Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Midsummer Springs Eternal
Midsummer. July 22. In a normal year, the hills around us are dry and brown. The fire danger is sky high and we are resigned to scorching, relentless heat. The daily storms brew up in a flash in late afternoon and are gone more quickly than they arrive. The sudden downpour is devoured by the parched earth and makes no measurable difference. We must water the grass daily, even if it is against the rules, to keep the lawn green. I’m sorry for tourists who come to Colorado in July. It is not our best month. But this year they are in for a treat. The foothills are still verdant, the land feels lush and full. Flowers are flourishing everywhere and the cattails are thriving. It is still monsoon season, a surprise to most who don’t think that word and Colorado belong in the same sentence. Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific flows in and cooks up spectacular thunder storms every afternoon, as the heat of the day creates the convection that explodes into fifty-thousand foot clouds and the inevitable cloudbursts. Natives know not to make plans for late afternoon picnics, or weddings. By early evening the sky is clear again, a cleansed palate for another breathtaking sunset. And evening baseball at Coors Field where the Rockies continue to hit it out of the park. This last Monday night, the fireworks got a late start. The moisture and a cool front took their sweet time drifting down the Front Range and arrived close to ten p.m. Within minutes, a potboiler of a storm had blown up, creating straight-line winds gusting to 65 miles per hour, unforgettable lightning, deafening thunder and even a tornado only six miles from our house. It was the first time in ten years I had taken a tornado warning seriously. We moved the computers to the basement and were ready to flee ourselves if we heard a roar or rumble heading our way. I heard the roar but it didn’t get louder before it faded away. Daisy the dog, on the other hand, was not persuaded the danger had passed until an hour or so after the last clap of thunder. She spent the duration of the storm on my bed, burrowed into pillows and trembling without ceasing, even as I wrapped my arms around her and tried to cover her ears. Colorado must be a difficult place to be a dog. This is the thing I don’t like about July in Colorado. Humidity. We don’t feel it hanging heavy, clammy and suffocating the air, as it is in the Midwest. What we do feel, we tend to appreciate. A welcome break from the lip-cracking dryness. Our humidity is often in the single digits. No, what I don’t like about our humidity is the way it hides the mountains. They are obscured for most of the day behind a shroud of moisture. The clouds that will become violent later in the day linger as dewy film, a gauzy curtain that keeps us from seeing anything more than a vague outline of the hills and valleys and high peaks a few miles away. It is not a clear day and I cannot see forever. And I don’t like it. I’m used to one hundred mile views. From Long’s Peak in the north to Pike’s Peak in the south, and, in fact, beyond in both directions. It is a distance of more than a hundred miles. In between are the Indian Peaks, the massive mountains that surround Mount Evans, and scores of undulating hills that come in and out of focus, depending upon the angle of the sun. I can see forever. It is a world that inspires big visions, big dreams, a wide-angle perspective on life. On days like this, I’m on my own. I have to envision far more than I can see. I have to see farther than I can, to imagine contours and landscapes that are fuzzy and hidden. On days like today, there is no far horizon to beckon one on, to lure one into a far country. On days like today, I have to trust, to imagine, to believe. On days like this, it is all about faith.