by Jane St. Clair
One of the weird things about Tucson and other Southwestern cities is that they have dry streams, dry creeks and dry rivers. It has to rain hard for them to fill up –this is the Sonoran desert, after all. Most of them are dry all the time.
The neat thing about living near a desert wash or dry creek is that –even though it’s dry nearly every day of the year– it attracts animals.
I have often seen a herd of javelina in our desert wash, especially in the morning, and although they have a bad reputation for charging after you with their tusks, I rather like them. My dog, who is a simpleton, thinks they are our friends.
Javelina are strange hoofed creatures, mostly blind and objectively ugly, although I think their babies are adorable.
But I digress.
Recently it rained so hard that our wash filled up and ran like a real stream back East. It made this rushing swirling sound I had not heard in months, and I’d forgotten how beautiful and restful that sound is.
I decided to go down to the Rillito River to see if it were running too.
Tucson’s Rillito River is ordinarily a dry patch of abandoned waterway where dogs run and joggers exercise. Normally it’s a park.
But on the last occasion of rain, the Rillito River filled up and you actually needed the bridge over it on River Road. The water was running so fast that it looked as if it would uproot a few trees.
I had forgotten the sound of mighty rushing waters, the way it cascades and rushes over rocks and makes its bubbly way downhill — you just don’t see that in the desert. I had forgotten the sound and movement and urgency of it, and its hypnotic ways that carry you along with it. Within a day, both the wash behind the house and the Rillito River were back to being patches of empty dry space in the desert, a place the fishes had abandoned eons ago when this whole area was under water.
But the rain did make the desert washes so beautiful.
Now it’s warm and dry again so that the sound of rushing water has become a memory. Now all that’s left for the javelina and quail and other desert animals to do is to wait for the next rain.
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