When I was a kid, people used to say that Eskimos had over 100 words for snow because it was so much a part of their everyday lives that they needed and used that many words for something we had only one word for. I liked that idea, probably because I like words so much.
I later – as an adult – learned that the story was apocryphal. But I did realize that we use more words for a common occurrence than we do for rare ones. Growing up in the Midwest, we had lots of words for grey wet weather: misting, drizzling, raining, cloudburst… and others I forget now.
Because now I live in Arizona. In the desert where the average rainfall is less than two inches and the average number of sunny days in a year is 360. Yes, you heard right. We have 360 days of sunshine here every year, give or take a day or so. We do get clouds on occasion, but you get the feeling that it’s only a token gesture on the part of the sky.
The local weather people have a rough time. Some few use that job as a stepping stone to other television news positions. But for those who have to present our weather day after day after day, it’s not easy.
I’ve noticed that they often develop a tic. “Today’s weather was sunny, and for tomorrow (twitch here) sunny. Later this week, we’re expecting (twitch) sun. And for next week… (twitch). It’s sad. You can imagine all of them desperately applying for jobs in other parts of the country. Areas with weather you can talk about for hours.
But this summer has been a bit different. We’ve had more than our share of storms.
In Arizona, it’s generally either sunny or stormy. We don’t seem to do those gentle in-between days I remember from Ohio. So I will stand outside on those days and watch the storm build. First the clouds, piling up like a promise, “Oh yes, we have rain here and we’re going to share.” Then the wind whips up making the trees sing with it. A few raindrops, and a few more. And then suddenly it’s storming.
As if to make up for all of the sunny days, Arizona throws its heart into its storms. Lightning, thunder, wind, dust, rain. You want it, you’ve got it. The kind of weather that makes you turn off your computer because something might happen to its innards in this weather. But that’s OK, because you have the storm to entertain you and you need nothing else. Nothing else.
Those of you who live in areas like the one I grew up in have more than your share of weather. But you’ve never had the chance to see what it’s like when a place with so much sun really lets go with stormy weather.
I like to sit on my covered porch and live in the middle of every storm when they come. Breathe in and out, in and out. Feel the desert capturing and savoring every drop. Every single drop. And like the desert I stand up and absorb the storm, take it into me to savor. Every drop.
Or sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of thunder and know there’s a storm outside, like a surprise gift. I may just lie in bed and listen. Or I may get up, open the front door, and watch. Oh, I live for storms.
Feel the air – so soft. Breathe in the scents of the desert just waiting to come alive with water. Watch the trees tremble and then flail as the wind picks up. Every living thing holds its breath and then gasps with the excitement of it.
I like to imagine all of those weather people on the local news, outside, dancing in the rain. (Like I do sometimes.)
And then it’s over. We don’t get days of stormy weather here. The world rips up and goes wild like a cowboy breaking a thoroughbred, and then it’s over. In hours, not days. Too soon. Water on the sidewalk, the street, dries up in the sun. We’re back to our dusty, sunny version of Arizona normal. But if you try, and I try, you can hang on to each storm inside your heart, in your memories, until the next one.