Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere*

Jack & Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water . . . 
The itsy, bitsy spider went up the water spout . . . 
Over the water and over the sea . . . 
Little drops of water . . . 
There’s water in the rain barrel . . . 
Dark brown is the river . . . 
Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream . . . 
Down by the old (not the new but the old) mill stream . . . 
March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers 

Nursery rhymes and songs I learned as a child echo in my mind as the rains come and come and come.  Water is much with us, and a good thing.  But this week, I have been mindful of water in a way I haven’t been since spending time in Iraq, where the water is often unfit for human consumption, and being a desert clime, incredibly scarce.

Illustration of The Ryme of the Ancient
Mariner.  Illustrator:  Paul Gustave Doré
For while the rains come here in a poor imitation of the monsoons of Asia, the water in the ground, coming as it does in my small village, through a water treatment plant instead of a spring or well, is unfit to drink.

They’ve found E-coli in our drinking supply.  Thus we are to boil all our drinking water.  No problem, I thought.  I’ve done this before.  So I boiled a good supply of drinking water, and in anticipation of the water being shut off to find the source of the problem, filled the bathtub with water for cleaning and flushing.  I washed the dishes and then rinsed them with Clorox.  And I remembered to keep my mouth shut in the shower (not as easily done as you might think).

No problem, I told myself – I’m an old hat at this.

But I forgot one thing: I brushed my teeth with the water from the sink.


And then I remembered that you can’t forget anything.

And what I forgot is the most important thing of all: mindfulness.  Mindfulness of everything you do is called for when the drinking water isn’t safe and water itself is in short supply.  Bathing becomes a luxury instead of a daily routine.  Securing drinking water is part of the daily routine; there is, there can be, no forgetting.

I’m lucky – this is only a temporary situation for me.  I will not have to hand carry water from a distance.  I will not have to keep bleaching my dishwater.  I will not have to remember to boil any water that could go into my mouth.

No one that I know who does have to do these daily chores necessary to sustain life complains.  It’s simply the way things are.  It was my own attitude as well when I was there.  But I am here now, and in the land of plenty, with so very much for which to be grateful, I must continually remind myself to the task of gratitude.  I wonder why that is?  I wonder why we with so much are so often the least grateful?  I am sorry for the interruption of our steady supply of good water and its impact on others less able than I to cope.  But I am also grateful – for the reminding call to be grateful, if nothing else.

*From The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.


  1. I was so careful when we were in the Middle East - especially in Egypt. I did use bottled water for tooth brushing. It wasn't till after we were on the way home that it occurred to me that I always asked for extra ice cubes in my cokes! :-D