The sky was clearing as I drove southbound I-25. The arroyos were full of thrashing brown water and the floating bodies of all those people you hear about on the Albuquerque news who gleefully rush into them whenever it rains so they can see what it's like. The Rio Grande was all swift and puffy, like a storm tide on a full moon.

Down the road a piece, where it hadn't been raining for the last 48 hours, the arroyos were mostly dry and the Rio Grande was just another river in the desert. I chuckled. Wait 12 hours and see what it looks like when all that water from Albuquerque gets here.

Way down the road, at the town of Hatch (You have heard of Hatch chile? This is where the stuff comes from), is a secondary highway that connects I-25 with U.S. 180. It's the hypotenuse of a triangle that cuts off some of the miles you'd have to drive if you took I-25 to I-10 and then to Deming and then 180 to Silver City. I took the shortcut. It's a simple and serene drive, with no traffic on a straight road bounded by a landscape stark as unglazed Han dynasty pottery.

It was dark and threatening rain when I got there. On my left, glimpsed in the gaps between the hills and mountains out there, I could see the I-10 corridor and the lights from the Border Patrol shed, where they slow you down and make you drive past the cameras and x-ray machines to see if you're smuggling anything or anybody, and let you go on through after you stop and tell them you're a U.S. citizen. Most of the time you don't have to pay them any mind when you drive the shortcut.

A thunderstorm was rattling the clouds on the northwest horizon and another one was sneaking up from the rear. They seemed to bang into each other with cracking thunder and torrents of rain for about three minutes, then all was dark and quiet again. Next thing I knew, a thunderstorm was on my left and another one on my right. One would throw a bolt of lightning and the other would respond in kind, as though they were dueling. They rumbled and sparked and spattered along either side of me clear to Deming.

Forty-five minutes later I was slogging up our monsoon-ravaged road, watching for newly exposed boulders and washed out edges and soggy slippery places that could wrest control of the car from my tired hands. Then I was at our gate, which was glazed with rain. I rattled the chain, swung the gate open and then closed it after I drove through, home again.