This blog entry marks the first in a series on water that I will publish once a week at least until the end of September. As always, if you are inspired to contribute some of your own writing as we go along, I would be delighted.
I have been silent for awhile now, but after settling into a new life in my old country, I am ready to try again to make sense of this sensual world. I am ready to begin speaking from the new place I have observed quietly for the past two months. I live in a beautiful old suburb east of Detroit, along the shores of a brilliant blue lake. When you hit upon it where the streets end, it could be one of the Great Lakes, if you didn’t know any better. The well-kept, wealthy homes sit on trim squares of green that find life in the eternal sprinkler systems springing up from every corner of the sidewalks. Once, I saw my neighbor shamelessly spray her hose across the fence to water my rose bushes. Even during the drought of June and July, water is abundant here.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana floods have displaced something like 11,000 people from their homes, and the NPR commentators are marveling at the “record-braking” and “unprecedented” levels of rain—but are they really marveling? Someone points out that records are broken every month now; the unremarkableness of disaster is the reality of life in a world that will soon be 2°C hotter than it ever was before.
So I have been thinking a lot about water.
Where is water from?
You rinse dried clay off your skin as waves knock you down and make you laugh and laugh in Lake Michigan. You visit New Orleans as a teenager and stay in a shotgun house with your friends who play music on the streets, then two years later you hear about the hurricane trying to wash it all into the sea. You see a tide rise for the first time along the Saint Lawrence in Canada: deep, dangerous ocean water covering where you just had walked.
What is water for?
You linger in the hot bath till it turns cold, gliding little boats or ducks or—improbably enough—trucks across the surface. You fall in the pool and see nothing but turqoise rushing past and wonder if you’ll die until your mom grabs your arm and yanks you out. You water the garden only in the early morning and late evening, she explains, because otherwise the sun burns the leaves of the plants.
What is water?
You walk out on the lake once it’s frozen over, stomping on the ice with your boot and imagining if it were to break and what it would be like to feel the cold water of death beneath. You climb over an obstacle course of beaver’s dens and brambles to find a cool dark cove charged with the energy of a waterfall, and it gives you faith in the Holy Spirit dwelling in your own body, surging like the blood of your veins. You run outside in the summer downpour just to feel the thrill of something unstoppable coming down from the heavens and touching your skin.
Water is life and death and rage and love, all mixed up in one.
Next week, naturally, we’ll discuss the apocalypse.