Snow on the Desert

Tuesday, Januaray 29, 2013


When I wake up this morning the house is quiet.  It is still not quite light.  For the first time in several nights I do not hear rain falling in the night, lulling me into a deep patterned sleep.  I walk to the back patio and imagine my surprise– the world outside is white.  Snow has fallen, silent and unseen in the night.  The garden boxes, the tree branches, the chaise lounges are all covered with nearly three inches of crisp dry snow.

Three inches?  That’s hardly worth a mention is it?  Except this is only the third time in the ten years we’ve lived here that any snow has fallen, and incredibly this is by far the most yet.

The young man who lives in our guesthouse comes outside in his pajamas and slippers.  He has never seen snow.  He asks if he can touch it.  When I nod he makes a snow ball.  I take his picture so he can send it to his family in Lima, Peru.

Up on a ridge I can see my world in every direction.  From the driveway I stare south into Mexico.  The mountains across the line are a solid wall of white.  They got more snow than we did.  They will feel it more too.  My house is cozy warm.  I have friends on the other side who rarely heat their homes.

To the east San Cayetano Peak stands tall outlined in white.  Mount Wrightson and Mount Hopkins are sugar coated, the peaks encased in clouds of whipped cream.

Far in the distance I see Elephant’s Head pushing against the higher mountains, but safely below the snow line.  Even farther north the Santa Ritas stretch into the distance a saw blade of white .

Our daughter lives on the other side of the Santa Ritas.  Her house will actually be in the deep snow—maybe a foot of snow and ice covering the three miles of rough dirt road out to her house.

Rincon Peak is powdered with snow and clouds hover over the top.  The air is incredibly clear and cold.

To the West the Atascosa Ranch is lying under a blanket of white.  The mesas and canyons, the pinions, junipers and oaks are all shrouded in white.  The stock tanks are frozen.  Cattle stand facing away from the wind, stoic in the cold.

Crossers come through here.  We see their trails, clothes left under an overhang, water bottles, empty, abandoned in the heat just a few months earlier. 

Today everything looks clean.  Today people will die.They’ll die of the cold and exposure. They’ll die because they are unprepared for weather like this.

In the spring their remains may be found, or maybe not.

Today’s snow brings much needed moisture that will allow life to flourish through the spring here in the desert.  Then we’ll wait for the summer rains.

Life is precious and life is precarious for those on the edge.


About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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