Many people flee Tucson in the summer, unwilling to remain for those blistering 107 degree days. And even when I give the standard answer, "but it's a dry heat," the reply is usually something like "yeah, like standing in a oven." But we need that heat here as it becomes the cauldron for the monsoon rains. There is a pattern of two or three days of rising temperatures that boils up white billowing clouds on the lip of the mountains. There is just enough humidity in the air to carry the prickling scent of creosote and make your neck sweat.
Then the moment the temperature drops even a little bit, the clouds pour down into the valley, dark and gray and hovering. Everyone waits, sitting on stoops, drinking beer, (or tequila) looking up. Go shopping and the checkout clerk at the store inside asks "Is it raining yet?" "Not yet," I answer and the clerk is pleased. He doesn't want to miss it when it begins.
For the Fourth of July celebration I went with my husband and three friends to hike up Tumamoc Hill on the west side of Tucson. We were there -- as it turns out with a multitude of runners, habitual walkers, and families that included little-little ones and grandmothers -- at 6AM in the morning to hike the hill. Overhead were the remnants of last night's monsoon which is promising to hang around for a couple of days. The weather is tropical -- wet and warm and thick with the scents of the desert. The path is easy but the angle is fiercely steep -- I let my friend, who is much younger than me do all the talking so I have enough wind to keep up with her long-legged stride. The lads have all decided that the Fourth requires a manly gesture and wear weighted vests of twenty five pounds. We trudge, we sweat, we say hello to everyone and when we reach the top there is the most spectacular view of all the mountain ranges that surround Tucson, shrouded with velvety clouds and pockets of sunlight streaming through the gaps. We are lucky and catch a break in the rain, enough time for a ritual offering, a drink or two of scotch from the flask and some photos from our phones. And we don't get wet until we have returned to the trail head and our cars. Perfect.
Update I: The second after I published this post, my phone buzzed a weather alert -- flash floods in my area until late afternoon. Awesome.
Update II: Here's the storm approaching our street -- you can't even see the mountain range which is behind the bank of white clouds. The road is still dry and we are waiting -- we can see small threads of rain not far off.
And then it comes with a fury of wind and deluge. In about three minutes the water is flooding the street and making a small lake of the intersection. One little rabbit was caught and scampered-swam through the gutter to get to high ground on the other side of the street.
And in the backyard...the garden rejoices.
Click on the pictures for larger images.