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8/14/09 Breezy bliss


I slept on my roof last night, watching the meteor shower for the third night in a row, under two blankets. Both were doubled over; I burrito'd myself in the lower blanket, wrapping myself entirely, and left both folded layers of the upper one draped over me. That's three layers of blanket pressing down on me...and when I woke up, just as dawn brightened the sky but before the sun breached the eastern mountain, I found myself curling up against the chill, unconsciously trying to warm my icy toes.

In August.

I love coming home.

I love that final stretch of the four-hour transit ride when I know that I'm finally almost there.

No matter how engrossing my book or how deeply I'm in my eye-glazed reverie, I always know when I'm near home - because of the way the air changes.

About 20 kilometers from Berberville, we drive through a narrow pass that serves as the local Continental Divide. That is, to the west (where Berberville is), all the water drains down towards the Atlantic, but to the east (where Souqtown is), everything runs southeast until it evaporates into the Sahara.

The pass marks a microclimate as well as a drainage boundary. Berberville gets rain or snow every few days throughout the year. Some weeks we'll have a storm every afternoon, other weeks might be bone-dry, but on average, we get precipitation every 3-4 days.

That changes at the pass.

My lake is so flooded right now that the road past it - which sits a good meter or so above the usual shoreline - is about a meter underwater. No one I've asked has ever seen the water this high. In a friend's village, only 20km on the other side of the pass, the water table is so low that the water pressure is failing. He lives in a second-story apartment and can't get water most of the day, while his first-story neighbor has water 24 hours.

...but I digress.

When I ride through the pass, after three and a half hours of hot, crowded, awkward travel, I abruptly trade the heavy, sticky air of the lowlands for my clean mountain breezes. The air pushing through the windows changes in character. It suddenly screams cold in a way that fast-moving hot air simply can't.

I've tried to figure out how to describe the chill promise in the air, the taste of snow it never loses, the beneficent touch of mountain grace that means home... The best I can do is compare it to car trips on hot days in the US. I usually avoid using the A/C, to spare the engine and the environment, but sometimes I just have to hit the button. The shift from cooled air blowing through the fans to air-conditioned air blowing on me....that's the change I mean. With chemically-cooled air conditioning, I always think of the liquid freon, and let the liquid cool pour over me. When I cross the pass into my high valley, I don't feel a liquid chill, I feel the hint of solid crystalline snow, the reminder that just because my mountains lost their last snowfields in June doesn't mean it's gone for long. The air tastes like it skimmed over a glacier and flirted with a blizzard before dancing down to me.

Come wintertime, I may regret living in the coldest site in Morocco, but right now, hearing friends talk about chapstick melting in their pockets and pouring bottles of water on themselves to try to sleep and feeling too hot to move most of the time...right now, I love every snow-laden promise in the air, every reminder that my aerie paradise is immune to the Sahara's reach.

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