By Barbara Hummel
PHOENIX, Ariz., USA, September 6. IF you are reading this, it’s a pretty good bet that you love the water. In fact, if you were to calculate all the hours you spend each week either swimming, showering, dishwashing, toothbrushing, or water guzzling, you’d discover that you spend between 10 and 30 hours in close contact with this wonderful substance.
Water is something we take for granted…until something like Hurricane Katrina comes along. It’s only when water goes whacko that we realize how vital it is to our well-being and how complacent we can become about our nicely ordered existence.
Last night I watched glumly as the evening news reported the devastation on America’s Gulf Coast. The video footage and the stories of human suffering and loss are almost beyond belief. Also on the screen was our old friend — the water — but looking very unfamiliar, like a very off-color, sickening joke. Water was everywhere — unrelenting, massive, swirling amounts of it. There was water where it just shouldn’t BE. And for all the survivors, there was no water where it SHOULD be.
This morning when I got up at 5 a.m. for swim practice, I had a new appreciation for water. The dishes were nice and clean when I opened the dishwasher that had run during the night. The water was right THERE when I turned on the tap to mix some Gatorade. My car was right THERE where I’d left it yesterday. There were 15 flavors of coffee waiting in 15 different containers at the local deli. There were some puddles on the road from heavy rain yesterday, but big deal.
When I got to the pool the temp was kind of high – 83 – but at least the water was IN the pool and the pool was still INSIDE the building. The lane lines were in place, giving everyone a nice, straight path to swim in. There were no muddy waves lapping at the windows. The water was hot and endless when we took showers after practice. When I got home, I went to do the daily chlorine test in our small outdoor pool. When I dipped the test strip into the pool, I thought, “This would seem ludicrous to anyone living in Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama.”
When I got to my office (with a fresh pot of tea in hand), I turned on the computer and there were more photos and stories of my friend, the water, gone amuck. How could this happen? What if it happened here where I live? How to respond? How to still think GO SWIM in a week when that phrase would strike some people as the ultimate insult?
I chose what looked like a worthwhile relief group and made a donation. Then I started writing. If you have water as usual this week, embrace it. Make the most of it. Treat it as the incredible natural (and limited) resource that it is and never take it for granted. Go swim with all the ferocity and grace and joy you can muster. Go swim because you can.