It rained today. And yesterday. And for weeks before that the rain sort of hung over us like shoulders leaning in for a warm hug. Heavy, dark clouds gathered daily, rumbled promises, then moved on until finally, oh and didn’t it feel so finally, it rained.
You’ll know a New Mexican anywhere by two things: the sickly shades their faces turn when you try to feed them “Mexican food” in strange places and the way they stop, lift their faces to the sky, and breathe in like people possessed when storm clouds gather. Their eyes glaze over, hearts beat faster, they may as well be in love. New Mexicans are rain worshipers. We gather to pray for it, gossip about it, and there are even rumors that some of us dance naked trying to attract it.
It’s not unusual behavior for us, though I imagine other people think us strange. I can tell a change in humidity when a cow pees in Farmington.* I would trade nearly anything for a good rain. Not just because it helps prevent fires, or the way it makes the air smell heavier and more wholesome. Nor is it just because of the way it cools the air, or even that all these forgotten plants and animals come sprouting out of the cracked earth when it comes, so that frogs and toads sing nighttime love songs and salamanders sip on low-hanging garden tomatoes while flowers bloom from every road-side field. My favorite thing about rain is the changes it brings to my favorite place: canyons.
Around my home is a series of canyons– some shallow, some deep, some full-time springs, some dry gulches– and in these canyons, I grew up. The news tells you to stay out of arroyos, and well it should. They are dangerous. But the canyons are pretty special too. There’s a whole sub-culture of animals and plants that thrive down there in the water. Sometimes water comes bubbling up out of the ground like champagne. And the water washes layers of time and soil away, revealing arrowheads and mammoth bones, gold and geological layers. Like a king cake, the canyons only yield up their mysteries if you take a chance, dive in, eat, and be consumed. The canyons were my place when I grew up, and I still feel a tingling thrill every time that it rains even if I’m far from home and there’s no chance of going in. Though my parents’ home is fairly distant from the canyon, in a good storm I can hear the water and the boulders jostling along like impatient recess-goers. The canyons are a place of renewal and rebirth for me. I go there when I don’t like who I am. I feel the rocks, let my bare feet find stickers and sharp rocks, breathe deeply, center. This is the place where I best know my God and a place I wouldn’t share with anyone I didn’t trust with every molecule, and it’s a place that enters my bloodstream through cuts and inhaled sand so that it becomes as inescapable as my own reflection.
I hope everyone has a place that is this special to them.
*Disclaimer, this statement is not intended to be factual.