Before I moved to Arizona I didn’t know there was such a thing as monsoon season in the US. I thought rainy seasons were the wild phenomena of faraway exotic places, India and Asia.
But monsoon season in Arizona is the most anticipated and welcome time of year. The rain is heady and powerful and everyone is drawn in. At the first crack of thunder the air becomes spiced with the sharp, earthy smell of ozone and creosote bushes. Frisky winds kick up dust and dirt and bend trees sideways under a blackened sky—but you never know from the first few drops whether you’re going to get pounded or passed by.
The monsoon brings a sort of bonding to the community. The air is charged with electricity and there is no doubt it affects people. It’s also a dangerous time—from dumpsters crashing down Brewery Gulch during a flash flood to roads being washed away, especially in state parks where they don’t have the funds to fix them. Every year people get hurt or killed trying to drive through flooded roads. Perhaps the combination of dryness relief plus the thrill of danger keys people up. Sure works on me.
Monsoon usually starts around the second week of July. Oldtimers will tell you the rain used to start earlier and last longer, but the weather has changed. Thirsty plants, trees and animals are desperate for water by now. I don’t understand how coyotes, deer, javelinas, bobcats, rabbits, birds—and the rest—survive it. Some people provide creature-accessible tubs of water outside of our fences, as the animals will come out of the desert into the neighborhoods looking for water. Their reality must revolve around it.
The monsoon storms are unpredictable and mighty, with hail, high winds and monster lightning. The water is fiercely needed but comes with its own form of destruction. The storms are hard on property. Fires start. “Lost dog” posters are common during monsoon—the thunder drives some dogs to break out of their yards and bolt. The combination of fireworks and storms makes this a time to take extra care with your animals. But it transforms the high desert into a lush jungle for a few months and empowers and nourishes our parched bodies and souls. And, it makes a great car wash.