Arizona RainI've been combing through all my writing in preparation for a writing workshop April 9th and 10th. I found this piece I'd written in 2002, when I was in a relationship with an artist. It was a relationship that was wonderful for five years and then imploded when a deeper commitment was required. It's a shame, because it was the most peaceful time of my life.
Arizona RainSeptember 11, 2002
As I sit in my home office starting the workday, I have the pleasure of looking out my rain-speckled window. Drops softly thud upon my roof and when two or more drops gather together on my windowpane, they merge into a tiny rivulet that meanders down the glass to puddle on the sill. I imagine long-thirsty desert plants reaching up to catch every drop. My black driveway shines like a mirror. I watch my neighbor walk by with her umbrella, on the way to the post office. Her old white dog is padding slowly behind her, head hung low, oblivious to the drizzle. I can’t see the cars driving by but I can hear their tires spinning like the water wheels at the old Pennsylvania mills where I grew up. Here and there, a tire hits a puddle and I hear the water splash and then slowly slide back into place.
It’s been raining all weekend. We’ve been waiting for it for months. Both of our monsoon seasons were a complete disappointment. No rain in February, none in August. Now hurricane Fay is dumping the last of her fury on us and we are grateful. In the desert, most of the cactus is lying on the ground, a sickly yellow, dead or dying. The tall saguaros are still standing but their trunks are sucked in like the cheeks of old men.
My boyfriend and I walked into the desert from his home last Saturday after the rain slowed down. We wanted to see the wash, usually bone dry, running for the first time in three years. We saw bugs that we had never seen before – out in hoards. As the first drops of rain hit the dusty ground, thousands upon thousands of termites wriggled out of tiny holes in the ground and flew upwards in a cloud. They looked like golden ants with long wings. We heard that these strange insect clouds were sighted in cities and towns near Phoenix and people didn’t know what they were.
I was drawn out of my reverie by a tiny colorful movement on the ground. I stooped to see a bug I had never seen before. Only a quarter of an inch long, maybe less, it’s back was fuchsia velvet, like a coat my sister wore to her prom in the 70’s. A beetle about an inch long flew smack into my boyfriend’s ear. It wore a somber, black and gray pinstripe suit.
The wash was definitely running, we could hear it as we approached from the house, 100 yards away. When we got to our favorite spot, there were tiny waterfalls, probably 5 or 6 of them, cascading down the caliche and rock, into the running torrent that was only six inches deep. My boyfriend stood on a large rock in the middle of the wash, so that he could see if his stone stacks still stood upstream. People have made stone stacks in forests for centuries. It’s like a meditation, choosing the right size, the right surface, the right color. Stacking them as if they form a prayer, marking your spot and beckoning other travelers to meet your stone totem along their way.
I stood on the edge of the flow, remembering news stories of people drowning from a surprise wall of water thundering down a wash. Soon we heard it, as if in answer to my overcautious thoughts, the surge intensified and the water rose another few inches at the edge. My feet were quickly submerged. No wall came, but my boyfriend made his way back to shore – just in case. His stone stacks had tumbled. But he would make new prayers, later.
I hope it rains for a week. I want to smell the astringent exotic creosote and rinse my body and senses of all the accumulated dust and heat. I am reminded that I live on earth and my feet are planted on moist, verdant soil. The needless worry in my mind clears too. No fear that I can conjure up is as real, or as important, or as timeless as an Arizona rain.