February in Chicago is cold, damp and most of all dreary. Daylight hours have shrunk; it’s dark outside going to work and likely the same when coming home. Wistfully scanning seed catalogs doesn’t seem to help. At Starbucks, sales of the Sumatran Vente Molto Loco blend have increased dramatically, which makes people bug-eyed but hardly cheerier.
This is normal, you argue to yourself. It’s not climate change, or global warming or cooling. It’ll pass. Even if it’s climate change, you feel too gray to care. So what if another chunk of the North Pole broke off. Surely there’s plenty more left.
In San Miguel the weather is not anywhere near as dismal and I’m not complaining. Even in the dead of winter the sun blasts off from behind the mountains every morning, hovers above lazily for hours and plummets on the opposite horizon in a splash of color. Relative humidity, never high to begin with, decreases inexorably with every passing week since the last time it rained.
That’s all perfectly normal San Miguel weather except that after seven months without a drop it starts to nag you and you secretly start to wish for a gray, cloudy day followed by a man-sized downpour–a gully-washer, a thunder-boomer, sis-bam-boom! let’s go!–anything to shock the landscape from its gold, arid hue.
Recently this hankering has been exacerbated by the heat. Summer here usually is a two-month formality that comes around March or April and then recedes. This year, though, the heat, in the mid-90s, has stayed with us until now.
Humidity has dropped as low as seven percent, and the smoke and smell of brush fires tinge the late-afternoon air with something resembling smog. This weekend the botanic garden caught fire and left two-thirds of it charred, and the cacti stunned and looking even lonelier than usual. Strong afternoon winds spur any fires and create “dust devils” that look like mini tornadoes kicking dry soil and garbage around.
During the past week we had a couple of teasers. The sky grew dark and cloudy and rumbled as if God were clearing Her throat, but nothing came of it but a couple of anemic drizzles.
Until yesterday, when the skies really opened up and let down an avalanche of fat droplets that clinked against the window panes like hail. As dry as the ground was, puddles formed immediately, as if the water didn’t quite know where to go.
Félix ran into the garage but not our dogs Lucy and Gladys, which sat on top of a pile of black dirt, squinting delightedly in all directions. This was the first occasion to get covered with mud, nose-to-tail, and they didn’t want to miss it. Desi, our more level-headed Doberman, retired to the basement and waited for the storm to end.
Our rain gauge made its debut, recording three-eighths of an inch, a good show particularly since the rainy season doesn’t normally start for another three or four weeks. Maybe it was but a rehearsal of greener, more humid days to come, like a sparklingly sunny and warm February day in Chicago.
I hope it’s the real thing. Despite our mixed luck with trees, we have kept on planting, adding an avocado, a guava, two pomegranates, several silver poplars, another fresno, six “paraiso” trees and two different varieties of cherries. They had looked a bit wheezy and droopy from all the heat, despite our watering.
No more. This morning they look greener and more vigorous. I swear.