Monsoon Report from the Patio

It is the end of June and we are sizzling in Tucson with 110 °F almost every day. Wow! “Where is the lovely monsoon rain?!” I ask myself, as many Tucsonans also ask lately. As of yesterday there was no sign of it.

It is so unfortunate that recently other states in the country have been suffering from too much rainfall and too high water levels in their rivers. Devastating floods were the nightmare and the reality. Meanwhile Arizona firefighters struggled for days and days with beastly wildfires. We had not had a drop of rain for a long, long time. Maybe that’s why it feels like the monsoon is late this year. I am also late with our departure to Cape Cod for this summer.

“Such intense heat as we have experienced lately, plus some winds, should bring the monsoon rain soon,” I tried to convince myself, feeling fatigued by the heat as never before. Yesterday ended no differently than other days – a mostly clear sky above and our patio unwalkable in bare feet beneath. The hope for rain went to sleep along with the sunset.

I went to sleep too, but did not sleep well at all. Around 3 am I decided to start the new day. While sipping coffee from my favorite mug, I glanced through the book Sing Down the Rain which has been with me since I began living in Tucson. It is a children’s book written by the professional storyteller Judi Moreillon and richly illustrated by Michael Chiago whose art work is inseparable from his Tohono O’odham heritage.

Cover of Sing Down the Rain
….When the sun is white hot, in May and in June,

This dry land is waiting — rain will come soon.

….Clouds swollen with rain that’s waiting to fall

Will bring cooling water for one and for all.

The poem-story is about the Saguaro Wine Ceremony which is one of the most important celebrations of the Tohono O’odham Nation of southern Arizona.

“The majestic saguaro cactus provides the fruits used to make sacred wine used in the ceremony,” explains the publisher’s note on one of the book’s flaps. “For two nights, the men, women and children dance in the ‘Rain House’ to ask for plentiful rainfall.”

Knowing this story, I often comment half-jokingly that we – the newcomers living in this area – do not dance enough and that we should follow the tradition of the people who are rooted here and know how to bring down the rain. While reading some passages of the book again, I discovered suddenly a little tap-tap-tap sound on the roof. Could it be the sound of falling rain drops? I jumped to the door, opened it widely and… there they were — the very first drops of rain falling on the warm, rough surface of the patio! It was 3:30 in the morning and just a few minutes later the impressive lightning and roaring thunder arrived. The rain became intense. I ran across the patio to my studio to open its door and let the smell of rain come in. Then I sat and watched the beautiful performance of Mother Nature. I wish I knew how to take good photos at night! I tried anyway, but without much success. However, I salvaged a couple just to share with you.

Water on a brick patio Feet on a wet patio
Rain on the patio at night

“The storm” ended a bit after 5 am and I had fun wading in the puddles on our patio. When my shadow, my faithful companion, regained some strength with the rising sun, I took a few more pictures.

Reflection of clouds and umbrella in wet brick patio Photographer's shadow and her feet on wet brick patio
Reflections (umbrella and my shadow) in a large puddle on the patio in the early morning

At 9 am the patio was still walkable and the sky a bit hazy with the clouds whispering about rain. That whispering faded away by noon.

There is a lot of hope for more rain on this long 4th of July weekend. We in Tucson should dance and sing (and perhaps skip the fireworks) to celebrate the arrival of the monsoon season as well as Independence Day. Our friends on the Cape and in Boston can truly enjoy fireworks and dry weather with a touch of sunshine after some wet days there in the past weeks.

Happy Fourth of July wherever you are and whatever you do!

Alicja spelled out in freworks

The credit for this photo goes to the Falmouth Fireworks Committee on the Cape. Kudos for such a clever design of the fund-raising card. I bet people smiled, as I did, seeing their name in the sky — if only on the postcard.

* * *

Text and photos (other than book cover and card) copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

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7 Comments on “Monsoon Report from the Patio”

  1. Your blog is the second word received from Tucson that there was rain in the earliest morning. Yeah! So often in the past, the monsoon arrives around the 4th of July and involves human injury. Often there is a story about hikers in the mountains being hit by lightening — only then does it rain and rain.

    Here in DC the whether has been surprisingly lovely — low humidity and in the 80’s. Alas, by the 4th, it will be oppressively hot and humid. Today a friend and I spend part of the afternoon and had lunch on my balcony. My water sound, at the moment, comes from the fountain on the balcony.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Christina,

      It is so nice to hear from you!

      Well, we did have a touch of monsoon and are hoping for more this weekend. I have to tell you that as much as I enjoy warm weather and tolerate heat pretty well, this year seems to be harder for me.

      Today I learned from the local news that according to the latest statistic, we did not have a drop of rain around here for 81 days! It is almost 3 months! No wonder plants are very, very tired and our patio feels like the Sahara!

      So Christina, as I suggested in my blog, let’s sing and dance this weekend to bring down the rain to southern Arizona and any place where the rain is desired.

  2. Alicja, I worked with Judy when she was writing this book. I was part of her group of readers and editors. It was quite an experience.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Dear Valerie,

      I imagine that it was a very interesting experience working with Judi Moreillon.

      Did you perhaps have a chance to witness a choral reading of this poem-story in accordance with the oral tradition of Tohono O’odham culture?

  3. Marina Says:

    Although I live in Tucson, I cannot physically tolerate the heat nor the harshness of Arizona’s climate and landscape. Consequently, I’ve cultivated a bad habit of insulating myself too much from nature. I long for the soft rye grass I walked barefoot through and rolled around upon in the days of my youth (in upstate New York). The lush woodlands. The four seasons. Ah, but I digress.

    This is not to discount my admiration for the kind of beauty that the desert offers. It’s part of what drew me here. To use but a few words, I would say “big sky,” “sense of freedom,” mountains.

    How I wish I had been with you on your patio, playing in the puddles at 3:30 in the morning. — It sounds so lovely! I think I would have enjoyed that.

    I don’t know how they did it, but the Falmouth Fireworks Committee did such a clever job with that design. And speaking of design, I particularly admire the picture you took with the reflection of the umbrella on the brick patio. So sweet!

    What I take away most from reading this blog, is a reminder of the beauty of being in touch with nature, and how sad I feel about being so divorced from it. I’m not sure how much I can do about it, and I’m not sure how much I’m willing to do about it, but it does contribute to my contemplation.

    For some time now, my only idea has been to move. But more and more I say to myself how much I like living in Tucson. Would I be trading one complaint for another? No place is perfect. It would be nice to feel content where I am, instead of always thinking about where the grass is greener, so to speak.

    [Sorry for such a long reply!]

  4. […] The dance was effective – there was some rain in Tucson upon our return, but it did not last long. Perhaps the dance was too short. Perhaps we will have to repeat it over here in the desert. Perhaps more people should dance to bring down the rain – just like Native Americans do. I wrote about that in my post: […]

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