Often, a place offers a partial glimpse of what is within, but doesn’t reveal it all at once.
There was a next to full moon last night. Things can get a bit looney on those nights. People lighten up.
The moon is out early and full in the sky. There are just a few clouds, so the illumination is a wash of light, which gives an almost daytime visibility. I had mentioned these conditions to DF and suggested a full moon stroll on the Tucson river walk.
There is an ever expanding system of asphalt trails along the generally dry Rillito and Santa Cruz Rivers. It expands for many miles now. Along the way, there are the mesquite tree bosques and occasional parks. All are pleasant. We haven’t walked there for several years, but to watch the floods, or the bats come out from under bridges at dusk. We visit the henge on the solstice.
It is approaching 10pm on a Wednesday night, as we are parking in the lot at the Racket Club. I have my camouflage kilt and toe shoes. DF has covered herself with a short light dress. Otherwise, we have left everything, but the car keys.
I must explain. I went back in the daylight and took a few photos to illustrate. You can click them to enlarge and clarify them. It is night and we want just a moonlit walk in the park.
I do have a small flashlight in hand, in case we have to walk in any shadows. The dry river leaves a small potential for the errant rattlesnake to be in those moon shadows, out in the evening, making a living. This is to be just a pleasant walk. The hot dry June day has finally left us with a warm evening.
We walk down the path through a thin spot under an impressive mesquite tree. Some of the trees around here seem to have caught a water source with a tap root, or are getting water from the racket club’s grounds of grass and their sprinklers. This one seems to have been crushed years ago, perhaps by a foot and consequently trained to fan out from a low base.
There are a visible a pair of pedestrian bridges here. One crosses the Rillito River and another alleviates fording a small tributary from foothills runoff, on the other side. Things have certainly changed since my last visit here more than a decade ago, when I rode a bike through.
We cross the river’s bridge to what looks like a better maintained trail. The moonlight creates shadow patterns with the intricate high railing. Beyond this, the Catalina Mountain range stretches across the panorama. This is fun. This is quiet and we are alone. With no hesitation, off comes that kilt. I fold it up and tuck it into my armpit to keep my hands free. I find liberation and much more comfort.
Flashlight in one hand and sometimes, DF’s palm in the other, the elements of this night caress me.
On the other side of the river our spontaneity continues, as we make the choice of which direction to follow. We head into the east toward the bright moon and the other fun bridge. As we walk away, a shadowy figure on a tall bike with fat tires turns the corner onto the bridge, heading towards the club. A blinding headlight shields our clear view of him. I simply step behind DF for cover.
A tributary runs deep and the arched bridge path rises up above. DF joins me in nudity, slinging the light dress over her shoulder.
We continue on into the evening. The air is still. There are occasional bubbles of cool air that we seem to shatter as we pass through. The smell of horses permeates our nostrils, we recognize a local stables and then pass on.
We hear a bike coming up behind us. It appears to be the same biker. We slip on our one piece of clothing, casually and quickly.
Bike riding can be done here in the nude at night, to an extent. The bright headlights blind the on-comers to the riders nude state. In the dimmer light, a pair of paint pants can be used to mascarade as bottoms. The speed of the bike gives less opportunity to distinguish the detail of the rider. Then again, people see what they expect and don’t expect nude riders. There are sometimes police bike patrols. They also have the same effective disguise and speed. If someone is coming up behind, it is better to just pull over and let them pass, then continue at leisure. The alternative is a swift ride through a sensual breeze on a warm night.
We read the signs in the bright moonlight, “One mile to Brandy Fenton Park”, “1.5 to Alvernon Road.” One sign is confusing. It is a map of the river trails and parks, but we realize that it is based on a mistaken flipped over photo negative. Everything is backwards, exactly wrong. Perhaps it is an oversight, or irresponsible workers, or a mistake left incorrect as a joke or mischief.
The walk is pleasantly liberating. Apartments line the other side of the river. We hear the music and fun at “The Shootout” bar across the way. A greenhouse complex is to our side.
Another bike is heard coming up from behind. I can see from the shine and shape of the handlebars that he is different rider. We cover and then uncover just as quickly.
Sometimes the sounds of the roads and their traffic, slip through the trees. As we approach the park with its facilities, we can see cars in the distance. Their lights shine our way, as though they are going to travel up our pathway. The distance makes them small and it is sometimes difficult to tell if they are maybe bicycles traveling closer. Their beams, seen coming around the bends sometimes make us pause to be sure that they are not bikes coming our way. Generally, this river has been made straight and all of the curves are long and wide. Things are seen in the distance.
Down the way, we do see the lights of two bikes side by side that look like the headlights of a car. We alert, readying the clothing, but then see them turn into the park away from us.
Another rider is spotted. This time, we step about 40 feet off of the path and stand in the shadow of a tree. There is a bush in the way, hiding us. The rider would have to look sideways to see us in the shadows. He comes by. There is a light on his helmet. As he comes by, his head turns toward us. He is quickly maybe 100 feet down the trail and he makes a strange sound, “haorumpf.”
“Did he just see us?” I query”
“I think so!”
“How could he? I didn’t see your body light up.”
We are dumbfounded. We don’t know if he saw us, or what he saw. We don’t know if the strange grunt meant fear of something in the shadows that he couldn’t make out, or disapproval, or to flush out the shadow, maybe thinking that it was wildlife. Well, there was certainly no harm done, unless the rider had a fear of bandits in the bushes.
We encounter him twice more, like cat and mouse.
We find a couple of places to follow a horse path, the hard flat asphalt is no good for feet. The horse path offers an uneven sandy loam and a few pebbles. The more natural surface is a comforting relief.
It is probably getting late. We have only the travel of the moon, and our deeper senses to gauge time’s passage. We both feel tired, perhaps a best gauge for a walk about. DF has decided that she would like to turn back.
Eventually, we are looking over to the parking lot across the river at the racket club, where our car is parked. It is much quieter there now. Heading across the bridge to that side, I anticipate that DF will get dressed and that I will eventually, too. The liberation is over, but we don’t want to have the high of the senses to end.
DF doesn’t dress. She places her garment across her body, hanging it by her arms in a paper doll fashion. I follow her lead, draping my kilt.
We walk onto the Club grounds and into the public parking lot. There is a glass window near. Inside of it are framed a few people in the jaccuzzi and showering in their swimsuits. Can the bathers see us through the glare of the window? Could there be anyone sitting in a darkened car? Will the moon and our inside lights make us visible to the bathers?
DF urges me to get to the other side of her car. There is urgency in her expression. I do as she asks me, adjusting my draped kilt from my front to my side, shielding my nudity from the windows. She has thought ahead. She has her keys in hand and wants to click her door lock, with its interior lights, its flash of parking lights and its noisy beeps. We quickly climb in, before the noise and light draws attention. It is best to react cautiously.
Again, the rider rides through the parking lot. Then again, I see the same huge tires half a mile down the street, sitting on a corner.
We are soon home in bed.