The Desert Smells Like Rain...

"Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By 'they' I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival ... the time will come when they will sell you even your rain." - Thomas Merton


I was really hoping that rain would fall on today's ride. Summer rain, those big round drops that pound down creating a thunderous crashing all their own, is such a rare happening. The days of the Sun stretch from April to December. It is a long time to wait, a long time to thirst. The color drains from the land, which wrinkles and cracks. The imagery created by Merton's quote, of rain as a festival, is no more vibrantly true than it is during the summer. The quote, I found in a book entitled "The Desert Smells Like Rain" which I first read a good twenty, or more years, ago. In it, author Gary Nabhan, recounts journeys and experiences among the Papago, or more properly today, the Tohono O'odham. Living for generations, in what is today southern Arizona and northern Mexico, the greater Sonoran Desert region, it is not difficult to imagine the significance of rain to O'odham culture, the role it has long played in both daily and ceremonial life. Rain as festival, I imagine, is especially appropriate to the Tohono O'odham people.





When rain comes during this period of dry it brings color with it. The color it brings is felt on the skin, heard by the ears, sensed through our nose and, perhaps, tasted if we stick out our tongue. As for myself, I largely missed out on the festival of falling water this day. Those clouds dispatched a few drops, as you can see by the tracks left in the dirt, just enough to dampen, but not wet, the ground. It was just enough to cause a faint scent of earth to rise, to mix with Spring's once green mantle, dry now and decomposing beside the trail. I would like to have felt the rain running down my arms and legs, mixing with the more usual sweat, and washing it away. More moisture in the air, than on my body. Its sound was a too-brief patter, a snare drum, rather than a booming bass. There was not enough to overcome the taste of salt on my upper lip. In the end, the rain was just a tease, a faint, scattered hope. Neither enough to settle a dust, nor slake a thirst. There is a festival coming, but for now we wait.

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