - something moves! Snake radar on high I part the stems with a stick - 17 walnut sized Gambel Quail chicks squeeze up against one another - Mom and Dad scold me from a nearby wall. "Richard Simmons", one of my regular lizards, hangs out on a rock performing languorous push-ups displaying his sparkly blue beard; a Bob Cat jumps my neighbor's wall to drink from her pool.
And then just when you think you can't stand it any longer, when your head is pounding and you feel as parched as the desert it happens. The clouds mass, roll in, and the heavens open. Rain, glorious rain. The dry washes become rivers albeit briefly; the cactus flesh out; the creosote bushes release a scent that to many of us desert dwellers is synonymous with home. Dog stirs , pokes his head out the door. The temperatures drop, sometimes 40 degrees in a matter of minutes. The air is cool, it's bliss. We know the curse is broken - the monsoons have arrived.
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