Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Water under our mountain

We come from Sacramento, which any school child there will tell you is "where two great rivers meet" -- the Sacramento and the American. Compared to the Mississippi or the Ohio or the Tennessee, these rivers are kind of puny. But these two rivers are the life-blood for 35 million people in the nation's most populous state.

The water flows out of the high Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades, from melted snow that in good years packs high in the winter. The water in these rivers is precious in a state where the population resides primarily on arid coastal plains.

Just south of Sacramento, the water is captured in a complicated series of aqueducts, then flows 400 miles south, irrigating the farmlands of the Central Valley along the way before it reaches the massive sprawl of the Los Angeles basin.

Here in Charlottesville, our water comes from deep within the ground. We live in a house in the woods, on a mountainside. We are distant from the city water system; we have a well that taps inside our mountain bringing us water. Compared to where we come from, we live in a rain forest, and in good years, the ground is saturated with water. I think of this every time it rains, and every time I open the tap. I am drinking life-giving water straight from the earth, unfiltered and unfettered by water districts and water meters.

It is no accident that we use water to symbolize the new birth of baptism.

So I am very grateful to Leslie Middleton for providing this poem from Billy Collins. Please have a glass of water, and enjoy...
Water Table

by Billy Collins
It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.

This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.

The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.

Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.

But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.
Painting by Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud of the Sacramento River Delta.

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