New Mexicans and their Rain


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.

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About charliegreenberry

I grew up in the wilds of New Mexico in a strange combination of free and restricted. Now, as I stumble unwillingly into adulthood, I find memories resurfacing. So I dust them off, sand them, slap on a coat of paint and display them with the hopes that at some point they'll make sense and pull the room together. The blog is a space for writing, for sharing, someday sharing without worrying about who is reading it, and a place to practice. Virginia Woolf said, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." Well, here's to having a room at least.
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5 Responses to New Mexicans and their Rain

  1. tialaura98 says:

    I have that NM rain fetish. Whenever it rains here in LA, everyone else just walks on, but I have to stop and look up and smile. The smell, especially with alfalfa fields around my parents’ home… It’s a smell from childhood. Those fields are my place, my canyon. Looking out over them, inhaling that scent and remembering when, as a child, I found it a treat to get to stay up late and ride the baler with my Dad. When I felt proud that I was big enough to help out by forking hay rows or hefting bales. It’s my place I know where and who I am. And even though there’s an irrigation system, it’s the rain that makes it MY place. Yep, I’m a rain worshipper.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I hope you are submitting these essays to some journal or mag; they need to be shared with everyone! New Orleans is that special place for me. You described the feeling of place beautifully.

  3. I grew up with rain, rain that starts and forgets to stop. I do not particularly miss trees, tall trees that is (they block the horizon) but I do miss water in all its forms. You described sense of place so beautifully, and now, my mind is filled with smells and images of New Orleans. The only canyons are made from tall buildings, but oh, the “wild life,” the vegetation, the smells and images only New Orleans creates for me, my special place. Thanks, Opal.

  4. Layla says:

    Living in New Mexico has definitely made me appreciate rain. I grew up in South Texas by the Gulf of Mexico and rain often became a sinister and dangerous force. The lack of rain here in New Mexico causes near panic, and I am now a converted rain worshipper. Love your blog, Opal.

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