Reflections on water & respite in hard times and places

As one commentator says, “there are many kinds of thirst.” Where do we find respite and rescue in the midst of dry, hard, troubled times? What are the wastelands of our lives? Where do signs of life surprise us in our personal and communal “desert places”?

You should not see the desert simply as some faraway place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst. — William Langewiesche
Water Water Water Wind Water Juan Felipe Herrera
water water water wind water
across the land shape of a torn heart
… again and again a new land edge emerges
a new people emerges where race and class and death
and life and water and tears and loss
and life and death destruction and life and tears
compassion and loss and a fire …
rumbles toward you all directions wherever
you are alive still

If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert. You can be pulled into limitlessness, which we all yearn for, or you can do the beauty of minutiae, the scrimshaw of tiny and precise. The sky is your ocean, and the crystal silence will uplift you like great gospel music, or Neil Young. — Anne Lamott

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. —Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This is the sense of the desert hills, and there is room enough and time enough. — Mary Hunter Austin

Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water. — Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness–especially in the wilderness–you shall love [God]. — Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure. — Francis of Assisi

I alternate between thinking of the planet as home–dear and familiar stone hearth and garden–and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners. — Annie Dillard

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected … On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there … Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together. ― Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are

… there are no crows in the desert. What appear to be crows are ravens. You must examine the crow, however, before you can understand the raven. To forget the crow completely, as some have tried to do, would be like trying to understand the one who stayed without talking to the one who left. It is important to make note of who has left the desert. — Barry López, Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven

New Water
— Sharon Chmielarz
All those years—almost a hundred—
the farm had hard water.
Hard orange. Buckets lined in orange.
Sink and tub and toilet, too,
once they got running water.
And now, in less than a lifetime,
just by changing the well’s location,
in the same yard, mind you,
the water’s soft, clear, delicious to drink.
All those years to shake your head over.
Look how sweet life has become;
you can see it in the couple who live here,
their calmness as they sit at their table,

the beauty as they offer you new water to drink.

DesertJosephine Miles

When with the skin you do acknowledge drought,
The dry in the voice, the lightness of feet, the fine
Flake of the heat at every level line;

When with the hand you learn to touch without
Surprise the spine for the leaf, the prickled petal,
The stone scorched in the shine, and the wood brittle;

Then where the pipe drips and the fronds sprout
And the foot-square forest of clover blooms in sand,
You will lean and watch, but never touch with your hand.


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