Thursday, June 21, 2007


Water has become a precious commodity, expensive and, as always, necessary for life. I never thought much about water before. At the farm, we had a pump, which would give us a plentiful supply of water in the summer, spring and fall, but invariably froze up in the wintertime. A lot of time and effort was spent in trying to thaw out the pump, but usually Mom was forced to fetch water from a nearby stream, after Pop had hacked through the ice.

God knows what amoeba, bacteria and other wiggly creatures we swallowed in that water. We would undoubtedly be sick or dead, wasting away with cholera or some other dread disease, except for the fact that Mom boiled that water religiously on the old woodstove. It got us through the winter quite adequately, until we could celebrate the arrival of spring and the arrival of water from the pump. It was cool, clear water that emerged from that rusted pipe and we drank of it freely.

Today, however, water is another matter entirely. Wars have been fought over water rights, and with the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan, our state is eyed with great interest by neighboring states. Already there is a booming business in the sale of water.

Where I live, the water comes from a well, and it is not the clear, cool water I remember. In fact, making a pot of coffee with this water brings forth an interesting collection of dingles and dangles and funny little pieces of rust-colored debris. But it is safe to drink, if one can ignore this goop, because the local Health Department has given it a glowing appraisal. I have thought of taking a thermos of coffee down to these offices and inviting them to share a cuppa with me, but haven't yet summoned the courage.

But water is essential for human beings and water is essential for just about everything else. In the spring, I go through an aching need for things green. I haunt the nurseries and stores that sell plants and flowers. I buy flat after flat of blooms and lovingly transport them home. I plant them here and there and nurture them as though they were babes in the woods, cherishing each colorful flower.

That's in the spring. By the time June rolls around, I have suffered a reversal of emotion. I eye the plants like a passel of helpless infants clamoring for milk and diaper changes. The chore of watering has become a burden that is so heavy on my shoulders, I yearn to stay in bed until it rains. But no! I must haul myself out, clad in my housecoat and my ragged pajamas, and water the damned things, making sure they get enough to drink lest they go belly up and call it quits before I can even enjoy a cup of that miserable coffee.

By August, I have had it with flowers, no matter how gorgeous they have become. I am so sick of flowers, I don't care if I move to the Gobi Desert and see nothing but cacti and tumbleweed. I have watered myself into a rage, and I resent every green leaf, every colorful petal. Flowers, I tell myself, should be kept indoors, in a profitable nursery, ready for the celebration of weddings and funerals.

So, you see, water plays a large part in my life, just as it plays an equally large part in yours. Water can be a blessing to assuage thirst, to bring forth plump, edible fruits and vegetables, or it can be a it sometimes has been with me. I am talking about a leak. When a toilet bowl leaks, water is no longer a blessing. It's a demonic substance determined to ruin your life, drain your life savings, and soak your surroundings. Leaks have two methods of procedure. They either ooze or spurt. The oozing kind of leak is an aggravation. It is very difficult to locate the source of an ooze. Is it coming from here or there, or somewhere else? Oozes involve getting on your hands and knees and peering around in smelly, dank and dark corners.

On the other hand, a spurt is even worse. It is a perilous, alarming moment, when that cascade of flowing water appears from nowhere, flooding the floor, wetting everything in its path, bringing about sodden carpets, soaked plaster and dripping fixtures. Yes, it is towel time...and your entire supply is soon eaten up by this flowing spurt of malevolence intent upon bringing you to your knees.

The best invention ever is that gizmo that is like a vacuum sweeper, not sucking up dirt, but water! All you have to do is carry that pot of dirty liquid somewhere else and pour it out, then go back for another load. It beats towels, that's for sure, and the man who invented it deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, as far as I'm concerned, because it is so much more peaceful without the flood.

When the plumbers have left and the floor is hopefully drying out, you can sit back and reflect upon the different qualities of water. The best part of water may be to combine it with a dollop of Scotch, especially after an ooze or a surge. Maybe even more than a dollop. And don't forget the ice cubes.

But, no matter what, water is essential to life, and we must accept the bad with the good. On one hand, we try to conserve it, being environmentally green as we are. And we try to save money, because water takes a bite out of every budget. As my son says, you give up the showers for the flowers.....and that could be called the acme of conservation.