There is a majesty that is associated with storms in the desert — perhaps because the desert provides unobstructed views that allow you to behold the immensity of distant or approaching storms. Or perhaps because you can feel the thundering waves of power wash over you even from a distance. But perhaps best of all is the way a storm in the desert scents the air with its distinctive fragrance that signals a change in the weather.
When John Denver wrote Annie’s Song in 1974, an ode to his wife at the time, he described how she filled up his senses “like a storm in the desert.” Those of us who have experienced storms in the desert can easily relate to Denver’s lyrical description. A storm in the desert will fill up your senses as few other things can.
Shorty after purchasing our property in the Big Bend Valley, Cheryl and I experienced our first storm in the desert. Even though the storm was miles away, it felt as though it would be upon us at any moment. The wind picked up and began to swirl up the desert dust as we felt the vibration of distant thunder. It was amazing — but also a bit intimidating.
Because we did not have any shelter at the time, we dropped what we were doing and headed to Little Burro Country Store three miles away where we sought refuge on the front porch. We were not alone. Other locals had also gathered there. And although the storm never came close to our little place, we nevertheless felt its ominous presence.
Since then I have experienced more storms at our Chihuahuan Desert getaway, the last one late at night. Before the sun ever set I knew the storm was coming. I could see it gathering strength far to the north. A little after ten at night it arrived with a volley of pea-sized hail and then sheets of rain accompanied by the most incredible displays of lightening.
I was especially excited about this storm because we had just had our water catchment system installed — seamless gutters diverting rainfall to our 1125-gallon container. Within an hour, our empty tank was filled with almost 300 gallons of water. We calculated that 1-inch of water falling on our 420 square foot roof would capture as many as 260 gallons of water. Our calculations were spot on.
We purchased our desert property because we just can’t get over the beauty of the surrounding mesas and mountains and the indescribable magnificence of the night sky, complete with Milky Way bisecting the heavens. Add to that one more reason why we love the desert — storms. John Denver was right. A storm in the desert will indeed fill up your senses and make you appreciate the awesome beauty of wide open places.