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Rain, Finally
Rain, Finally
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I hear in other parts of the world they have this word for when "water falls from the sky"…. Here in the Arizona desert, the first rare bits of summer rain are quite magical, and well worth stopping doing whatever you think is important, and go outside and just soak it in.

Back when listened to radio in my car (pre-iPod), oner of local Phoenix DJs nicknamed “Bone Mama” would sometimes alert us to “an outbreak of weather”– a freakish event where the sky was not brilliant blue and the sun not even visible.

The first real rain of summer is happening right now, the build up of the summer “Monsoon” patterns, when the winds shift their regular pattern to bring moisture from the Sea of Cortez, and when this hits the strong thermals rizing over the desert– kaboom! a perfect recipe for a thunderstorm.

The patterns begin with gradual increases in humidity (from like zero to a bit aboive zero, but noticable), picking up with afternoon wind gusts. The first disturbances are usually noisy, windy… and only dust. but eventually we get the real deal, and this morning it is …. what do they call it when water falls from the sky?

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. My wife and I had a similar experience to Stephen but it was in a place similar in climate to Arizona. We went to visit my sister who lives in Alice Springs a few years back and it rained three times in the week we were there after about 18 months without the wet stuff. It was dry at Uluru though, but another drive out to Glen Ellen Gorge and the Ellery Creek Waterhole involved several quick burst downpours and racing a big, black thundercloud back to the Alice in the car. The best comment I’ve heard about rain came 18 years ago playing a game of golf in country South Australia with an old farmer. It was well overdue rain halfway round the course and he just stood there with a big grin on his face getting wet and said,”It’s just like pennies from heaven.”

  2. Stephen– We could chalk it up to your unique persona ;-) Actually, we typically get a few of those storms per year, where it might be overcast and rain for a day or three. My sister was visiting us from the east coast during that same time; they had sought and escape from a long stretch of Atlantic coast rain, but just brought it with them.

    Graham- I can picture that farmer perfectly. I regret on my 2 visits to Australia I did not take the opportunity to get to Alice, given everything I have seen make it look familiar and not at the same time. I wil not miss it next time I get to visit… whenever that may happen!

    You hint at the marvels of the storms that happen in the open spaces of the desert– where you could be sitting sunny and dry, and see off in the distance a roling wall of grey where it is raining on someone else (hopefully a smiling farmer). Or when one of those moves quickly into where you are. I got stuck by one of these when I rode my bicycle to the top of South Mountain, a 2500 ft high point south of Phoenix, when I noticed a brown wall rolling towards me from the north west. “What is that?” I mused before relaizing it was a dust storm aiming right to where I was. Not thinking to brilliantly, I rode quickly down through the storm, at one point a road sign flying right behind me. In 15 minutes, it was gone and I was back in sunny blue calm.

    I could have never imagined this was possible growing up on the eastern, humid, forested coast. The most apt words I have ever found to describe the differnce is Willa Cather’s quote about the earth and sky:

    The sky was as full of motion and change as the desert beneath it was monotonous and still, — and there was so much sky, more than at sea, more than anywhere else in the world. The plain was there, under one’s feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud. Even the mountains were mere ant-hills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. The landscape one longed for when one was away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!

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