I thought Jeff and Ali’s focus on water for the first episode of this season was an interesting choice. “How curious,” I thought, “to focus on something so simple, so obvious.” It was so obvious, in fact, it took me a few days of chewing over to realize how little I stop to think about the gallons of water that flow through my house on a daily basis.
What do I know about where my water comes from? What do I know about what’s done to my water before it comes flowing out of my tap? What do I put in my water before it disappears down my drain — soap, shampoo, cosmetics, laundry detergent, fragrances, fertilizers, pesticides? What do I know about my water table, and how fragile is it — is my neighborhood in danger of drought?
These are questions we never ask, until the water stops flowing. We don’t ask these questions until we are thirsty, until we are faced with water’s absence.
Water is so obvious, so ubiquitous, that we rarely pause to consider how difficult it can be for some families to procure it. We rarely pause to consider the consequences our actions will have on water — the chemicals that leech into the water table from the fertilizers and pesticides we spray on our lawns, or the fragrances and detergents from our showers and washing machines. When the news covers stories about what is happening in far-away places, we almost never hear about freshwater shortages, or about how certain companies are buying up the rights to control sources of freshwater at the expense of the communities that depend on them. We only hear about overfishing, about massive pollution, about the introduction of damaging invasive species when it affects our ability to fill our dinner plates with a choice delicacy.
Water is so obvious because it is almost everywhere — and where it isn’t, we notice its absence immediately. Water connects us. It is essential, a need all of us share and one that none can escape.
I think about these things in the abstract. I have begun the slow processes of changing my habits, of buying better, biodegradable and sustainably crafted products (or making them myself), and of encouraging my housemates to join in. But it wasn’t until this year’s massive drought began to plague the Midwest of this country that I realized how large the disconnect between my beliefs and my practice had grown.
When my bottle of blessed water is dry, I wash it carefully in hot tap water while giving thanks for small miracles, and refill it, setting the bottle out on the porch where it will sit in the light of sun and moon. Then I offer it to my Gods and spirits during my daily practice, dab it on my forehead and lips as a blessing on my body, fill my small sacred Well. I know this water is holy, that it acts physically and spiritually as a universal solvent, cleaning away any impurity, leaving me wholesome and prepared to stand before my altar, in the same way that tiny bowls of holy water prepare Catholics to sit in their churches and receive Communion.
This water is holy, and it comes easily, freely flowing from my tap into my bottle, without a second of doubt on my part, without worrying that there will be none. I know that water is holy, and still I barely give a second thought to running the dishwasher half empty, or taking a long hot shower when my muscles are aching. I know that water is holy, and still I see people tossing trash into the Sound because the garbage cans are too far away up the beach. I know that water is holy, and I still struggle to connect that abstract belief with the concrete work of my hands.
Part of my practice, and part of my Work, is to live with a fierce and conscious joy. Making the time to pause, to breathe, to acknowledge my blessings that bring fierce joy alive in my life, and remind me that it is hidden everywhere, just waiting for me to be ready to find it. When I pour an ablution, when I offer a small bowl of clear, cool water, I am connected in joy by that water to everyone else that finds joy in such a simple thing. I am connected to the people now suffering from a lack of water, from thirst, from fear of uncontrolled fire in a dry land. This simple act, these small devotions, force me for a moment to remember my privilege, and to treat that water with a reverence I rarely make time for between boiling pots of it for pasta or twisting the knob on the washing machine to Cold.
When you pour a glass of water, pray that you never run out. When you turn on your tap and fill a pot to cook your family’s dinner, feel blessed. And when you water your lawn or take a hot shower at the end of a long day, remember that, with every drop of water flowing through your house, you are connected to the water that flows through and across and beneath the Earth, to every other drop of water in a river, a lake, a stream, an ocean. Remember that it’s also connected to every drop of water that isn’t flowing, to the crops that aren’t growing and the mouths that will be hungry as well as thirsty this winter. Remember that all water is holy, and try your best to treat it that way.
Mallory Jordan was shaped when she was small by the clay of the creekbed behind her house, by the sloping hills and reaching trees of the forest that housed it, and by the violence of growing up quicker than a sapling. A practicing pagan who isn’t sure where she fits into the nomenclature, she writes, and poets, and philosophizes, and relishes the time she spends making beautiful things appear with her hands. When she gets the chance to peel away from noise and flashing lights and the spider’s web, she dashes off into the woods with the immediate aim of getting lost, finding a creek, and watching the stars. You can find her blogging somewhat intermittently at Courageous Devotion, and tweeting occasionally at @emjayecks.
Photo Credit: (CC) Steve Corey (source)
Tags: connection, ritual, water