I'll 'fess up to having more magazine subscriptions than one Nerdy Scientist should, and this time of year, many are waxing lyrical about the cold, shimmery, dead of winter. But that's not the winter I live with now.
Most of us imprint our accepted norms of weather and seasons from where we grew up. I'm no exception, and having grown up where there are four distinct seasons, it was a shock to move to an area where there are really two, a very long summer and a short winter, with very subtle and very brief springs and autumns. I missed the four seasons when I first moved out here, but then really grew to love and appreciate the desert in its glory. I'm missing four seasons again. I'm not sure why; it's probably hormonal. But we have a desert winter, and today, while I was reading about icicles and snow drifts and decorating with silver and gilt to reflect the shimmery sparkle of pale sunlight on snow and ice, outside my snug little dining room was our desert winter.
A desert winter is grey, with low clouds that hug the mountains that ring the basin in which our metropolis sits. The mountains dominate the horizon, and are only located a few miles from downtown, so when they disappear from sight, it seems a different city. It rained overnight, a typical winter rain, slow, steady, quiet, soaking. The days are warm enough that my Bermuda grass is growing early, although my winter rye never did. The air smells like rain. Not the summer rains, which smell of creosote, a smell which, once sniffed, you never forget. Not sweet, not smokey, not pungent, just creosote. Winter rain smells like rain, like water, clear, unencumbered.
A large storm from California is making its way over us today and tomorrow. The forecast calls for high winds and rain, with up to 4 feet of snow upstate, and probably at least a foot of snow up Mount Lemmon, our local winter playground with its lone ski slope. The authorities will close the road up the mountain until the storm passes, and then, when it does, reopen it to vehicles with chains or four wheel drive. City residents will flock up there to build snowmen and forts, have snowball fights, go hiking with their dogs, and in general forge some memories to get us through the very hot and very long summer that's coming.
I'll stay down here, though. The pale winter sun is rising so far to the south these winter days. When the dogs and I take our early morning walk, the sun is way off to the right on our eastbound return. Come summer, it will have moved way to our left. There will be puddles for her to play in (he's on bed rest, so he'll miss walking through the deep puddles and trying to sneak a drink in), and therefore muddy pawprints will track across the floors inside. If it's warm enough, all the cats and dogs and I will go have breakfast outside, listening to the birds sing. They love a newly washed world. It'll be quiet and calm, as if the desert is soaking up this slightly cooler, wetter time for her own memories come the long, hot summer.