It’s winter in the desert. Cool days, cooler nights. I wouldn’t go so far as to say “cold nights” for there would be contention with those who do in fact endure nights in which being out of doors would be unpleasant, even difficult to endure.
While we might enjoy a dusting of snow, even a few inches each year, this year is coming up mostly dry, warmer it seems than the prior two. I have not yet seen ice crystals formed from latent dew, nor have the mesquite trees lost all of their leaves.
I am deeply concerned. This doesn’t feel right. It should be colder, and with global warming and associated climate change, I wonder if we will ever again have a proper winter, here or anywhere. I feel suffocated by the notion of a world without snow. My childhood memories recall massive snow piles formed by the snow plows clearing the church parking lot just up the street, built even higher by the blowing wind and associated drifts. Nebraska was a winter wonderland in the 70′ and 80’s, yet even there were stories of much heavier winters with drifts over rooftops, roofs collapsing under the burden of such a load.
One cold, bright morning my father attempted to exit the front door of our home in Columbus, Nebraska. The wood door open to the inside, the screen door its winter glass panes made it fully evident that a drift has completely blocked this north-facing exit. The side door, to the west was the same. As our garage was attached, my brother and I pulled on our many layers of winter gear, grabbed shovels, and climbed through the high kitchen window to the south. We sunk nearly to our chest, through the thin crust and into the light drift. I wonder now if I was at all concerned with falling all the way through, well over my head. Yet I was a kid, and such thoughts were not likely present in my brain filled with the adventure of of a house buried in snow.
We made our way along the west side of the house, around the corner to the drive way that terminated beneath the shallow overhang and garage door. We dug our way to the front door, clearing shovel after shovel until the porch was revealed. Our father greeted us from the inside, smiling for our endeavor.
I don’t recall the details, but he surely joined us in clearing the drive such that he might be able to get to work that or the next day, by foot or by car. But in that neighborhood, as with so many, the social duty of clearing snow, raking leaves, mowing the yard was more important than the need to get out of the house. Then, as now, I prefer to be snow’d in for a few days, a week or more.
In the southestern corner of Arizona, in the San Pedro River corridor and our community of Cascabel, it would take a total shift in the global climate to result in such an event (which would be welcomed by some, and completely rejected by others). We embrace the winter rain as the reason to tend a fire all day, set a kettle on the wood burning stove, and remain in doors. The clouds roll as turbulent waves overhead, this mesquite forest at the bottom of a shallow sky sea. The steel panel roof alerts me and Colleen to the rain even before we take notice of the wet patio and smell of the desert drinking it all in. That sound, the sound of rain drops that have fallen several miles only to crash into a metal surface, roll down to the gutter, and into the planters and water catchment systems–that sound is as comforting a lover’s voice at the break of dawn, as engaging as an orchestra in its first movement, as breathtaking as the opening score of a favorite film.
Once again, I am counting raindrops in Cascabel, cherishing the waves of precipitation throughout the night, and secretly hoping it will snow.