This is one of the best times of year in New Mexico. It’s monsoon season. Monsoon season brings renewal and refreshment to the parched land, but it also brings the magnitude of nature and potential danger. Maybe that is why it is so awe-inspiring. One fact remains true; New Mexicans look forward to it.
The summer in New Mexico is full of dry, oppressive heat. The land aches under the relentless sun, the ground cracks and retracts from itself, and the succulent plants draw off their remaining reserves of hydration. During the peak heat of summer swamp coolers are rendered useless and people and animals seek out shade and restful activities. Every day feels hot and still; the blanket of summer smothers ambition. Rivers and lakes begin to dry, pulling away from their muddy shores. The growing season slows down as the summer harvest is finished and the fall and winter harvest have not begun. This time is to rest and prepare for the coming season.
And then, one day in the late summer, thunderhead clouds begin moving in and blocking out the sun. The wind begins to pick up and the temperature drops considerably. It’s amazing how quick the day can turn from bright and hot to dark and foreboding. As the wind blows heavy gray clouds across the vista, the anticipation can be felt. It’s electric. Energy is roiling and hairs on arms and necks stand on end. Without warning- Crack!! Boom! Thunder and lightning are the harbingers of rain and come on suddenly. The smell of rain is in the air and there is a sense of expectation from the earth itself. Life exists in a state of suspended animation…
Then, as if a switch has been flipped, the floodgates of the skies open and rain pours forth. Fat, cool drops splash to the ground at an alarming rate creating a rhythmic thud-thud-thud. The booms of thunder and the cracks of lightening provide an impressive backing track. Rain pounds on the rooftops, creates rivulets in the dry dirt, and swells the arroyos to their breaking point. The water comes so quickly and with such ferocity it can’t be absorbed and the excess runoff causes flash floods and mudslides. These effects reinforce the power of nature and how little effect we have on it all.
Some time later the monsoon moves on; blows toward a new destination. As the last wisps of rainclouds disappear over the horizon beams of sunlight touch down on a revived landscape. Nothing compares to the smell of wet New Mexican dirt. It is so fresh, so musky, and so absolutely delicious it’s incomparable. For now, terra firma is swollen with water, revitalized and prepped for the cycle of life to continue its steady march onward.
That is the beauty of monsoon season in New Mexico.
Lynn Starner is a New Mexico native and shares her state’s unique qualities at www.newmexicoenchantment.com