Saturday, February 11, 2006


Last night it rained. Lightning strobed, drops spattered dusty windows, and Tom and I watched as the numbers crept upward on the electronic gauge mounted by the front door. It topped out at 0.12", twelve hundredths of an inch - barely enough to refill the small rain barrel, but we were grateful for every drop.

If you don't live in Arizona, the profound importance of this may elude you. We're in the grip of a devastating decade-long drought, and this is the first time since October that we've been able to measure and record rainfall in our yard in Bisbee. That's right - almost four months without measurable precipitation. Any green thing in our yard that doesn't have its own dripper line is in mortal peril. Even the prickly pear cacti are shriveled and limp. Last night's micro-storm would have been disappointing had we not been waiting so long, had the situation not been so dire. Instead, we celebrated. Standing outside in a February rain might not seem too wise, but it had been just too damned long since I'd felt drops of water on my face that didn't originate from a showerhead.

Living in the desert can and should change your view of the world and its resources, but too often it doesn't. Oblivious humans keep living like there was no tomorrow, building enormous houses, putting in lawns, swimming pools, and golf courses, using hoses instead of brooms on dusty driveways, and holding car washes to fund high school field trips. To sustain the unsustainable, vampire wells overtax fragile and finite aquifers, changing desert streams from ecosystems into drainage ditches.

I'm afraid that for the Arizona I love there really is no tomorrow. I wonder if a decade or two of devastating drought is what we need to motivate that change in world view, or at least to slow the rate of destruction, but this is just too horrible to contemplate. It's been hard enough already, especially watching birds more familiar to me than my human neighbors disappear from their haunts, their empty territories as mute and forlorn as abandoned houses. Rain can't wash away the devastation, but it can ease the burdens of those who have survived (for now). So let it rain...please. --SW

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