Waiting on Water

May 16, 2019

This evening, it’s raining a little. Not hard enough, and maybe not long enough, but it’s a promise of the rains to come.

By August, I’ll hate the daily downpours. They make it impossible to dry washed clothes outside, they turn the hillside paths to mud-swamps and run streams down the village’s main street, and they breed bugs. But right now a real downpour would be welcome.

Fires start in the forests at this time of year from lightning strikes, from broken glass that concentrates sunlight onto dry leaves, or simply from spontaneous combustion. Outside, I can smell the smoke, and on a couple of nights, I’ve gone to bed with the choking scent of it in my room.

Tlayacapan 2019 copy.jpg

Fire burning on a hillside near Tlayacapan, May 11, 2019.

Many farmers, too, are burning their fields to clear them for planting, which makes the hills on the other side of the village sometimes invisible. In Mexico City today, the air quality was so bad they told kids to stay home from school. I don’t know if that does much, since they’re still breathing the smoky air at home, but the authorities don’t want kids running around in a playground in this. The city, remember is in a series of valleys, with forest-land to the east, and no easy exit for bad air. Several friends of mine who have asthma or other breathing problems are sounding scared.

Rains in central Mexico usually start at the beginning of June, and terminate in October. That’s not an absolute rule, and sometimes the torrents come down by late May, or hang around, as they did last year, until the end of November. But this cycle means the second half of May is a fraught time, since there have only been a few rare showers since before Christmas.

We’ve not had a terrible year for forest fires in Amatlan, like 2011, when we were planning evacuation and there were flames on the cliffs all around us. However, other communities have had to recruit teams of volunteers to put them out when they become too big, or get too close to houses. Last weekend, while visiting a friend in a nearby town, I counted eight or nine blazes on the hillsides, some of which burned out, but a few of which had to be contained.

In a couple of weeks, three or four at most, we’ll see actual rains. They’ll cool off our 28-degrees C days, remove the threat of fires and eliminate the smoke, and re-start the annual growth cycle here. But the rain that I mentioned when I began this piece has already stopped, and the evening sky is clearing. The real thing isn’t here yet.

So, we wait.

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