August 4, 2011

monsoon1 A typical monsoon day here in the Valley of the Sun: blistering hot – we hit 109 today with a lot of humidity. That special combination that hits you like a sledge hammer when you walk out of doors and saps your strength even if all you do is walk to and from the car as you make your errands. Fortunately, the clouds came in around 4 PM and helped to knock the blaze down a bit, then the pop-up thunderstorms gathered around us, providing a nice aural and visual treat. A couple passed north of us before we finally got a decent one, although with precious little rain.

As hot as it gets around here, it is a nice time of year.

There’s nothing I don’t love about thunderstorms. One of my favorite, if not the favorite, experience is to hear the sound of distant thunder grumbling from dark clouds gathering in the distance on a hot, still summer afternoon. The combination of green trees against dark gray skies is pleasing to my senses, and the thunder itself brings back so many memories of watching thunderstorms gather to our northwest from the safety of our front porch when I was a kid. My grandfather was a thunderstorm hound, and I guess that’s something that has been passed down to me. It’s a feeling, I guess, of smallness amidst the power and majesty of God’s creation, of sentimentality, of aloneness, because as much as you want to feel and experience the fullness of it all, there’s just no way you can. So, I just sit in my chair, perhaps nursing an ice-cold beer or chilled glass of Pinot Grigio, and just wait for all the pool filters and air conditioners surrounding me to stop their humming so I can hear the thunder in all its subtle greatness.

I also love the very first stirring of leaves and branches as a storm approaches. I’ll close my eyes and listen for the sound of individual leaves or palm branches and feel the hot breeze kissing my skin. Out here in Arizona, unlike in New England, you don’t get that initial burst of cool air indicating a coming storm – there’s just too much heat and humidity around this time of year. If you’re lucky and you do start to get rain, I love the experience of hopping into the pool and have the warm rain, pool water, and air all breathing the same damp, moist breaths as everything dissolves into a huge warm, wet blanket.

I remember a night walking back home from my friend Paul’s house as a teen and marveling at the “heat lightning” of a muggy August night. Don’t think there’s any such thing as “heat lightning” – it’s just lightning reflected across the sky from a distant thunderstorm, but I’ve always loved the phrase nonetheless.

And once it gets dark and the storms are moving off (as they normally do) to the northeast or northwest, I love seeing the lightning flashes in the darkness of our front dining room. The thunder outside is beginning to subside, and the violence of the storm departs with just the occasional flashes of ghostly light as its calling card.

The monsoon thunderstorms out here are quite different than those I’m used to from growing up in New England – there’s no “cold front” pushing the storms through. They’ll pop up from out of nowhere and disappear as quickly as they arive. We so-called “natives” are used to SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNINGs fron the National Weather Service, but unless you see the phrase THIS IS A DANGEROUS STORM you can expect lots of lightning and rolling continuous thunder, perhaps a few minutes of rain, and then they move on.

It’s monsoon season here in the Valley of the Sun. We’ll have another month or so of this, and then the activity will slowly dissipate as the year turns to October and the annual “breaking of the heat” event that inevitably comes around the 10th or so.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:25 | Comments (0)
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