|Cyclist, Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker (ride leader), Alberto Rios (Arizona Poet-Laureate)|
The poet suggests that the Sonoran Desert is sonorous when it rains, while the SRP representative says that the steel grate platform on which we're standing sometimes verily roars and mists when the waters run beneath it more energetically and higher (I've seen that), but present levels and flows result in a much more subdued, quieter soundscape. Punctuated by the grinding, the growling, the buzzing, the hum of the machinery of power generation.
|Words over water: raindrops on hard dirt make the ghosts rise|
He connected that observation with a thought which hooked me, that the etymology for the name of our desert, the Sonoran, is connected with the word "sonorous," at least in part due to the music of the cascade of beauty and relief which falls with rain and flow of water in the world's wettest desert (so the commonplace goes, although Antarctica gets more precipitation but in solid form).
I could not substantiate that etymology: according to Wikipedia, anyway, Sonoran comes from Senora, the northwestern Mexican state Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, which comes from (possibly) some speakers inability to pronounce the "ñ' in "Nuestra Señora", or alternatively, according to Father Cristóbal de Cañas in 1730, the name comes from the word for a natural water well, sonot. Or, as with many words coming to us from the dim, dark, misty past, who knows?
But look at this photo, and let these run over your tongue: Sonoran, sonorous, sonorant, sonoriferous, soniferous, sonot.
|A tree grows in the flow beneath the generator house at Arizona Falls|
|An irresistible visual composition of circle, square, and water|
|The poet spoke words over water, while we got a rare view inside the generator house|
|Pedaling machines parked at Arizona Falls|
|Marlene Tays Wellard, "Lead Me, Guide Me" at the Shemer|
|One way that plants obtain water, by the Shemer|
|These benches (although not this particular one)|
The bench we stopped by portrayed the workers digging the Arizona Canal with shovels, using mules for hauling. I could hear the calls of the mule drivers, crack of whip, smell the dust they raised, see the sweat pouring off them and evaporating instantly in the desert sun. Then the discussion turned technical: the bench we were viewing was darker than the one in my photo above, explained Laurie Lundquist, because the anti-graffiti coating that had been applied darkened over time and with exposure, lowering the contrast between the image and background.
The number and variety of choices available in the marketplace for anti-graffiti coatings amazed and dismayed me, speaking as it does to the prevalence of defacement of art and other public surfaces out there. The technologies available include polyurethanes, nano-particles, fluoridated hydrocarbons, and siloxanes, pretreatments and post-treatments, sealers, surface characteristic alterations, and sacrificial surfaces. The last one lets you wash away graffiti with a power washer, then reapply another sacrificial layer in preparation for the next defacement. The fluorine-based treatments work like anti-stick coatings on pans, since fluorine is such an aggressive and greedy grabber of electrons, leaving nothing behind for paint (or food grease) to stick on.
With the canal-builders and mule-drivers fresh in my mind, it was natural for me to make the following connection:
Workers who came here to build canals, channels for water directed from upstream sources, chasing dreams of a better life.
Artists who came here to build public art, channels for beauty and ideas directed from upstream sources, chasing dreams of a more human city.
From dirt, with shovels and mules.
From cement, and sand blasting, with sacrificial surfaces to wash away desperate scrawls.
I heard a power washer running in my mind. Loud as a generator at Arizona Falls, with an intake hose hanging into the canal, spraying a cleansing blast to wash away sacrificial surfaces, and with them the crass scrawls of anger and ignorance, leaving behind history, poetry, art, and thought. Words on water.
We rode back to Soleri Bridge, where we typed up wishes, folded them into boat-shapes, and left them in a canoe.
*the actual fact that there is a poet-laureate of Arizona, and also that he appeared to read and discuss his poetry with bicyclists while standing on top of a generating plant in the middle of the Arizona Canal, seems altogether miraculous to me.