I'll be travelling home from mid-day Sunday to Monday evening (Arizona to Georgia to London to rural Devon...it's a bit of a journey), so I'm writing this piece in advance and setting it up for automated posting on Monday morning (UK time). The music today is from Charles de Lint and MaryAnn Harris, who filmed this video for Charles' song "Cherokee Girl" here in Tucson and at Endicott West. It seems like a fitting farewell to the desert. I'll be back of course, and will continue to re-visit this landscape in fiction, art, and dreams, but my life right now is firmly rooted in Devon, family, and the Chagford community.
This weekend, we were blessed with rain in the desert. I know that sounds odd to friends back in Devon, where we've had so much rain this winter that we're all in danger of turning into fish and floating away. But in this dry, dry land water is precious, sacred, and deeply magical. It deepens the colors of cacti and stone, and smells....oh, the scent of the desert after the rain is indescribable, but it's one of the best scents in the world.
“A Sonoran Desert village may receive five inches of rain one year and fifteen the next," writes Gary Paul Nabhan (in The Desert Smells Like Rain). "A single storm may dump an inch and a half in the matter of an hour on one field and entirely skip another a few hours away. Dry spells lasting for months may be broken by a single torrential cloudburst, then resume again for several more months. Unseasonable storms, and droughts during the customary rainy seasons, are frequent enough to reduce patterns to chaos. The Papago [a.k.a. the Tohono O'odham] have become so finely tuned to this unpredictability that it shapes the way they speak of rain. It has also ingrained itself deeply in the structure of their language. Linguist William Pilcher has observed that the Papago discuss events in terms of their probability of occurrence, avoiding any assumption that an event will happen for sure..."
"Since few Papago are willing to confirm that something will happen until it does, an element of surprise becomes part of almost everything. Nothing is ever really cut and dried. When rains do come, they're a gift, a windfall, a lucky break.”
I feel lucky indeed to have lived in the Sonoran Desert. Thank you, beloved and beautiful land. For everything you have taught me over all these years, and for this rain. I'll miss you. And I won't forget.