They predicted snow, but it’s been raining for a couple of days now. Slow, steady rain that soaks into the ground and makes the river sing. Here in the Southwest, this moisture at this particular time of the year promises us a vivid season of flowering in just a couple of months, full of the flagrant sensuality and brazen provocation New Mexico springs are known for. Golden orange Mexican Poppies, pink Penstemon, sunny Senecio, creamy Candytuft, purple Blisswort and baby blue Spiderworts will all unfurl in a wild flurry of flowering. Even now, the tiny green leaves of Dock and Mustard and Fillaree poke their long fingers out of ever sheltered corner and tease me with preview of what’s coming.
Yes, we likely still have at least one or two cold months ahead of us here in the mountains but spring looms large in my imagination just now. The full flowering explosion won’t happen until May but I’m already planning my harvesting trips to the desert for Poppies, Larrea and Wild Oats, to the higher mountains for Elderflowers, Wild Roses and Strawberries and to nearby villages for Arizona Cypress, Elm fruit and Desert Willow. It actually does take a lot of planning to figure out exactly when the Desert Willow is going to flower near Silver City or the Poppies will be in bloom in Cliff or the Elderflowers on the mountain. Every year I make my many pilgrimages to my favorite harvesting spots and try to remember to write down the date and state of blooming/growing/thriving. It’s tricky because I only have time to make these trips once in most cases and sometimes I just miss what I was aiming for by a few days. Thankfully, most of what I harvest and use grows right here in the Canyon and the gathering trips are supplemental or for special plants. That doesn’t keep me from getting excited though. Oh no, I’m already marking the calendar, checking my stores of dried herbs and tinctures, arranging my baskets and field bag. I can’t help it, I’m totally plant obsessed!
So the rain makes me smile even when I get soaked just running from den to kitchen, or I slip in the mud while walking the puddled trails in the dark, or we’re low on solar power due to days of cloud cover. Water is the blood of the Southwest, and our rivers are the veins that supply life to otherwise dry lands. The animals certainly seem happy, as the ducks continue floating down the current in the rain and tiny seed eating birds chirp their way through morning showers. The elk forage in the mist and mountain lion screams during a break in the weather. Rhiannon gathers creasy greens from the garden and I kneel to touch the first unfolding leaves of a tiny Pennyroyal plant. Life is good. Even if the river rises under the weight of the storm and we have to hike across a flooded canyon and up the mountain to get to the village for supplies, life is very good indeed.