Prologue: Last winter in the midst of another Covid lockdown, Vancouver poet Samantha Reynolds, writing as bentlily, invited her readers to notice life around them. This is, after all, the basis of most good poetry. So successful was the reception that she re-issued her invitation for May. Each morning my inbox welcomed her prompt. I’d read and file each one in a folder for the time when less distracted by who knows what – oh I know, the coming of summer and all that great outdoor stuff – I could focus my noticing in response. That day came September first. And while I don’t do every activity every day, more than not I do, this prose poem being one such entry.
You invite me to notice, for thirty days.
From gazing at the sky, to taking a mundane moment and making it sacred;
eulogizing a favourite food, then eating it back to life;
listening to a piece of music while conjuring the images it evokes.
Today it’s WATER.
To take in – in a holy way – the everyday banal which for me,
for so many of us in this so called civilized western world,
comes so freely, without effort or a moment’s thought.
We turn on the tap to take a drink, a bath, or a shower;
cook our food, wash our clothes, cars, and dishes; soak the dried grass and limp flowers.
Mindless motions and maneuverings.
Yet drought, wildfires, insufficient snowfall, contamination – even here we are running out of water, and several of our reserves, home of our First Nations peoples, to this day, have no clean drinking water. So much for treaty terms and promises.
When you wrote that women and girls around the world collectively spend 200 million hours daily finding and collecting water, that many are raped on their long walks to distant sources,
I shamefully admit, I mindlessly took a sip from my SWELL bottle and went on to tackle the next thing on my list, sitting safely in my office, in my home.
When I read your invitation to drink a glass of water slowly, as though I had dedicated my entire day – my life even –
to finding it, getting it, carrying it home, still,
the enormity of that reality skipped across the surface of my consciousness.
What does it take
for a stone to break the water’s surface,
drop down deep inside me,
ripple out across my cells,
create a resonant wave of comprehension and compassion?
for your telling of this fact to
fracture the façade of indifference,
flood me with understanding the impacts of privilege?
to remember once long ago, water turned to wine turned to blood,
an alchemy of the sacred,
a miracle to quench my thirst?
A dozen or so years ago, I wrote a “nested” poem and made a card collage of words and images to acknowledge a young friend who, at four years of age, asked “How can it be that clean water is not a given for all those alive in the world?” He went on to organize local benefit concerts and community fund raising events to support well building in Uganda. The collage design became a promotional image helping him raise over $25,000 in the four years since first asking that question.
Well, water is very important.
Well, water is very important,
for LIFE especially.
Well water is very important
for LIFE, especially when there is no rain.”
“So that’s why we’re making some.”
The truth of miles walked by women to gather water for their families came home when I travelled to Morocco in 2019, where I saw Berber women with plastic jugs, walking to wells to get the day’s supply for cooking and washing.
Last month, someone posted three photos of the same view of Lake Oroville in California’s Sonoma valley taken first in 2017, then in spring of 2021, and finally in July showing the devastation of repeated and prolonged drought. From lush green hillsides and a mighty flow of blue water, to sand parched hills and reduced flow, to merely a creek bordered by muddy banks and hills devoid of vegetation. A picture – or three – telling a powerful story.
Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.