I find canals deeply satisfying to watch, especially in the rain. The roads around my parents’ home pass by several of them. They wind between subdivisions and converge in a marshy area, surrounded by soccer fields. On a recent visit, I wake to the sound of heavy drizzle on a Sunday and take my coffee out to the porch to watch the water coming down.
After breakfast, we drive to church. Rarely does anyone in that area live near where they shop, or worship, or study; everything in Houston is far. I ride in the backseat because I relish the chance to sit and quietly look. Drops on the window. Millions of tiny rings on every patch of standing water. Green and brown and gray things, soaking it into their surfaces or sluicing it away.
Between drainage collection pools, my father explains the difference between the marsh hen and the duck to my mother. You can look at the beak and know immediately, but there are many other differences, he says. If you have the chance for closer observation. My mother says she read somewhere how canned goods at Wal-Mart are increasingly sourced outside of the United States.
I watch a hundred small birds rise and circle the nearest pond. One egret stays behind, waiting. Red light, gas station, drainage canal. Dead grass, dead grass, scrub oak, palm. A flock flies low among power lines and settles together in strings. The same birds, or new ones.