Growing up in the Tin Palace, we collected rainwater from the roof into a 1,000 gallon cistern, and that was all the water we had. In the winter, that was all well and good, because the rain would replentish the cistern as fast as we could empty it–sometimes faster, in fact, and water would pour out of the overflow valve and the top of the tank. Winter for me was a time of long, hot showers, leisurely dish washing, and rampant toilet flushing.
But in April or May, we would have to start conserving, to make the water last until the next rain. Sometimes we didn’t make it, and would have to buy water. But most of the time, we did.
The “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down” sign went up on the bathroom door. Dishes were done using a minimum of water–showers were quick and to the point (and not every day, unless you’d gotten particularly dirty). You turned the shower on to wet yourself, turned off the valve at the top, soaped, rinsed, and that was it. If you were washing your hair, that was done in intermittent spurts as well–usually in the summer my hair was bundled up and away, allowed to be greasy all week until I couldn’t take it anymore and had to wash it. I never smelled, unlike some hippies, because I took care to keep myself clean, but I didn’t have the luxury of staying under the shower water and musing over life, that’s for sure. When I stayed at friend’s houses, I would leap upon the shower with glee in the morning, reveling in my ability to leave the water on during my whole shower–and people would still comment on how short my showers were.
I was just glad to have running water–on Molybos, water was hauled from the well, laboriously, for all household tasks. America is a strange place, where water gushes forth at the turn of a spigot.
I remember once in high school when I had a particularly miserable day, and all I wanted to do was take a shower and mull things over, but I had taken a shower already in the morning. So I went into the bathroom and stood in the shower, water off, thinking. The tiles were cool on my feet, and I could hear the house settling and groaning around me, the dry grasses crackling in the yard. The cedar boards which lined our shower were cool to the touch, and the nasturtium that grew through the crack next to the “cold” tap was almost all leaves, green and fibrous, brushing against me.
Water was a luxury throughout my youth. I was shocked to see how other people abused water–and when I left for college, I was mortified at the thought of taking multiple showers a day, of washing your hair daily, of leaving water on to run, not fixing leaking toilets. Ornamental gardens were frippery to me–I couldn’t imagine wasting water on flowers. I couldn’t imagine leaving a glass of water unfinished at a restaurant, of flushing the toilet for every bit of business you did there, of having water fights.
It is with dismay that I read news reports about the “unprecedented rain.” It seems like every day the front page of the Chronicle is bemoaning the rain. Truth be told, California has been experiencing a drought of varying intensity since the 1980s. Rainfall hasn’t been at normal levels for a very long time, and it disgusts me to read the yuppie whining about rain “spoiling their weekends”.
Fuck your weekends, and your precedents too.
The rain is increasing our snowpack, refilling our reservoirs, and renewing the earth. Most of the world views water as a precious resource–Americans are still flushing it down the fucking toilet. It might shock you to know, gentle readers who experience gushing pure water at the touch of a tap, that people live off the contents of a 1,000 gallon cistern for five months, that they drink that water unfiltered. We are all dependent on rainfall for water–some of us face it more immediately. In my eyes, the later the rain falls, and the earlier it starts, the more water to shower in, to drink with, to wash dishes. The more water to fill the river to swim in on a lazy summer day. The more water to irrigate the crops you fill your table with. The more water to nourish fish.
Right now, I live in town, and am connected to city water. Recently there was a series of articles expressing concern about the water storage level in the city reservoir. There was discussion of creating a second reservoir to ensure we didn’t run out of water some hot, dry summer. Water is an ever-present need, and for those who choose to be conscious of it, something which is constantly under discussion. We all use it: most of you seem to take it for granted.
Readers from California may remember the drought which crippled the state in the early nineties. Or maybe not. Perhaps your memories fade so quickly that for you water is always there, an easy to attain resource, which requires no more thought than the spin of a tap.
Think outside the narrow box of your personal desires. We live in a world where we rely on collected rainfall–whether trapped in aquifers where are thousands of years old, collected in reservoirs, or directly held in storage tanks and cisterns. Rejoice in the rain. Go out into it, feel the touch of the drops on your skin, and imagine each drop dancing its way into the glass of water you drink later, the long shower you take, the dishwater you use. Take a day to sit at home and read, clean the stove, or watch a movie. Or go out hiking in the rain, let it kiss your skin, and come home fulfilled. Watch the patterns it makes in your slowly overflowing streets–remember the pleasure you took in it when you were a child.
Carry a damn umbrella if you hate the rain so much, but don’t wish it away for your own selfish desires to have a sunny day. Other people need it. You need it.