Pondering–if that is the right term for thoughts that arise in the loose weave of imagination–I thought how a city’s water supply could be a metaphor for how thoughts show up. Just as I turn a tap in my kitchen and water flows out, when I open the right faucet in my mind, I retrieve a phone number, or I realize that I am poised on the edge of time in the midst of a lifetime. And the sensation of knowing can feel a lot like water running through my fingers.
It’s a wonder how water keeps circulating. I imagine that in Albuquerque, where I live, there must be a giant pump pushing water day and night into the pipes that deliver it throughout the city. This must be the case, since there are no reservoirs towering above the hundreds of thousands of residents who all count on water flowing out their taps.
But, driving through the rest of New Mexico, storage tanks on tall stilts stand at the edge of many communities, ready to deliver water to the homes that dot the surrounding landscape. A pump was needed to fill those tanks, but now gravity can take over the task of distribution.
Throughout New Mexico, gravity is standing by to do the work, as water runs down mountain sides, fed by rain and melting snow, and continues to travel south into communities and fields. But, in the years of drought that we are experiencing, there isn’t enough water to meet the needs of all the people, animals and crops that rely on it. So, an underground aquifer, extending beneath several southwestern states, which took eons to fill, keeps getting lower and lower, and wells across the land keep running dry.
With so much water in the oceans–their levels rising as shelves of polar ice slip into the seas to melt like giant ice cubes—you’d think we would have figured out how to desalinate and store some in gigantic reservoirs, where it is so badly needed. But so far, only Nature knows how to do that. It takes the global village of a Sun (evaporating and desalinating moisture into swirling clouds), of an atmosphere (carrying those clouds on the wings of the wind across desert plains), and of the earth (towering mountains pulling those rain clouds out of the sky), in order for the fourth element, water, to flow back to the sea–with all its many stops along the way. Unlike Santa Claus, who comes but once a year, water must continuously flow in order for life to continue.
Water moves under the force of gravity; while another kind of gravity holds our flowing thoughts so they can work to establish our place in a knowable world. I “know”, even if I close my eyes, that I can make my way into the kitchen and find the coffee pot I plugged in earlier this morning. And when I open my eyes, I have never yet found myself standing at the edge of a cliff with breakers crashing against the rocks far below. Some people do experience the disappearance of all they have known. Perhaps that’s why residents on the cognitive wards in nursing facilities can suddenly start screaming.
I am one of the lucky ones. I can still make my way through a known world, even with my eyes closed, and count on things and the relationships between them staying in place.
But I wonder if that kind of knowing is like turning on a faucet. As long as something comes out, I assume that it always will. Giving no thought to where water comes from, I forget that it comes from a world in which climate, mountains, unpolluted rivers running across the land, and a planet that is 70% covered with oceans, are working together with selfless generosity. Without their collaboration, the faucet from which I filled my coffee pot this morning would be a metal artifact buried in the sand for some alien visitor in the future to pick up and wonder what purpose it might have served.
I wonder if knowledge is more than we realize. If our species gives no thought to how our bodies and minds, our eyes and memories and our searching hearts, are reaching out for the rain of love and understanding, then how can we feel the wind stirring in the branches of our lives? How will we remember that we live in a world that is crying out for us to come back home and do our part, so that the waters of life can keep on flowing?