Volume > Issue > Waiting for Water

Waiting for Water


By Bob Filoramo | May 2024
Bob Filoramo is retired after 52 years of teaching and administration in public and private high schools, as well as at the college level. He is the father of 11 children and co-author, with Bob and Ginny Gallic, of Raising Children for Heaven (1989). His work has appeared in Saint Austin Review and Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

More than one-third of Earth’s surface is desert. At least one desert is found on each continent. Three in particular — the Atacama, the Sahara, and Death Valley — provide compelling lessons about dormant life on the natural level and dormant faith on the spiritual level.

The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places in the world. Its average annual rainfall ranges between 0.1 and 0.6 inches. However, in 2015, parts of its hyper-arid core received unexpected precipitation, estimated to have been the first rain to land on those areas for at least 500 years. Some Atacama weather stations had never recorded any rain — ever. Yet, once every five to ten years, other parts of the desert receive a rare rainfall, and an amazing transformation takes place as seeds that have lain dormant for untold years, waiting for water, stir to life. Soon the desert floor becomes home to a dazzling display of a vast variety of flowers. The colors, shapes, and visual patterns, called a desierto florio, can last for several months. When it ends, seeds settle into the desert floor to lie dormant once more, waiting for the next rainfall.

The world’s largest “hot” desert is the Sahara. It is as vast as China or the United States, covering 3.6 million square miles. It has mostly saltwater lakes, over 90 oases, and Lake Chad, its only freshwater lake. Unlike the Atacama’s desierto florio lifecycle, the Sahara alternates — every 41,000 years, determined by the wobble of Earth’s axis — between arid desert and lush green savanna grassland. Though different from the transformation in the Atacama, the Sahara, too, is home to an incredible array of dormant life patiently waiting to emerge.

Death Valley in eastern California is the hottest place on earth during the summer. Its average rainfall is 2.20 inches. Like that of the Atacama Desert, Death Valley’s barren, cracked, ultra-arid floor holds a range of seeds of flowers and other vegetation waiting for water. In 2016 rain fell, producing what came to be called a superbloom, a brilliant, broad carpet of vibrant colors covering what had been a harsh and forbidding landscape.

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