Maybe There’s a River

Whereas many areas of western New York are currently enjoying an adequate amount of summer rain, I know that so much of our country, particularly in the western regions, is in serious drought exacerbated by some unbelievably hot temperatures… For the Southwest, the current onset of monsoon season brings the hope that rain may fall and bring relief to the parched and often beautiful landscapes of the American desert.

I had to think of my essay called “Desert Rainbows” that forms the fifth chapter of my 2020 book Wings Over Water. The essay is based on a Rivertop Rambles post of the same name (“Desert Rainbows”) published in August 2013. That post, for some reason or another, has become the most visited site, by far, of all my 600-plus mini-essays with accompanying photographs. I guess its popularity has something to do with the notion that a desert can have trout fishing, plus a beauty apprehended by an open heart and mind.

Again, here’s the opening to “Desert Rainbows,” from the book, along with an attachment of hope for rain and cooling temperatures delivered to those lovely places that could use it. Photographs are recent and are sourced in a wetter clime…

The night rain of New Mexico spreads across the sand and binds the billions of particles for a light impression of foot and claw. The kit fox emerges, and the jack rabbit, and the great horned owl. The darkling beetle wakes with the dawn. The sun calls a black-throated sparrow into song. The bleached lizard runs from an approaching foot that makes an imprint on the sand.

Leaves of cottonwood track the surface of the ground from a wind-tossed limb. The primrose petals radiate; the jack rabbit and coyote run. Water binds the gypsum desert of White Sands National Monument (recently re-designated as a national park) only inches from the surface.

White Sands encompasses 275 square miles of desert. The Sands form an oasis in a chalk dry Chihuahua Desert bowl. Sure, it’s a long way to the trout streams that I love to haunt, but wait a minute… As water binds the particles of gypsum, it urges every dune crest into motion, blowing on the wind toward the places we know and love.

And as a wilderness moves, the white dunes invite: movies have been filmed here; Pink Floyd played a concert on the 90’s sand. I try to imagine night-walking on the dunes with a full moon overhead, the starkness and the hazard now soft and beautiful… Could I find a rivertop in such a vast and waterless realm? That’s crazy! Then again, “There’s water at the bottom of the ocean,” as the Talking Heads declared in song. So maybe there’s a river, a trout stream even, flowing through adjacent sands….

lilies of the day…
Thundersaurus…
indigo bunting, with bug, and best wishes for a happy Independence Day!

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to Maybe There’s a River

  1. Best wishes to you as well. Like a fresh breeze, your essays are a refreshing interlude from the extreme climate events we are experiencing with greater frequency – both social and natural.

    • I appreciate that, thank you much, Forgotten Trout! Extreme climate & social events are indeed happening with greater frequency, thanks in part to the way we relate the news in this day, but it’s important to stay aware– and take refuge in the arts & greater world of nature– when we can.

  2. Brent says:

    As I read the passage from your book, I reflected (again) that your prose is so reflective of how you write poetry. The same rhythms and cadences are there, and much of the same allusion and imagery. I read it and think, “That sounds like my dad.” While this observation might seem obvious to the point of banality, I think it’s rare that any writer succeeds to this extent in capturing something fundamental–and unique–about themselves and how they see the world.

    Also, great pictures with vivid colors! Are you feeling more comfortable with the new camera?

  3. Thanks Brent! Yeah I love the place where poetry & prose have a meeting place reflecting the big outdoors & our feelings about it all. I always appreciate your understanding & commentary.
    Also, must say that I’m establishing a friendship with that new camera & look forward to surprising some new birds in Central America. Meanwhile, we wish you & C. the best for your trip to Montana. I may ask you for your take on Glacier (w/ a few pics) in a future post!

  4. UB says:

    That’s not a Cedar or Bohemian Waxwing in the one silhouette shot is it? When I over-exposed the image I thought I saw a dark band through the eye going from beak to nape. A high contrast shot with the strikingly white cloud/s, dark border clouds and thus very dark treetops – nice shot! Thundersaurus deserves a shout-out! And nice capture of an Indigo Bunting! Happy 4th RTR! UB

    • Yeah, a silhouetted Cedar Waxwing… good call, UB. I like the simplicity of the thing, with the bottom bird providing a bit of anchorage to the airiness of it all… Thank you, and have a great holiday weekend….

  5. Bob Stanton says:

    Oddly enough, or perhaps not, I picked up WOW last night as I was pawing through my bookshelves. I’m sending something your way next week.

  6. plaidcamper says:

    Some rain would be very welcome across much of the west, both sides of the border. Thundersaurus could be a rain god? I’ll offer up a prayer…
    Thoughtful stuff, and a delight to read as always – thanks, Walt!

  7. bill wilson says:

    Hi Walt,

    Have you ever read Ellen Meloy or Craig Childs? Great writing about the desert southwest and four corners area.
    bill wilson

    • Hi Bill,
      Thanks for the suggestions here! I have enjoyed Meloy’s “Raven’s Exile,” a fine account of the Green River territory of northern Utah, but I haven’t yet encountered Childs’ work. A quick check on his subject matter certainly intrigues me & will have me looking further.

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