|Cow does not hurry, even in the rain|
Since the desert always smells like dust, after a while one stops noticing. Then come the first scattered raindrops after weeks of drought, and their spattering on the dust intensifies its smell, brings it to the fore and thickens it, as if the dust both underfoot and in the air wants to turn to mud. Do the cows notice the rain? Their behavior is unchanged. We come home on the first rainy day to find a bovine mother and child in our driveway, and as we turn in the little one gives an awkward little calf jump sideways, while his mother moves more placidly out of the way.
A day without sunshine means none of the usual warming of the cabin that we help along by opening blinds as the sun climbs higher in the sky. On a rainy day, with colder temperatures outside, it makes sense to keep the blinds closed to hold onto the cabin’s stored night warmth. Late in the afternoon, for the first time this winter we light the gas heater for an hour. It doesn’t take long to make a small living space toasty warm and cozy.
Back in Michigan, we sometimes sit out on our enclosed front porch during a summer storm and marvel at the deafening sound of rain on the metal roof. Our winter ghost town cabin is, in that sense, like one big enclosed porch: the combination of metal roof and uninsulated walls magnifies the sound of the rain. It goes on all night, nonstop, but at last, despite the noisy symphony, we fall asleep.
|Where did the mountain go?|
In the morning on the second day of rain, we awake to a world transformed. Mountaintops have disappeared into low-lying clouds, and we look out onto the desert landscape gleaming wet and fading away into mist. As the steady rain continues, there are no long distances AND no “big sky,” either. As much of the ghost town as is visible is a flying machine we sail, lost in the clouds.
Later, on the road to town, the clouds have lifted somewhat, revealing some of our familiar neighborhood peaks. Others remain shrouded — and the rain continues to fall. There are actual patches of standing water on the land in places. Intersections in town are flooded. We feel as if we are somewhere entirely different and foreign and strange. Nothing feels the same in the rain in the desert.
A letter from a friend, waiting for me in the post office box in Willcox, includes part of an article on “healing places,” with mention of the positive way human brains respond to “sweeping vistas.” In the midst of this much-needed desert rain, we have lost our sweeping vistas and are enveloped in moist cotton batting. During three days of rain, we retreat into books and movies and the comforts of soup. Not only chicken soup but any hearth, homemade soup has healing qualities of its own, I truly believe, as the rain heals the parched land.