Sometimes I forget we have a river nearby. The Rio Grande del Rancho runs through the valley below. There are pastures you can’t see here that flood from irrigation and attract wild ducks. Although to tell the truth, I haven’t seen that recently, since it’s gotten drier and drier. When I first moved in here, a neighbor told me I could hear the river in April from our house. Ur-hippie myth, I thought, it had to be, but one still night after a rainy day, I had the window open just a little and heard the distant sound of water rushing over rocks.
That was a spring of rain and mud and mist. Clouds hung on the hillsides after storms. There were migrating warblers, orioles, and tanagers just outside the door, and all those hummingbirds. I don’t think I saw a single oriole last year, but we were gone a lot and might have missed them.
“Only crazy white people live in the sage,” old Taoseños used to say, then eagerly sold them lots for building. Wealthy enclaves on the mesas have the benefit of altitude but huddle with their burglar alarms. (No pavement out there, either, fine cars in the mud.) The original emigrants at least knew where the water was, made sure their property crossed a ditch or stream, planted fruit trees, left something for their kids. Now we hang pretty paintings on the walls and wonder what our dirt is worth. I generalize like hell, but look around and argue later.
Just remember, agua doesn’t come from pipes!