Spotted! The Sun

Those of us who live here in Colorado love our sunshine. We also love to tout to out-of-staters the frequency in which our beloved sun appears. “We have over 300 days of sunshine per year – that’s more than San Diego and Miami!” We are closer to the sun than most places – our high altitude making those warming rays more intense and allowing us wonderful ‘winter’ activities like bikini skiing (or just snowshoeing without a coat for those of us who aren’t crazy about the idea of snow + bikini). It also means sunscreen or other protection is critical pretty much every day… at least until the past month.

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Many things about Colorado and Coloradans are extreme. Our closeness to the sun, our fondness for activities that border on the crazy, and of course our weather. May has certainly been extreme. While all of us here in the Valley celebrate that the extreme drought for our Southeastern Colorado neighbors is easing, we watch with worry the saturated soil and flooding creeks and rivers (and roads and parking lots). Surprising to think that in this place where the existence of water is never guaranteed we can have too much of a good thing, but the 8 inches of hail bringing I-25 to a standstill in Colorado Springs, the constant threat of mudslides across waterlogged burn scars, the Valley ranchers struggling with the water seeping up from below the Valley floor – threatening to drown young grass hay that can’t get enough oxygen to its roots - tells us we can.

Of course, all the rain also means we are left without even a glimpse of our old friend, the Sun. Chilly gray days with lowering clouds and rumbling thunder leave little room for the warming yellow orb, and we all feel the lack – human, animal and plant alike. Growing things have slowed, animals never wander far from some sort of shelter, and we Coloradans have found a sudden profound empathy with Seattleites.

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On the bright side (pun intended), the constant rain (and snow at higher elevations) has not only left us with the bounty of a full snowpack and overflowing lakes and reservoirs (future water for those drier times), but it has also brought a startling clarity to the air. Meadows and cottonwood trees sparkle with a vibrant green color washed clear of any trace of dust and the Sangres seem to show the detail of every pine tree and rock when we can see them through the cloud cover.

Thankfully, we have enjoyed a few brief respites over the past days. Memorial Day gifted us with some lovely sunshine even if the temperatures were still cool, and this week the sun has managed to throw some rays our way in the mornings before the storms move back in. Our horses have been dozing happily in the early morning sunshine, their coats steaming as the previous night’s moisture slowly dries, and the few wildflowers that are up turn their heads to the east to collect what they can. We sit outside and close our eyes and enjoy the warmth against our skin until the shadows fall and the drops begin again.

Rumor has it that as we enter June things are going to start drying out a bit, temperatures are set to warm up, and the sun will be shining on a more full-time basis, at least for awhile. I know I, for one, will be delighted to welcome it back.

About the author: Patty Reagin is a freelance writer and volunteer for San Isabel Land Protection Trust. Her monthly blog for San Isabel titled "Spotted" features the beauty of the flora and fauna in our region. When Patty's not behind a computer working she can be found outside, taking in the beauty of the Wet Mountain Valley with her dogs and horses.

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