The Snow Day

We experienced a first since we’ve lived in Twentynine Palms.  We had a snow day. With actual snow. I heard rumors that it snowed in Twentynine Palms in 2008 but assumed that it was the stuff of legend.  A myth that was started by those hopeful children who want a day off of school.

I heard the television in the living room while still in bed this morning.  My daughter got up earlier than me and turned on her cartoons. Despite her keeping the volume down it still woke me up before my alarm went off.  It had to be before 5 am. I rolled over and tried to get warmer under the covers. It’s cold this morning. The alarm finally went off, signaling me to start the day.  I had to get ready for work. I began to think about my day, because it never snows in Twentynine Palms.

I shuffled down the hallway and requested no TV before 6 am.  I opened the sliding glass door to feed the dog. As I stepped outside, my jaw dropped in surprise.  Through the dark, I saw large fluffy snow flakes falling from the sky onto the soft white snow-covered ground.  I heard the sound of snowflakes landing on the ground and bushes.

I poked my head back in the house “It’s snowing outside!” I told my daughter.  She paused the cartoon she was watching and came outside. Pure delight and wonder were on her face.  She had never seen falling snow before. She went outside in her robe and pajamas and sock feet.  

“Go inside and get on your slippers, at least” I told her.  I went inside with her and woke up my son Logan who has never seen snow either. He jumped out of bed and went to the window.  

“Wow!” he exclaimed.  He got his slippers on too.

Both kids went outside with the snow.  They couldn’t stop touching it and I couldn’t blame them one bit.  It’s 5:10 am and it’s still dark.

Slippers needed to be upgraded to shoes and coats.  

“Walk on the snow, Chloe, it’ll make a cool sound” I told her.  She looked at me with her mouth open and eyes wide at the thought.  

“Really?” she asked.  She stepped off the patio and listened to the snow crunch as she stepped on it.  She looked over at me and her whole face radiated pure pleasure. Soon my son joined her and together they made footprints in the one-inch layer of fresh snow.  

A miniature snowman was made.  The kids were having a blast and were shouting and playing in the snow.  I tried to shush them, after all, it wasn’t even 5:30 in the morning yet.

I heard a voice in the distance.  The neighbors a couple of doors down were outside too, exclaiming over the snow.  Lights were on in the houses around us. The neighbors seemed to be already awake.  Besides, this was snow, the myth has become truth!

“Ok, you two, go ahead and play” I said.  

Snow balls were thrown into the desert and then against the shed.  Then, of course, snow balls were thrown at each other. After establishing the rule of no snowballs to the face, our first snowball fight commenced.  Snow balls were everywhere, as fast as we could scoop enough snow from the ground, we threw them at each other. Logan slipped a snowball into my coat pocket without me realizing it.  I’m glad I caught it before I went inside and put my coat away. Chloe and I made a miniature snowman family out of the snow.

My children soon learned something about snow:  it’s cold. It’s especially cold if you don’t have gloves on. My son had enough of the cold and went inside very upset “I can’t bend my hands!”  He didn’t warm up until after a hot shower and fresh clothes.

All through this time I forgot that the kids had school and I had work.  I checked Facebook for news and I saw school was canceled. An unexpected day off.  What a gift!

All three of us were giddy with happiness.  There’s snow on the ground and there’s no school.  Oh happy day!

Chloe suggested we should have snowman pancakes for breakfast.  She had a great idea and I had the know how.  As I was flipping the first snowman pancake over in the warmth of the kitchen, Chloe asked me if I had ever tasted snow before.

“Oh sure, lots of times” I replied.  “Why don’t you go outside and taste some snow?”

Chloe’s smile lit up her whole face as she turned around and went back outside.  I smiled as I put the snowman pancake onto a plate. Today was going to be a good day.  

Wait, I didn’t warn her about yellow snow.

Rain in the Desert

“What is that sound?” The librarian asked as she was checking out books.  We all looked around the room with her. Then she said with a knowing smile, “Oh, it’s raining!”  

Everyone in the small library smiled back at her.  It was raining! The kids in line to check in with the summer reading program became excited and agitated.  They asked their mothers if they could go watch the rain from the breezeway windows. One little girl started walking all the way outside before her mother called her back.  “No, sweetheart, stay in the breezeway and watch.”

Adults came in the library through the breezeway and smiled.  Their shirts were speckled with rain. Others finished checking out their library books, looked out at the pouring summer rain, and went outside to their cars with big grins on their faces.  Rain is something special in Twentynine Palms.

The average yearly rainfall is 0.51 inches and the average snowfall is 0.0 inches in Twentynine Palms (US Climate Data).  It’s exceptional when anything falls out of the sky. It actually hailed this past summer and I showed my kids just so they knew what hail looked like (small frozen pellets of ice in case you forgot).  

Kids of all ages clamour to go outside and look as soon as there is precipitation in Twentynine Palms.  Young children perform a wild version of a rain dance as they prance about their wet yards. They skip about the sidewalks and look like they are about ready to sing “Singing in the Rain” like Gene Kelly.  Teachers at all schools know little instruction will happen once moisture starts falling from the sky. There was once a mixture of snow and rain coming down and the high school students asked if they could just please, please open the class room door and look?  The door opened, a few students looked, and like magnets they were pulled outside to feel the magic of cold moisture falling from the sky onto their faces. The whole class soon poured outside. Big teenagers performing their own version of the rain dance.

Rain makes everyone giddy in the desert.  Children at home rush to ask if they can use the umbrella outside in the rain.  The parent does not know where the umbrella is but the kids pull it out from the back of the closet.  They hide under it as the rain pours down, delighting in the novelty of using the umbrella as protection against rain rather than protection against the sun.  Meanwhile the family dog bounds about in the yard and barks at the sky. He’s bewildered and wonders why his head is all wet even after he gives it a good shake.

Rain in the desert often comes in fast and strong.  The roads become small rivers once it begins to rain more than a few sprinkles.  The desert sand cannot absorb much water. That is why there are such high berms along the streets.  Rain water gets funneled along the streets where it is channeled to many of the washes throughout Twentynine Palms.  Sometimes the rain comes down too fast and the channels can’t keep up, creating massive flooding in some parts of the city.  Locals know never to drive through those fast-moving mini rivers. The floodgates on Split Rock Avenue get shut to allow the torrent that flows through there free passage through the city.

The desert is clean after it rains.  It’s as if the desert itself took a shower and scrubbed away all the dust and dirt.  It smells clean.  The creosote bushes gives us their perfume like a natural aftershave.  The mountains glisten and sparkle in the distance. There is no puff of dust as you step on the desert sand.  God watered his cactus garden.

I knew I lived in the desert a while when in the early morning, getting ready for work, I became conscious of a strange sound.  I paused and listened carefully.

“What is that sound?” I mused.

It took me a moment to identify it as the sound of rain falling from the roof onto the ground.  

“Oh, it’s raining!”

A small smile appeared on my face unconsciously as I performed my own rendition of the rain dance.