Thursday, 3 December 2009

The well has run dry

- an expression I have always used metaphorically, up to now. Our well has no water, and the rains continue to tease and flutter in the edges of our vision. But they do not come.

Today I collected shower water from the largely disused public well. It smells and tastes rusty but flows clear. My skin itches, but maybe that’s psychological. The taste remains with me, sour iron- I can smell it on my skin. It reminds me of when I was on blood thinners and had a perpetual slight scent and taste of blood from the frequent nose bleeds.

And so today I find myself preoccupied with water. Will I come out in a rash? What will I cook with, wash up with? There is no real cause for worry: I will collect drinking water from the Sisters. If necessary, I will ask the Jesuits for a daily shower at Fortress Jesuiticus up the hill. But it’s the awareness that is striking me. How many more things do I take for granted, as I have always taken water for granted? Because they aren’t really visible until I don’t have them. Is it into the thousands?

I think, properly for once, of what it is like to live without water security. Because the rusty well water I am trying to avoid is the upper aspiration for many millions of people (but how real can that be to us? Just as mortgage anxiety isn’t really imaginable to them). How will it feel to me when the ‘inferior’ well dries up? Will I be better equipped to imagine watching my children drinking filthy water, scooping out dollops of excrement before washing, swimming in a sewer? And then to imagine them feverish and ill, and knowing it’s the water that is causing it, and having NOWHERE to go to wash them clean, to rinse out their insides? It reminds me once again that Aishalton is not really poor. The other users of my well are going to collect from relatives: it’s a slightly longer walk, but they are not worried for the short term. (Water conservation for the long term is becoming a pressing issue for the South Rupununi now, though). But for those people in hundreds of places suffering from chronic water shortage, what GRACE they have, not to hate us all for our mindless privilege. How understandable when they do.

If you can have a glass of tap water that isn’t disgusting- not chilled, not filtered, not cordialled- right now, please drink one and give thanks for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment