“Large drops of rain soon began to fall and, as the storm-clouds came sailing onward, others supplied the void they left behind and spread over the sky.”
– Charles Dickens, “Old Curiosity Shop”
So at last … With the new year, the much anticipated El Niño-enhanced rains arrived. Meteorologists and amateur weather watchers alike were biting at the bit awaiting those first drops. Rain gauges stood in place, ready to receive and record. Our rain gutters were clear of debris. At the entrance of many stores, portable display carts of umbrellas and other wet weather paraphernalia greeted shoppers. Out of our hall closet came my little-used, classic yellow, heavy-duty rain slicker. Although purchased four years ago (pre-drought), it still looks brand new. If Tuesday’s rain is a precursor to meteorologists’ predictions for above average rainfall over the next few months, it had better be waterproof as well!
When not observing and writing weather, I can often be found at the Autry Museum of the American West. As a docent there, I lead tours for visitors of all ages, although primarily school-age children. While keeping these young minds both engaged and interested, a certain level of educational intake is expected. Creativity is the key here. Fortunately, placed in the museum’s upper level stands is a near life-size bronze statue. I’ve come to appreciate it not only for its artistic value but also as a teaching tool. Stories and information pertaining to history, art, culture, climate and weather are all held within this one museum piece. Drought and rain are familiar words to kids, especially these days. Perhaps because of this curiosity is piqued and the little minds are ready to learn more.
The bronze sculpture of which I speak is the “Sacred Rain Arrow” created by Apache artist Allan Houser. His creation was inspired by a story he heard as a child from a Chiricahua Apache elder. The following is a concise version:
During an unforgiving drought in the region including northern Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, a young Apache warrior was chosen by the tribe elders to make a journey to seek spiritual guidance from a medicine man. The man bestowed blessings upon the warrior and his bow and arrows. The young Apache knelt down and raised his bow toward the sky. The sacred arrow soared into the Spirit World, carrying his people’s prayers for rain.
Drought is not the exception but the rule as it pertains to the semi-arid climate of the southwestern U.S. For over 10,000 years people have somehow adapted to this reality. To do otherwise creates constant struggle with often fruitless outcomes. Our basic need for water and prayers for rain are a timeless commonality, whether native or non-native American.
This rainfall season may begin to reverse the drought conditions. The current storms’ amounts (as of Wednesday noon) are reaching four inches. The season total is 9.61 inches. More rain is forecast through Friday. Next week brings another round of precipitation possibilities.
While heavy rains and strong winds move across our foothills, with coffee in hand I watch the Doppler radar and finish this week’s Weather in the Foothills. Being mid-storm with more to come I feel rather unfinished. All is well, as much needed water is finally being delivered.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.