Just as predicted, our spring going into summer is hotter and dryer than the last. Our days are spent tending to the lovely forest we now call home, but as lovely as forest is, it wears the signs of drought. Ponderosas tower in patient waiting for the arrival saturating rains. Some ponderosas are speckled with browning patches of dried needles, a certain sign of stress. The dried needles fall at random to blanket the forest floor as if in a seemingly desperate aid to reduce the heat index of the overly exposed ground. Alligator junipers and oaks do the same, with the youngest ones suffering the most. With such little moisture, Nature’s will to live still amazes me. Despite the severity of drought the native plants and fruit trees still manage to push out leaves and fragrant blooms inviting bees and hummingbirds. The humus rich mulch we spread across the area destined to be a flourishing vegetable garden has dried out crushing under-foot into nothing but dust. We tread as lightly as possible, giving the future garden space plenty of time and space it needs to become a thriving multiverse of life-sustaining microbes and mycorrhizae.
We tend the forest in much the same way we do the garden, patching up the tattered and torn clothing of our dearest Mother, mulching areas with exposed dirt with native fallen debris. In doing so, we hope to aid the forest in returning to a state of moisture-locking equilibrium, as Nature would have intended had humans not taken too much, too fast.
We are overjoyed to be living in our new forest home, but peer anxiously to the seemingly unchanged vast blue skies, as our days are filled with erratic winds and blistering heat waves. With growing forest fires not more than 30 miles north-east of us, we sit with anxious anticipation in a beautiful tinder box.
There are two things I check in on whenever I am in service range: Inciweb fire reports and the weather forecast. Recently, our excitement grew at the forecasted 20 percent chance of rain in the coming days, and at the first sight of those gloriously white puffs above, I am reminded of the honored Hopi tradition of giving thanks to the clouds… Giving a deep and sincere thank you to the alabastrine clouds, I sit beneath a tree to watch them grow. Just to see them again feels like a blessing, no matter the outcome, I was grateful for their presence.
Come day of our 20 percent chance of rainfall, we watched on with a knowing that the outcome would actually prove to be dismal. No rain was produced by the teasing clouds above. The next day also forecasted around 20 percent, we watched and waited as the clouds gathered graying the skies. Rolls of thunder began emanating where the skies were darkest to the southeast. We hold our breaths with every streaking light across the sky. While monsoon seasons bring blessings of rain, or at least hope of rains, they also bring an elevated danger of more fires. As the thunderheads accumulated, every lightning strike is a sound to fear, until well after drenching rains reign across the greater region, quelling not only the land’s thirst, but our fears of potential fire. We continue watching feeling simultaneously blessed and worried. The spitting clouds gave us only short moments of relief when they decided that was enough. Not even a centimeter of the parched earth was moistened. But we were still grateful.
The next day we were delighted in learning the new percentage had jumped to 40, then 50 percent. And again, we held our breaths through the storm of lightning while also celebrating the sputtering downfall. Not much, but another gift for now.
The forested mountains to East of us, about 25 miles away now, is presently being consumed by a human-caused forest fire. Undying daily, multi-directional winds and lingering drought has been fueling this fire for about a month now, causing the fire to grow exponentially to the second largest in the state’s history.
As we sort through new developments, we look to those once seemingly unchanging vast blue sky tinged with smoke. We remain with our heads in the clouds, looking up, waiting for the sky to determine our fate.