Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Flash Fiction: The Girl who Hated the Sun

Photo by Jake Weirick on Unsplash

The Girl who Hated the Sun

by Dawn Pisturino

she hated the sun

how it filled up heaven

with energy and light

too hot and bright . . .

The poem popped into Katie’s head as she stood on the front porch, eyes closed, arms wide open, daring the Sun to kill her. Kill me, she urged, like you spoiled our farm, drove away my father, and wasted my mother. Go ahead. Do it!

The Sun swallowed her whole, dissolving her in his fiery belly.

Now that she was part of the Sun, Katie could ride through the heavens and visualize everything that happened down below.

She saw the grim black hearse pull up to the farm, and wept, as two men in plain black suits carried her mother away on a gurney. She sailed freely over the dusty brown fields that no longer yielded crops. She mourned the beds of sunflowers whose heads sagged, like dying children, out by the barn. And she said good-bye to the rusty old truck that sat, without tires, in a patch of yellow weeds.

Soon, the Pacific Ocean sparkled down below. Dolphins leaped among the waves. Throngs of people crowded the streets of Beijing, scurrying around like busy mice. Katie soared above the icy peaks of the Himalayas and swooped down to burn the white sands of Arabia. She waved at the Statue of Liberty, rejoicing that she finally got to see it.

And then she was home again, viewing the crumbling barn in pinkish light that gradually turned to yellow. She counted the shingles missing from the roof of the old house and peeked through the windows of her shabby bedroom.

And the journey repeated itself as the earth slowly turned, like a giant spit — repeated itself, day after day, until Katie cried with weariness and pain.

Now, she hovered over the old farm, shining brightly against a piece of broken glass lying in the withered grass, until one small yellow flame burst forth, catching the grass on fire. A passing breeze nudged the fire toward the house. The splintered wood burned brightly, throwing sparks into the sky. The old barn caught the sparks and exploded, fueled by old cans of paint. Showers of burning wood and straw ignited the patch of weeds. The ripped out upholstery in the old truck burst into flame. The oil pan smoldered, sending black smoke into the sky. And finally, with one burst of energy, the fuel tank exploded.

With grim satisfaction Katie cried, “I’ve killed it! I’ve killed my past life!” She snuggled up to the Sun, melting deeper into his fiery depths . . . while down below, a tiny piece of the world disappeared forever.

Dawn Pisturino

November 14, 2012

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

The Cows are Back!

(Photo by Dawn Pisturino)

Yesterday was a perfect, God-filled Sunday!

All week, we’ve experienced frigid temperatures at night and cold, windy weather during the day. The water we leave out for the wildlife has been frozen solid every morning. The poor birds walk around on the ice, pecking at the solidified water.

Sunday morning was sunny, bright, and calm, although the air was still crisp and clear. I smiled to see the baby coyote lying down in the sunshine in the backyard, waiting for his breakfast. He looked perfectly content, soaking up the sun, while disgruntled quail and doves milled around him with ruffled feathers, trying to stay warm.

A couple of hours later, a bull and cow wandered into the front yard, looking for water. Luckily, my husband was home, and he filled up a tub of water for them and moved it over by the driveway. But then, they didn’t want to leave! They just stood there and looked at us when we tried to shoo them away. (My post, Free Range, explains the free range laws in Arizona.)

The coyote, who had left earlier, saw his territory invaded by these two great beasts and kept coming back to check things out. They weren’t scared of him, which surprised me, and he wasn’t scared of them.

The coyote and the cattle were after the same thing – WATER! – and both were keeping an eye on their territory and the available water supply. It was very interesting to watch, especially since they were so POLITE about it.

I really felt God’s presence here Sunday morning, and it reminded me of just how PRECIOUS WATER IS! The animals know it. More people need to get a grip and realize that we can live without WiFi, Facebook, and other modern inventions. BUT WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT WATER! We can’t live without the basic necessities of life.

(Cow peering at me from behind the oleander bush. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Dawn Pisturino

December 13, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

10 Comments »

Coyote Whisperer

(Injured coyote. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

ALL PHOTOS BY DAWN PISTURINO.

My first experience with coyotes was two eyes glowing in the dark, watching me from the sagebrush. People told me lurid tales of coyotes snatching little children, eating family pets, and circling around people who were out hiking in the desert. So, naturally, I developed a fear of them when we moved to Arizona from California in 1987.

Over the years, coyotes have roamed freely on our five acres of desert land, especially when we started putting out food and water for the birds. Some days, it felt like Grand Central Station, with coyotes coming and going. I never felt comfortable with this, but I also didn’t want to fence our land off all the way around. We keep the land cleared around our house, but otherwise, we leave the land in its natural state. We like watching the birds, rabbits, and other critters. We maintain our land as a wildlife sanctuary.

In 2017, an older coyote began hanging around, and I would go out and talk to him and leave dry dog food out for him. He was clearly tired and worn out and became a regular visitor. I worried about the other wildlife, but he never tried to harm a rabbit or a bird or anything else. In fact, on Christmas Eve, I saw him lying down in the back yard, like a dog, enjoying the sunshine, with birds and rabbits milling around him, and never bothered any of them. I remembered that Bible verse (Isaiah 11:6) about the wolf dwelling with the lamb. It was a beautiful thing to observe in real life and a wonderful Christmas gift. I was truly amazed.

In the summer of 2018, we experienced a severe drought in Northern Arizona. Even in Flagstaff, where I was working at the time, pine trees turned brown, the normally green meadows looked brown and dry, and wildfires threatened the whole area. For the first time, the campgrounds prohibited campfires — something long overdue. Around Williams, there seemed to be a constant wreath of smoke as the U.S. Forestry Service conducted scheduled burns.

The coyotes looked horrible! They were skin and bones and struggling to survive. My husband and I agreed to put dry dog food out for them whenever they showed up. The number visiting had already shrunk over the years, and we wanted them to live.

One day, the old coyote was carrying something black in his mouth, and I chased him around the yard, trying to figure out what it was. I was praying it wasn’t one of our wildlife. It turned out to be an old, dried up watermelon rind. That’s how hungry these coyotes were!

He started showing up around 5 pm every day, and that became our routine for dinner. One afternoon, I was sitting on the front porch waiting for him to show up. A truck driving down the road suddenly stopped, and I heard a gunshot. I figured the driver had killed a rattlesnake, but a chill ran through me when I thought about the coyote. I prayed it wasn’t him! The driver smiled and waved at me as he drove by as if he had just done me a big favor. The coyote never showed up for dinner, but I also didn’t see anything lying in the road.

The next day, my husband and I were walking down in the wash and kept seeing strange circular markings in the sand. I thought maybe kids were playing there. Then I found strange markings in our yard. I couldn’t tell if they were big-ass snake trails or if the dog had been running around with his leash on. But it really bothered me. And that night, the dogs kept barking.

At 5:30 the next morning, my husband woke me up and told me there was an injured coyote in our yard. I ran outside, and there he was — my coyote! He was lying in the dirt with a big gash in his right shoulder. I got as close as I could so I could look at the wound, but he lifted his head and bared his teeth at me. So I snuck up from behind and looked, and yes, it was a very deep gash. He had been shot, and even though the wound looked clean, it was very deep. My poor coyote was dying.

It was very hot outside, so I put food and water next to him. As the sun got higher and brighter, he moved to another spot. I moved the food and water with him. He raised his head and looked at me with such a look of gratitude in his eyes, I will never forget it. If we didn’t bond before, we certainly did at that moment.

My husband told me, “He’s going to end up under the front porch. Just watch.”

I didn’t think so because he kept moving farther away from the house and into the bushes, where it was cooler. As I watched him, I figured out that the strange markings in the yard were caused by the coyote dragging his right front leg. Later, I found him lying under the car — and then, I found him under the front porch! My husband was right.

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

The next morning, my husband found the coyote’s dead body under his truck. I cried my eyes out. And I was so angry at that driver for shooting him! There was absolutely no reason to shoot him. I still cry when I think about it. And I figured out that the circular markings in the wash were caused by the coyote thrashing around in a circular motion in the sand because he was in so much pain. I found the same markings under my husband’s truck.

At the same time, I felt honored and grateful that this poor creature – that was so injured and in so much pain – had made his way to our house for help. He knew he would be taken care of here.

Since then, we have other coyotes who come for breakfast and dinner:

(Coyote family. The baby coyote is on the left, looking up at the camera. With Mom and Dad. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Welcoming new baby coyotes into our life gives me hope that the local population will survive.

Dawn Pisturino

November 16, 2021

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

34 Comments »

A Case Study in Drought: Bullhead City, Arizona

New York Post – Lake Mead at Hoover Dam

Bullhead City, Arizona Primary Hazard: Drought

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, drought is considered a creeping natural hazard because it has no “clear beginning and end like tornadoes or hurricanes or floods” (National Drought Mitigation Center, 2019, para. 19).  It can develop over many months or years as the climate in a region changes.  This is called “natural climate variability . . . we consider drought to be a normal part of climate just like floods, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes” (National Drought Mitigation Center, 201, para. 7).

Why Bullhead City has the Highest Probability of Drought

Bullhead City, Arizona is a desert community on the Colorado River which sits at an elevation of 566 feet above sea level.  Roughly 40,000 people call it home (City Data, 2017).  Due to an abundance of rain and snow during the 2018-2019 winter season, the U.S. Drought Monitor determined in June, 2019 that Bullhead City had graduated from drought to an abnormally dry area (Associated Press, 2019).  As of this writing, however, the monsoon season—which normally dumps a lot of rain in the area—has been sparse, and Bullhead City is in danger of falling back into drought if the 2019-2020 winter season does not produce adequate precipitation.

Lack of precipitation affects water levels in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.  Lake Mead, which is held in place by the Hoover Dam, supplies the bulk of water used by residents in Bullhead City and other populated areas along the Colorado River (Associated Press, 2019).

In April, 2019, Congress passed an updated Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan which affects Arizona, California, Nevada, and other states dependent on the Colorado River for water and hydroelectric power.  If Arizona loses its Colorado River allotment, communities will have to pump groundwater, which can be contaminated with natural nitrate and arsenic, or find other alternatives, such as the unpopular use of recycled water (Whitman, 2019).                                                                                                                                         

Removing contaminants raises the cost of water to consumers.  The ideal situation is “to pump only as much groundwater as flows back underground, a balance known as safe yield, by 2025” (Whitman, 2019, para. 13).  But that is a tough goal to implement.  Water conservation measures can stifle growth, an unpopular idea in high-growth areas.

Currently, the Colorado River supplies water to more than 30 million people in seven states, with 70% of that water used for agriculture (Zielinski, 2010).  When government officials designated water allotments to these states in 1922, there were far fewer people living in the region.  And the strain is showing: “the Colorado River no longer regularly reaches the sea” (Zielinski, 2010, para.10).  In fact, it turns into a pathetic mud puddle 50 miles north of the Pacific Ocean.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) plans to build a solar-powered pump station south of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River that would continually refill Lake Mead and produce a continuous supply of hydroelectric power to millions of people in California.  The fear is that this project would shrink water supplies to communities farther down the Colorado River—such as Bullhead City (Grossman, 2018).

Shrinking water supplies, smaller water allotments, and increased demand have fueled tensions between the states dependent on the Colorado River—especially, between Arizona and California.  And those tensions are not going away anytime soon (Runyon & Jaspers, 2019).

Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery

Bullhead City has its own Drought/Water Shortage Contingency Plan.  The Arizona State Legislature passed House bill 2277 in 2005 which requires communities to develop and maintain a system water plan that includes three parts: a water supply plan, a water conservation plan, and a drought preparedness plan.  This requirement has become part of the State’s water resource management plan to develop preparedness and mitigation strategies at both the local and state level (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) also requires local communities to develop drought/water shortage contingency plans to conserve water.  These plans outline community response to reductions in the water supply due to drought, infrastructure failure, or other causes (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

Bullhead City depends solely on the Colorado River for its water supply.  Arizona’s water allotment was designated in the 1922 Colorado River Compact.  “The city of Bullhead City diverts its Colorado River surface water allocation through groundwater wells” (City of Bullhead City, 2016, p. 5).  This is possible because of the Colorado River aquifer that exists.

The Secretary of the Interior can declare a shortage of Colorado River water.  All states dependent on the Colorado River would be forced to share in the water shortage as determined  by the 2007 Record of Decision – Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and the Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead.  Bullhead City’s right to Colorado River water is fourth priority, which means that communities with higher priority will get their Colorado River water first.  The Mohave County Water Authority (MCWA) has set aside 107, 239 acre-feet of long-term water credits for Bullhead City.  Bullhead City, along with other Colorado River communities, has been given until 2026 to put preparedness plans in place to respond to drought and water shortages (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

If the water credits are eventually used, Bullhead City has a contract with the Central Arizona Project water canal to use groundwater pumping to recover their allotted water.  The use of such credits would incur extra costs that would be passed on to consumers (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

Bullhead City has developed plans to respond to a 20% and a 40% reduction in water supplies.  Both plans call for the unpopular use of reclaimed (recycled) water.  The extensive use of reclaimed water would require the building of extra infrastructure (City of Bullhead City, 2016). 

The response plan for Bullhead City has been developed as a staged response with the following components: water use reduction; priority users and water reduction; water rates/financial incentives; the role of private water companies; preparedness and mitigation plans for private water companies sub-contracted by Bullhead City; voluntary versus mandatory water reduction; agricultural irrigation versus drinking water; water conservation; public education; stored water recovery and delivery; scenarios of probable water shortage conditions; the use of reclaimed water; demand versus supply evaluation.  These plans would be implemented according to the water level in Lake Mead.  The strictest water management plans would be enforced when the level in Lake Mead is at or below 1,025 feet (City of Bullhead City, 2016).

In the meantime, Bullhead City has waged a public education campaign about the use of xeriscaping using low-water plants and trees; drip irrigation; and harvesting rainwater for landscape use (Water Resources Research Center, 2019).  Tips on conserving water are freely available on the city’s website.  Water rebates are available to consumers.  Water usage reports are available for public perusal.  And water development fees have been imposed to improve water services in the city (City of Bullhead City, 2019).

Bullhead City receives an average of 3 to12 inches of rain a year (Arizona Water Facts, 2019).  Epcor, a private water company, has raised consumer water rates 25% to 35% during the drought.  This situation has prompted Bullhead City to introduce Proposition 415, which would approve a bond up to $130 million to buy out the company (City of Bullhead City, 2019).  If approved, the city will own another source of water and provide water services at a lower cost to consumers.

Identify Gaps and Suggest Expansion of Preparedness, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery Plans

Bullhead City has not done enough to control population growth.  The city advertises itself as the lowest cost of living city in the state based on a 2015 study done by the Council for Community and Economic Research (Merrill, 2015).  This draws more people on fixed incomes from within and outside of the state.  These people can ill afford to pay higher water rates and development fees.  And if water supplies are, indeed, shrinking, Bullhead City can ill afford to add more people to its population.

Furthermore, if Bullhead City plans to use reclaimed water in the future, it needs to build the infrastructure now, and not wait for an emergency situation to arise.

Initial Evaluation and Emergency Management Procedures

Drought is the main hazard facing Bullhead City, Arizona.  It is dependent on water supplied by the Colorado River and the allotment it receives based on the Colorado River Compact of 1922.  Although it has plans in place for a 20% and 40% reduction in water supplies, it has not planned for anything more severe.  At the very worst, the governor of the State of Arizona would declare a disaster and water would have to be trucked in for residential and business use.  A lack of water would lead to social chaos and fighting among citizens.  There would be a mass exodus of people out of town.  Law enforcement would be heavily involved to control the situation. EMS personnel and local hospitals would have to deal with people who were severely dehydrated.  Animals would be abandoned and left to die from thirst.  City officials would be overwhelmed by demands for water.

Interrelationships among the Core Components of the Emergency Management Phases

Drought and water shortages can vary from season to season.  Preparedness plans to deal with these problems and to mitigate the costs and impacts are essential to protect the vital resource of water.  Well-conceived plans must be in place to respond to serious shortages of water for the sake of the community.  If the problem becomes serious enough, there might not be a recovery phase.

Conclusion

The desert was never meant to support millions of people.  Water is a precious resource that has not been taken seriously enough by government officials, city planners, and members of the real estate and development professions.  Bullhead City is dependent on a river it cannot control, weather and climate it cannot control, and State politicians it cannot control.  The city must do whatever it takes to protect its water supply.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

September 24, 2019

References

Arizona Water Facts. (2019). Bullhead City, Arizona. Retrieved from

       http://www.arizonawaterfacts.com/mtw/bullhead-city.

Associated Press. (2019. June). Arizona out of short-term drought. Mohave Daily News.

       Retrieved from http://www.mohavedailynews.com/news/arizona-out-of-short-term-

       drought/article_8c36c50a-9259-11e9-ab41-9b4eacdd7bd1.html

City Data. (2017). Bullhead City, Arizona. Retrieved from

       http://www.city-data.com/city/Bullhead-City-Arizona.html

City of Bullhead City. (2019). City of Bullhead City. Retrieved from

       http://www.bullheadcity.com

City of Bullhead City. (2016). City of bullhead city drought/water shortage contingency

       plan. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bullheadcity.com/home/showdocument?id=7546

Grossman, D. (2018, July). The hoover dam changed america – And it might do it again.

       Popular Mechanics. Retrieved from

https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/922539919/the-hoover-dam-

       changed-americaand-it-might-do-it-again.

Merrill, Laurie. (2015, June). Which arizona cities will cost you the least. AZ Central.

       Retrieved from https://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/2015/06/17/bullhead-

       city-cheapest-arizona-city/28899239.

National Drought Mitigation Center. (2019). What is drought. Retrieved from

       http://www.drought.unl.edu/Education/Drought forKids/What is Drought.aspx.

Runyon, L. & Jaspers, B. (2019, February). What is happening with the colorado river drought

       plans. KPBS. Retrieved from

https://www.kpbs.org/news/2019/feb/07/what-is-happening-colorado-river-drought-plans.

Water Resources Research Center. (2019). Low-Water tree and plant guide. Retrieved from

       http://www.wrrc.arizona.edu

Whitman, E. (2019, April). After colorado river drought plan, what’s next for water in arizona.

       Retrieved from https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/content/print/view/11268880.

Zielinski, S. (2010, October). The colorado river runs dry. Smithsonian Magazine.

       Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-

       dry-61427169.

7 Comments »

THE GIRL WHO HATED THE SUN

drought

she hated the sun

how it filled up heaven

with energy and light

too hot and bright . . .

The poem popped into Katie’s head as she stood on the front porch, eyes closed, arms wide open, daring the Sun to kill her. Kill me, she urged, like you spoiled our farm, drove away my father, and wasted my mother. Go ahead. Do it!

The Sun swallowed her whole, dissolving her in his fiery belly.

Now that she was part of the Sun, Katie could ride through the heavens and visualize everything that happened down below.

She saw the grim black hearse pull up to the farm, and wept, as two men in plain black suits carried her mother away on a gurney. She sailed freely over the dusty brown fields that no longer yielded crops. She mourned the beds of sunflowers whose heads sagged, like dying children, out by the barn. And she said good-bye to the rusty old truck that sat, without tires, in a patch of yellow weeds.

Soon, the Pacific Ocean sparkled down below. Dolphins leaped among the waves. Throngs of people crowded the streets of Beijing, scurrying around like busy mice. Katie soared above the icy peaks of the Himalayas and swooped down to burn the white sands of Arabia. She waved at the Statue of Liberty, rejoicing that she finally got to see it.

And then she was home again, viewing the crumbling barn in pinkish light that gradually turned to yellow. She counted the shingles missing from the roof of the old house and peeked through the windows of her shabby bedroom.

And the journey repeated itself as the earth slowly turned, like a giant spit — repeated itself, day after day, until Katie cried with weariness and pain.

Now, she hovered over the old farm, shining brightly against a piece of broken glass lying in the withered grass, until one small yellow flame burst forth, catching the grass on fire. A passing breeze nudged the fire toward the house. The splintered wood burned brightly, throwing sparks into the sky. The old barn caught the sparks and exploded, fueled by old cans of paint. Showers of burning wood and straw ignited the patch of weeds. The ripped out upholstery in the old truck burst into flame. The oil pan smoldered, sending black smoke into the sky. And finally, with one burst of energy, the fuel tank exploded.

With grim satisfaction Katie cried, “I’ve killed it! I’ve killed my past life!” She snuggled up to the Sun, melting deeper into his fiery depths . . . while down below, a tiny piece of the world disappeared forever.

Dawn Pisturino

November 14, 2012

Copyright 2012-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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