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Sand storm near Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas, Nevada

One of the most amazing phenomenon in the desert is a sand storm. It’s also the most frightening, and dangerous. An enormous, boiling cloud of heat and rock and debris starts on the horizon – you can see it coming for miles – and within minutes it crosses the distance and engulfs everything. All light is blocked out, it becomes hard to breathe, and without shelter you’re likely to get hurt.

And then, it’s over. Gone. Blown away into nothingness. The storm passes and the sun shines again.

You might think the sandstorm leaves only a trail of destruction, but you’d be surprised. Sandstorms aren’t only destroyers. They’re refreshers. After they pass, a clean, polished desert shines through, more vibrant than ever. Rocks glisten a little brighter. Dried tumbleweeds are swept away. The withered arms of cacti have blown off, strengthening the trunk. New patterns have been grooved into riverbeds ahead of the rains.

If the sandstorm is big enough it can push big rocks or throw fallen trees across the plains. These changes in the landscape mean that, when the rains come, new patterns of nourishment will reach places previously blocked. Seeds that went unwatered before will bloom. Animals will find themselves closer to fresh water. Once parched trees will be replenished. Little green shoots will push up from the new topsoil and reach for the sun.

What was previously thought to be dangerous and destructive turns out to have been clarifying and constructive. The desert needs the sandstorm to stay vibrant and vital. The overturning of the status quo is chaotic and dark, but what is revealed is bright and beautiful. For the desert to bloom, it needs to be cleansed from time to time; sandstorms make space for new growth.

Wildflowers in Desert, Arizona, USA

The storm is a natural part of revitalizing the desert. On the surface it seems something to be avoided, even stopped. It’s not until the after it passes that the fresh future is revealed underneath.  If you like the beautiful blooms that come after the cloud, you might find the sandstorm loveable after all.