I find canals deeply satisfying to watch, especially in the rain. The road between my parents’ home and their church runs along several of them. They wind between subdivisions and converge in a marshy area, surrounded by soccer fields. On a recent visit, I woke to the sound of heavy drizzle on a Sunday and took my coffee out to the porch to watch the water coming down.
After breakfast, we rode to church. Rarely does anyone in that area live near where they work, or worship, or study; everything in Houston is far. I rode in the backseat because I relished 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 the rain into their surfaces or sluicing it away.
Between drainage collection pools, my father explained 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 if you have the chance for closer observation. My mother said she had recently read how canned goods at Wal-mart were being sourced increasingly outside of the United States. I watched a hundred small birds rise and circle the nearest pond. One egret stayed behind, waiting. Red light, gas station, drainage canal. Dead grass, dead grass, scrub oak, palm. A flock flew low among power lines and settled together in strings. The same birds, or new ones.