Skunk Creek Crossing
It was a rich gray and thick that lay upon our morning with no sun in the east and slow and thoughtful drops that fell on the roof and slid in force and collusion and collision with each and every other drop as they ticked and ting-ed and splattered in a wet symphony into the puddles of their forbears and cousins and then. Rain for two days then none and again today and the ground and sand and dirt and clay are loose and saturated and floating in and among their separate selves and the plants are singing hosannas and praises as the dormant seeds are waking and cracking and spreading their softened shells and driving their single primary roots into the soaked and soggy substance of their surround.
Living in the desert as we do, and in the plains or valley of it at that, bodies of water and streams and creeks and rivers are usually sights that we must travel to in order to see and behold in marvel. It has rained off and on for most of two days, and then yesterday the sky was clear, with not a single wisp of cloudy vapor lingering anywhere in that vast horizon as I took my little one to school. After running a couple errands, I put some air in the tires of my faithful bike and headed-out for a journey through our neighborhood. I hadn’t planned on riding far, hadn’t planned on going where I did, but I ended-up on the bike and walking path that goes along either side of a natural waterway that someone years ago named ‘Skunk Creek.’ For probably ten months of the year, there is little to no water in this stream or creek bed. Only during the summer monsoons or winter storms and occasional gully-washer rains is there enough water to flow in any presentation as a stream or creek or river…as it did yesterday and continues to do today.
After riding the mile circuit through our neighborhood, I made another round of an adjacent neighborhood, then pedaled up and into the infamous ‘Dog-Town’ region of yet another nearby neighborhood, one that was named by a group of Hispanic hoodlums and gangster wannabes of yesterday’s lore, and found that it was very similar to neighborhoods populated by the same socioeconomic caste that we/you can find in the southern and western reaches of our larger city and metropole with the same sainted yard figurines and shrines, half-done or more ornamental iron fence-work, stucco and plywood patchwork on the houses, some with bougainvillea and rose-bush elegance amid the potted plants and cacti, and others with cars in the dirt or scantily-grassed yards, or with beautifully decked-out trucks that I could afford if I didn’t live in the house that I do, and Pitt-bull puppies and bitches with teats flopping as they ran down the chain-link barking and threatening my two-wheeled presence. I exited Dog-Town on Roosevelt Street and headed north on 83rd Avenue…three miles and beyond to the north side of the creek and alongside the backside of the sports complex and apartments and Arizona Broadway Theatre on the south side of Paradise Lane and around and back down the other side of the floodway on the sidewalk that skirts beautiful tile-roofed homes, an older stretch of farm plots with their own wet and wonderful smells of turned dirt and manure and workers covering or uncovering orderly rows of tender shoots of green and life and further along to the orchards of orange and grapefruit and tangelos and limes or other citrus with shorn grass between the rows and baby Mexican fan palms struggling and winning against nature and the landscapers where its germinal beginning was dropped in a dropping from a passing bird or carried on a summer storm gust from nearby or wherever relative trees.
The cycle path had been upgraded from rocks and dirt at this point and was now a two-laned and striped thoroughfare from one side to the next, going beneath the overpass that spanned the waterway preserve of rocks and plants and life in miniature and climbing an upward grade to the city park and complex and another footbridge span that crossed the creek yet again and took me south to places I had never been. I’ve passed them times innumerable on the western freeway that travels nearby and have looked into and onto their expanse of bush and brush and things covered and undone in the rains and winds of our seasons, but never have I ridden so closely or walked among the grains of sand and leaves and washings of the mighty rains and streams as I did today. The fresh water scent and heavy air and wet vegetation of weeds and wildflowers and scattered pieces of tree and grass and crumbled and crumbling masses of horse droppings from the pathway and pieces of Cholla cacti that were brought here by some other force for there were none growing here or nearby…and out in the middle of the watered wash where the water had passed and lessened into another stream was a little baby palm tree struggling against the other stuff that wasn’t of his kith and kin…and laying nearby and amid the tumbled rocks and bushes and scrub were a handful of perfect and bright oranges, one here one there and some in the beyond of that purview…oranges glowing in their orange-ness and wonder in the waterway passed and past, having come from afar.
I took the sidewalk pathway to the middle of the plain and stood at water’s edge as it streamed and rumbled and washed into itself from rivulets and splashing and had a mini-roar to itself as it moved along its way…the sidewalk was there somewhere underneath the brown and frothy churning and I thought for a hazardous moment of running across and through that mess of water and wonder and had flashes from my childhood where I tried to cross a neighborhood stream on my bicycle with my brand-new shoes and got bogged-down in the middle of that oh-so-clear stream in the mud and whatever as I tried to balance myself with feet on the unmoving pedals and suck of mud as I fought against gravity and what I knew would be an ass-beating when I got home with one muddied brand-new shoe…so I said in my child’s mind the child’s equivalent of ‘fuck-it-I’m-getting-my-ass-beat-anyway’ and put both feet down and walked my bike through the mud and crystal water and stood there sweating with heart pounding at what I knew was coming with monster-fucking-butterflies in my stomach…and those memories are so far away and so near as the raindrops fall and stream off of my roof and the neighbor’s as I look out my living room window, right now, with the piano music on the stereo and the never-satisfied cat on the counter behind me…literally saying ‘meow,’ as cats do….
And I stood there yesterday and knelt-down to smell the water and touch the mud and look at the other footprints that stopped earlier where mine were now…hiking boot tread and slip and I turned around and looked into the beyond and spied the path again that pointed south and made my way in following its lead. I rode to where the water completely covered the southward path in its filling and flooding of the river-plain and had no choice but to stop and head back. Before doing so, though, I got off the bike and studied the traveling water and marveled at its passing and roiling and moving into and over and under and beyond whatever was in its way as it went…wondering at the mini-habitat and consuming essence of ‘nature’ is it was here presented. I smelled the earth again and weeds and cleanness as the zoom and noisy fright of the passing cars on that western freeway and those city streets went on their collective and singular ways, making a background of gray noise that fought against the tunes and mystery of the water and I wondered, too, at what life was beginning in the flood, what brine shrimp or other desiccated and dormant somethings were stirring in their watery rebirths and hatchings as ducks rode-by, paddling against their mini currents with occasional heads tucked into the wash sucking and finding something to eat as bugs or other somethings came their way. The sun was bright in my eyes and glanced and danced off the moving and tossing water like millions of diamonds in their sparkling…tiny blasts of light and shine in cascading explosions and reflections and then.
And it was time to go now, as I had places to be and things to do that waited upon and depended upon the ticking of the clock and appointed imaginings of moments and then…and my shaky and tired legs pumped the pedals back along that pathway and passed the greening mesquite and cat-claw and palo-verde trees and creosote bushes and wild baby sunflower-ed plants of something or other as the chilled wind teared my eyes and brushed my cheeks with an ambulance siren behind me and the sparkle of an airplane passing overhead…the water flowed into and beyond itself thick and thin and brown and roiling…moving on its way downstream to other flood-beds and plains, carrying life and the lived with it and then….