Welcome to my page of quotations about Arizona’s monsoons, which also occur in other parts of the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. July, August, and September are monsoon season here when we get occasional storms with lightning and thunder, heavy rains, heavy winds, and haboobs. This time of humid weather is also known as the summer thunderstorm season, the Southwest monsoon, and the North American monsoon. Here where we get so very little precious rain, the clouds and stormy weather can be welcome and refreshing excitements! The more the Valley has grown and become a heat island, though, the fewer storms we seem to have and the ones we do get come and go quickly. But I am always deliriously happy for anything that comes our way. Be safe, fellow desert dwellers and enjoy the quotes!
The water that came last winter is long gone. “Female rain,” it’s called in Navajo: the gentle, furtive rains that fall from overcast skies between November and March… What we’re waiting for now is male rain. Big, booming, wait-till-your-father-gets-home cloudbursts that bully up from Mexico and threaten to rip the sky. ~Barbara Kingsolver, “Making Peace,” 1998
In late June, the mercury rises to uncomfortable levels. Dry grasses bake in relentless sun and parking is determined by shade, not distance. Then the wind picks up. Clouds start rolling in. Cumulus thunderheads darken the sky, and most Arizonans wait eagerly for the first quenching drops of rain. The monsoon season has arrived. ~“Arizona’s Monsoon Season,” ArizonaExperience.org, 2012
She left in August after the last rain of the season. Summer storms in the desert are violent things, and clean, they leave you feeling like you have cried. ~Barbara Kingsolver, “Hallie’s Bones,” Animal Dreams, 1990
Far on the desert rim the thunder breaks
And white clouds turn to steel above the plain.
Now it will rain.
~Sylvia Lewis Kinney, “August,” in Arizona Highways, August 1968
Waiting for the end of the drought becomes an obsession. It’s literally 110 degrees in the shade today, the kind of weather real southwesterners love to talk about. We have our own kind of Jack London thing, in reverse: Remember that year (swagger, thumbs in belt) when it was 122 degrees and planes couldn’t land at the airport?… We revel in our misery only because we know the end, when it comes, is so good. One day there will be a crackling, clean, creosote smell in the air and the ground will be charged and the hair on your arms will stand on end and then BOOM, you are thrillingly drenched. ~Barbara Kingsolver, “Making Peace,” 1998 [Ah, yes, the famous 122º Phoenix day, June 26th 1990. We all remember where we were!
late June, monsoon — kaboom!
patter, splatter, fat drops gather
splats, taps, windowpane raps
wind whips, swish, whish —
summer’s rumbling thunder
flash, crash, lightning dash
plash, splash, sky unlashed
~Terri Guillemets, “Summer wonder,” 2007
The spectacular summer thunderstorms that send torrents of water, rock, and cactus down usually dry desert washes and the soft Pacific rains of the winter serve as a catalyst to the survival of most desert animals and reptiles. Getting their moisture from seeds and other forage, other desert critters can go their entire lifetime without a drink of water. ~Marshall Trimble, Arizona: A Panoramic History of a Frontier State, 1977
July-sky billowy wind-gusty
blazed wild desert-wet
lightning-dancing monsoon clouds!
~Terri Guillemets, “July clouds,” 2007
June is the cruelest month in Tucson… Every plant looks pitiful and, when you walk past it, moans a little, envious because you can walk yourself to a drink and it can’t… In June there is no vital sign, not so much as a humid breath against a pane of glass, till the summer storms arrive. ~Barbara Kingsolver, “Making Peace,” 1998
The sun is rolling slowly
Beneath the sluggish folds of sky-serpents,
Coiling, uncoiling, blue black, sparked with fires.
Above the smell of scorching, oozing pinyon,
The acrid smell of rain.
And now the showers
Surround the mesa like a troop of silver dancers:
Shaking their rattles, stamping, chanting, roaring…
~John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950), “Rain in the Desert” (Arizona Poems), 1915
In July and August on the high desert the thunderstorms come. Mornings begin clear and dazzling bright. By noon, however, clouds begin to form over the mountains, coming it seems out of nowhere, out of nothing, a special creation. The sound of thunder is heard over the sun-drenched land. Anvil-headed giant clouds emerge with glints of lightning in their depths. The storm clouds continue to spread, gradually taking over more and more of the sky, and as they approach a battle breaks out. Lightning streaks like gunfire through the clouds, volleys of thunder shake the air. A smell of ozone. While the clouds exchange their bolts no rain falls, but now they begin bombarding the buttes and pinnacles below. Forks of lightning — illuminated nerves — join heaven and earth. The clouds roll in, unfurling and smoking billows in malignant violet, dense as wool. Most of the sky is lidded over but the sun remains clear halfway down the west, shining in under the storm. The clouds thicken, then crack and split with a roar like that of cannonballs tumbling down a marble staircase; their bellies open and the rain comes down. ~Edward Abbey, “Water,” Desert Solitaire, 1968 [Of the Utah–Colorado area. Text a little altered.