Yesterday I came home and decided to give a few of my plants a drink of water before I settled into my normal afternoon routine. Since we have had such cold nights I have left the hose unattached and so I had to screw it back on before I could go about my task. Of course the first time I turned on the water I discovered I hadn’t attached the hose correctly and a fine mist of water hit my pants leg. Two more attempts before I finally got the hose on straight. Did I mention before that I often have “technical difficulties” with things?
When I finally got the hose attached and unwound all 150 feet of it and started watering my plants, it occurred to me that I have been dealing with water and its complications all of my life. We have always lived in semi-arid or desert regions of the country where water is a precious commodity. In the high desert it is practically a controlled substance! The actions of “Flatlanders” are closely scrutinized. Neighbors frown at you if they find out you don’t recycle dish water. You don’t want to have a green lawn or too many plants that don’t produce something to eat. I used to let our kids play in a small plastic pool under the cherry tree so I could justify their activity.
I grew up in the central valley of California where irrigation is a daily activity. Many of the commercial systems are a marvel of engineering and ingenuity. Our method was a good plow, a good shovel, and some pipes. It is a wonder I lived through childhood when I think back about some of the things we did to make sure our crops grew! The most dangerous activity was “riding the ditch digger”. We had a plow for digging the trenches needed for the water, but I guess it didn’t dig deep enough to satisfy my father because he made a little platform for us to stand on to create more weight for it! To his credit I have to admit that none of us ever fell off. After the trenches were complete and the water was flowing we spent countless hours moving pipes, patching holes in the ditch banks, changing the water flow, moving pipes again. Sometimes my brother and I were left in charge of a field for several hours while Dad did the same at another location. Once we got into trouble for letting a break “get away from us” and flood the first row of the neighbor’s raisins.
Water often created trouble and danger. My first truly horrifying experience with it was watching my baby brother nearly drown in an irrigation vat. He fell in head first and only the quick action of my father saved him. I just stood, mesmerized, as he pulled him up by the diaper! It would be the first of three times he nearly drowned as a child. We were all in danger of doing so at any time if we were not vigilant. There were ditches and vats and canals everywhere. The neighbor children lured me into a dry canal once when I was about four, and after telling me they were going to turn on the water, they simply left me. Luckily my screams eventually brought my mother.
Water is the substance we must have, and control, in order to sustain life. We talk often of the indicators of a civilized society. We admire inventions and technology and tall buildings. We speak of economic growth and political progress. We pat ourselves on the back for our creativity and skills. But a deluge of water, or the lack of it, can lay waste to any and all plans made by man. The Bible refers to water over 700 times. It is mentioned from the first chapter to the last, and the importance of it cannot be overstated.
We are in a drought phase once again and it seems like this is the “new normal” for our part of the country. We have been warned for years that our climate is changing and that we must do what we can to prevent serious consequences. I’m not sure most of us have been paying enough attention to the warnings. Many seem extreme and improbable. But like the frog in the pan of water…disaster can creep up on us in very slow increments.
I have memories of hauling water from a well. I remember how many buckets of it are required for a bath in a metal tub. I recall boiling it to make sure it was safe to drink. Perhaps those who have always lived with water flowing from a faucet are more prone to take this resource for granted. But it is something we all require and must all safeguard for the future of our children and grandchildren.
As we are counting our blessings and expressing our gratitude this month, I am thankful for water.