The Well

The kid is back from camp, and naturally there is serious laundry. I ran two loads through the washer and took them out back to hang in the beating sun. Now, normally laundry-hanging-out is a barefoot job. I like padding across the soft grass of my back yard and feeling the earth under my toes; I like standing on the bench of the old picnic table and the feel of the warm wood under my heels and arches. But it's been so dry for so long that I had to slip my clogs on to take the laundry out. The grass is a sere prickle, no pleasure, and the ground is baked so lumpy-hard that it hurts the feet.

We've had no rain for weeks. I don't know how the crops are doing, but every lawn in town, practically, is the soft golden-brown of dried-out grass. A year or so ago, the town put in water meters and people now pay for town water, so lawn-watering is largely a thing of the past. I feel for some of my more lawn-proud neighbours: they're already under pressure to give up using pesticides, and now this weather. My head knows that a groomed monoculture lawn is not a Good Thing; but I know how these people feel about their yards. It must be painful for them. My yard is a little less uniformly brown, because it's so weedy, and weeds tend to have longer, deeper tap roots than grass. Nonetheless, even my dandelions and plaintain are looking distressed. It really is dry out there.

My well, on the other hand, continues to run sweetly, producing clear cold hard water enough for the household. I don't know how deep the well goes, but it's never yet run dry in fourteen years, so it's clearly deep enough. And the trees seem to be just fine; no visible signs of distress there, although I do go out once in while and slosh a big pailful of water around each of the two newest baby maples, just as a precaution. Both, of course, are tapping into deeper water. Our water table has probably sunk some, but both well and tree roots go deeper still: the well drilled cleanly, the tree roots twisting and uncurling, running between and shoving aside rocks as they twine deeper into the dark dampness.

In the old way of things, we thought of heaven as being Up There; and we talked of Higher Thoughts and of Jesus coming down from on high to live among us. But for years now, I've thought of faith as being not a top-down thing, like rain or snow, but a bottom-up thing like groundwater. I see my own faith not as being too low, but as being too shallow; I endeavour, instead of trying to reach up, to tunnel down because that's where I sense the water to be. Maybe this is just my own experience. My first sense of God's grace felt very much like groundwater seeping up, and that's still where I seem to find my sustenance, most times.

And maybe it's because I've known stormy weather, and I trust the ground under my feet more than I do the air above me; I've seen what ice storms can do, both the meteorological sort and the more human variety. Maybe God finds me in places that I find safer, places where I can trust more easily. Maybe I find God in groundwater because that's where God knows I look. God being all around us anyway, whenever we turn Godward, there God is, and if that means looking downward, into the earth, instead of upward into the heavens, well the psalmist said it first: "If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there."

I've spent most of the last couple of weeks hanging around water: the outer and inner waters of Manitoulin Island, the lakes of Muskoka and the Haliburton highlands on the way home, the lake at my kid's summer camp--and now home to this drought. But I know that the drought is only superficial. Yes, it will be hard on the plants with shallow root systems, especially those that are trying actively to grow (corn, for example). But I keep coming back to my well, this deepness that collects the water I actually live with, the water that keeps me going in this particular life.

Hanging out laundry was hot work. I came in and ran the kitchen tap for a minute or two, until the water ran crisply cold over my fingers, and then I filled a glass and gulped it down. I am so grateful, God, for water: I know I say this too often, perhaps, when I should be being grateful for other things. But water is such a grace given, a grace I never seem to be able to turn my back on. Which is probably not a bad way to be. Meegwich, God, for good old H-two-O.

That being said, Lord, we really could use some rain. About three days' gentle soak, if that's all right with you. You could turn on the taps as soon as I get the laundry in. We wouldn't mind at all.

Copyright © 2001 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 28 Jul 2001
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