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Downing

Welcome to Renée's annual monsoon review

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Last year, I did my traditional monsoon review in September, which is when we finally got a totally satisfying rain in my part of town after a cruel and unusual two-month-long tease by the weather gods.

This year, there's no point in waiting: Monsoon 2012 has rocked. Is rocking. Shows every sign of continuing to rock. And with an El Niño winter on the horizon, a major requirement for my personal happiness has been satisfied. All I want to do is gloat.

This summer's monsoon started on time, even a little early, and without the usual lame opening parade of dry thunderstorms that tantalize, start fires, fail to bring the temperature down and terrify my big dog with no compensatory goddamn payoff. Instead, all through July, we had rain after afternoon rain with (relatively) little thunder and lightning. It's rained hard again and again, all over the place, and the monsoon rainfall has been heavier than average, which is important. More important yet, it has rained at my house.

When it comes to the summer rains, we're all selfish: We want them where we are. Regional sentiments work the same way.

The heat waves in the east and the disastrous drought in the Midwest affect my wholehearted enjoyment of Southern Arizona's splendid rainy season 2012 not in the least. (And for all of the folks in the middle of the country still driving around in their Avalanches and Armadas and Escalades, I'd just like to say, "Hello? Climate change is not just for polar bears, and it isn't about whether you like Al Gore or not. It's a fact, and it's for you, and it's about life on Earth.")

But back to everything that's been great about this monsoon so far. The big pools in the wash—and even most of the little ones—stayed full throughout the month of July, which meant that the spadefoot toads got their lickety-split breeding cycle done without me having to worry about whether the polliwogs would get up and out before the water disappeared. The night of the first rain, the toads started calling. A week later, the pools were full of tadpoles, and a week or so after that, the bottom of the wash was simply alive with pea-sized toadlets. Now they're gone, buried again, their business for the year finished. (Sigh of relief.)

Watching the desert green up, right on up the sides of the mountains, has been immensely satisfying. The lacy wild grasses sprang up on cue and went to seed double-quick, and the desert senna and Arizona caltrop are in glorious roadside bloom. The sages in the medians and in people's yards turned into purple puffballs overnight, as is their wont. (The buffelgrass, Bermuda grass and puncture vine are also going strong along the ravaged wash banks and in vacant lots of the city, but never mind. The weeds are always with us, and the sections of mostly untouched desert I drive through on my way to work out in Oro Valley look fantastic.) A half-dead orange tree that's part of a little abandoned grove along my neighborhood wash has perked up enough to start blooming, surprising me the other week with the syrupy scent of citrus blossoms in July.

Another pleasure of the monsoon has been watching Chuck George. (Does anyone not love Chuck George?) I rarely catch the TV news, but my husband always watches the weather, and I happened to be home the day of one of the first big storms. KOLD Channel 13's real-time reporting was, I thought, a model of how it should be done. They led with the storm; crawled the road closures and comprehensible flood warnings through the broadcast (because I do not happen to have a map of Pima County in my head, I find the National Weather Service's warnings completely baffling); showed great amateur video and photos from all over; and kept vigorously warning commuters while absolutely rejoicing in the fact of the rain. There was none of that ooga-booga, thunder-and-lightning-very-very-frightening tone taken by lesser weathermen, most of whom seem to be mere newsreaders trained to point at maps. Chuck George loves weather and knows it, and it shows. He talked about people gathered excitedly by the washes and rivers, hoping to see flash floods. That may not be news I can use, exactly, but it's news I want to hear.

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