In the west, the issue of water runs just beneath the surface of our lives. Or, increasingly, is being drained away, insuring that much of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and northern Mexico will be a wasteland in two or three more generations. Already the Colorado River ends miles north of where it flowed only a decade ago, nourishing crops for small subsistence farmers. People seeking the sunshine and dry air of the southwest have moved steadily into this area until the mandate of extravagant welcome wars with the responsibility to live a sustainable existence on this piece of our one, beautiful, precious planet home.
Part of the problem, of course, is that many of us are not willing to reside in the beauty of the place to which we have moved. We want to bring with us the familiar plants of our homes back east, or in the mid-west, or the Pacific northwest. We want to plant trees and (creation help us!) lay out golf courses to entertain ourselves. But the plants we desire are not plants adapted to a water-poor environment. The water demands of golf-course turf are unsustainable. Bringing water to the surface and leaving it exposed in swimming pools in every other backyard is an unconscionable waste of an irreplaceable resource. The entire southwest is already in a drought, our thoughtless human demands only exacerbate this situation, tipping it well past the precarious point.
Native Americans, living a nomadic existence across these plains and mountains, used approximately 2 gallons of water a day per person: for drinking, washing, cooking, raising birds for eggs and meat, and the crafts of making clothing and pottery. Two gallons a day. We choose not to live that way. In her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver writes about why her family decided to leave their home in the southwest and move back east to take over a family farm…and much of their reasoning had to do with their concern that the population of these western and southwestern states has moved well past the level of sustainability.
As we move into spring and the season of planting in the northern hemisphere, there is a spiritual question before us: How do we live in loving relationship with this world? We know from human interactions that marriages, friendships, partnerships, even parent-child relationships cannot flourish if one person takes all the time, and the other is forced to give without respite or refreshment.
So this week, I invite you to fill a bowl with water and take a few minutes each day to hold that bowl, feeling its weight, or to focus on it as it rests on a table. Perhaps you want to light a candle to reflect on the surface of the water, to highlight its lovely clarity. Notice that you are using potable water – a resource rare in much of the world.
In what ways have I committed intentionally to living with respect for both the creatures with whom I share the world, and with the world itself?
In what ways am I using more resources than the environment can sustain?
I have received the resources of a rich earth from previous generations. It has been entrusted to me to pass down to future generations. How might I insure that their lives will be as rich in resources as mine has been? What small choices might create huge differences? Is there even one more thing I can do (one less trip in the car, one less minute in the shower, one less t-shirt in my closet. A t-shirt requires 78 gallons of water to make!)
You may even want to commit to living one week on two gallons of water a day as an eye-opening learning experience.
Then receive this prayer-poem of challenge and hope.
In birthwaters I was nurtured.
In a flood I was born.
With tears I see the stress I have caused this world
and all who share it with me.
Increase my thirst for justice and mercy,
that I may honor my mother the earth
with the respect and care she deserves.
Increase my thirst for humility
that I may honor my fellow creatures
with the respect and love they each deserve.
Free me from fear so that I may continue
my journey through the barrens of thoughtlessness and greed
into the abundance of the justice realm
where hope, love, and equity define all creation.
Let it be so.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photo © 2010, Immram Chara, LLC
The Singing Fountain photo is available as a special order card or print from my Etsy shop.