“Man shall not live by bread alone.” This is something Jesus said and is mentioned several times in the Bible. It is one of those sayings, now a proverb perhaps, that probably we all sort of know. (I thought it was Shakespeare but he was talking about poetry or music.) It is so familiar because we recognize the truth of it in our deepest selves. We know we are more than our physical bodies and that our souls need sustenance in order that we can truly live.

However, that said, we do need water and water has been much around lately. Or rather, more accurately, a cascading awareness of the lack. Here are a couple of links to the ‘incoming’ just in the last couple of weeks.

I just completed reading Salt Dreams  by William deBuys about the history of the Salton Sink and Sea. By necessity,that meant learning a great deal about what we have done to the Colorado, its delta (starved and dead) and other related bodies of water.

We watched the movie Up The Yangztse and were stunned by the arrogance of destruction along the mighty river. That was quickly followed up by an article in the NYT – well, two. One was about water woes in China with the forbidding lead “North China is dying” and this first paragraph:

“A chronic drought is ravaging farmland. The Gobi Desert is inching south. The Yellow River, the so-called birthplace of Chinese civilization, is so polluted it can no longer supply drinking water. The rapid growth of megacities – 22 million people in Beijing and 12 million in Tianjin alone – has drained underground aquifers that took millenniums to fill.”

The other was about a mighty hydro-electric dam proposed in Brazil.  This choice, in the name of water and power, was approved by their government regardless of the mistakes made and perhaps irredeemable with the Yangztse. And I do not even need to mention our messy river re-arrangements here in the USA.

Closer to home, last Thursday down the road at the community association meeting, a local expert on the subject took us on a lightening excursion through the history of water in AZ, sw AZ (where I am) and Phoenix in particular. As the graph rises up with heat increase, so it slants down with the decrease of water falling.

I hike around here a lot, and the evidence of waters’ previous power, the gradual loss of that bounty and the unfolding, not-so-slow desertification of my area, is unavoidable. It is not just in the deep gravelly beds, the huge dead trees and the exposed root systems.

It is in the loss of vegetation and grassland, the carpet of cactus where there used to be range land. It is the vanishing artificial lake in our town. No water coming down the little creek, less rain for run off and wells that are hard put to fill hungry houses and gardens let alone lakes.

I guess you could also say this water awareness is a kind of metaphor for my lack of writing since May 20th. I have been as dry as one of those not-so-old river beds, as low on focus as the sinking water table, as paralyzed and inert as the stagnating ponds we call lakes.

So, I have found other things to do, justified my existence in the more mundane, like getting my social media pieces in order, and earthy pursuits – like watering.

When I water my garden, I am conscious of the balance between keeping the roses bright, lilacs (way past their flower-by date) green and the hollyhocks alert, while knowing I am living in a desert! Hand-held hose and every drop falling where it can be useful, when I can manage that. I know I should mend the auto drip system. It’d be more effective, as long as I keep up with the popped off little nozzles and what-have-you.

It will show on my water bill that’s for sure. I get wet when the little hole in the hose suddenly faces me. I curse when it catches on the stone paving. And I struggle with what is too much or not enough. When am I just band-aiding to no effect? And when do I do the deep-soak that might serve the lighter watering better?

But there is something about face-to-face interaction with the living organism I am keeping alive that in its turn feeds me. The exchange keeps me anchored, grounded, as it were, to what water is. When I spray it on a distressed plant, less than an hour later its leaves have raised their tips upward. When I crouch down to reach the roots under the lilac and rose, my hair catches in the branches. The honeysuckle sends it soft scent out over the carport.

Cool air rises from the damp earth around the house and my nose takes me back to some primal place. I am both feeder and fed. I have power to give life. I am in control of the water flow. I am soothed and uplifted by the beauty of my garden, kept this way by the water I disperse.

There was also a story about the golf courses that have been closing all over the USA. (Although why some of them were built in the first place – in deserts! – eludes me.) The economic change means fewer people can afford to pay the fees to use them, communities can’t afford to support them. And, let’s face it, pouring water/money onto green spaces no-one uses? Insane. So what to do with them.

Here is what I heard. They’d make great cemeteries, nice and quiet for the neighbors. Turn them into parks in which to stroll, to experience the beauty and smell and texture of growing organisms. Here human beings can be uplifted and soothed.

And what about community gardens, a place to grow food for people? Create a place to put your hands in the earth, experience the rhythms of planting, tending, reaping and preparing for the next round. Food on the table right from your neighborhood. Water well spent.  After all they are doing it at the White House!

And here is the real link. Water and food go together. Another story. On All Things Considered, June 14,  NPR Melissa Block spoke with Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of the book World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, about what’s behind the doubling of grain prices over the last several years.

Toward the end of the interview he said: “Second thing we need to do is to begin focusing on raising water productivity. We’ve tripled world grain land productivity since 1950. We now need a worldwide effort to raise water productivity, because it is water now more than land that is constraining efforts to expand world food production.”

The ultimate power resides where the water is and who gets to control where that goes. I do it in my garden. I stand there with my hose and decide what plants get how much water. I don’t water the ones across the street. They miss out. They are not mine.

If water is the most precious resource, and food is essential then we all need to step up and take personal responsibility for our corner of that ‘market’. If the water and its bounty also feed the human Spirit, offering beauty and peace, then we all need to care for the gift that has been given.

Drinking in the stories, like the plants in my garden I lift my face from the ground of my lethargy and return to thoughts and words that sustain me. I acknowledge that while I might not be able to do much to stop what other people do with their water, I can make choices with mine.

I also allow that I cannot write all the right words and be assured I am heard let alone that I am understood. However, I can continue to explore the world in which I live. The need for storytelling is a foundational aspect of the human experience. It may be in 140 Twitter characters or it may be in endless new Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

It doesn’t matter. The urge to share our stories, articulate our view of the world, to find commonalities informs our journey. We are all on the journey, consciously or not, to know who we are, uncover our place in the world and the gifts we each have to offer. In short, we are in the process of plumbing the depths of the personal river.

The source of the personal river is your connection to Spirit/Creator/God/Life Source, whatever your term for it. Ultimately that river waters your garden. It is the means by which we ‘feed’ ourselves. “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

So tend your garden, water it carefully and with conscious awareness of that resource. You are your greatest garden. Your ultimate power resides in how you water it. Care for it and all who pass by will be uplifted by the aroma of fresh damp earth, soothed by the beauty of the blooms and nurtured by the gift of your being in the world.

As long as you can find the water that empowers you to care for your place on the earth you will have something to offer others. Pay attention to the stories that are out there and bring yours to the table. Be informed, be courageous in that truth and most of all, take action as it best fits your piece of the world.

Whether it is conserving the water running in the earth beneath your feet, protecting the places where the water emerges, or collecting that which falls from the sky, your actions will make a difference.

When you access your truth deeply from your Soul, and share your story, through dance, music, words, art, or simply by being present, you will make a difference.

Little wonder we are drawn to water. The water bodies around us mirror the river that runs through us. Take good care of both. It is what you have, it is what you are.

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