Letter From The Desert: Hurricane

Lightning strikes 200 times a minute south of me. I count to make sure. A hurricane is a day away. We are unlikely to get rain. The storm is veering east, and on Tuesday it will rain in Flagstaff. We will be there the next day, the dog and I, and I imagine ruddy traces of flash floods on the road to Tuba City.

For now we watch it pass. Hurricane monsoon. A wall of storm. The dog cranes her neck. Fifteen minutes ago, three blocks away, a coyote stood stock still in the middle of the road until we were forty feet away. Two minutes of staring motionless. Coyote cocked her head like a confused spaniel. Sniffed the air. Heart pulled at the leash. “Leave it. Good girl.” And then the effortless glide: coyote padded soundless in a 40-foot arc around us. She stood behind a creosote until we moved, then sniffed the dust where we had been standing.

Bat backlit by lightning, by reflected red sun off cirrostratus wisps. The ravens have gone to bed. My neighbors are out watching the storm. I hear their murmuring conversation a half mile away, until the wind shifts.

On Tuesday morning, or perhaps Monday night, the dog and I load up the truck and head east. We have a date with the Chinle Formation, with some Triassic trees, with the San Francisco Peaks. With frybread and turquoise. With memory. Perhaps with roads hurriedly closed by floods. Last year I tried to drive to Tucson via Salome, and a spectacular flood in Centennial Wash sent me 50 miles out of my way.

A flash flood would be a good bit of symbolism right now. A good bit of metaphor. I have spent so many days enraged of late. Could I take just one of Maricopa County’s likely floods this week, divert it through the Senate’s chambers? There is an accumulation of wrack there, petroleum-soaked driftwood from corporate clearcuts, leering goblins, angry toddlers in three-piece suits. The place is overgrown and senescent. Needs a flood. Needs a six-inch layer of Chinle-red silt spread neatly over the upholstery, the post-its and notepads, the cameras. By the end of this century the Potomac will swallow the place. Every disaster has a bright side. But that’s a long way off. Oh, for a sudden improbable flood. Oh, for the sight of waterlogged Senators wrapped around the bases of palo verdes, venal office-seekers blinking in surprise through encrusted eyelids at the Sonoran Desert sun, water speculators wondering just how to extricate themselves from quicksand.

All unharmed, of course, all unharmed. Just relocated, like problem bears, from the habitats where they are currently acting in an untoward and destructive fashion. Moved to a place where they might find more wholesome activities suited to their temperaments. Yelling at cattle, for example. Hurling themselves repeatedly at barbed wire fences.

I need this trip.


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