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Those who thirst
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Thirst is a word that can mean so many things. When I think of thirsty I usually mean water. Not everyone likes water but I truly love the wetness, the plain taste without additives, and has just a hint of minerals. I’m not thrilled when I taste chlorine or if there is sediment, but as long as it settles on the bottom, I’m fine. I used to live in the mountains of Northern New Mexico on a piece of land with no amenities. We had a well dug and added a hand pump. I lived across the field and up the hill. Every day one of us would have to carry two ten gallon buckets up the hill to home. I could only fill them just over half, otherwise they would spill. I’d put a cover on the bucket and use it as needed. Sometimes the rust from the pipe casing would leave a residue in the bottom of the otherwise clear and slightly sweet, water. I think it added a bit of iron, which is great. Before we had the well, the closest water was in the next town, running through a “canale”. This is a hollowed out log that carries runoff water from above and comes out into a ditch. We would take a 55 gallon drum and carry it in the truck, to the canale to fill. Then it would sit on a stand in my outdoor kitchen. I’d unscrew the cap and let the water come into a jar or bucket for use in cooking, drinking and washing. It could take as much as a week or even two for it to be empty enough for a refill. Out of pure practicality, water was conserved. The water did not always taste great and you did have to let it settle a bit or just drink it anyway. One day, I was tipping it to get the dregs and out came a dead chipmunk. Some of the hair was coming off so it must have been in there at least a couple of days….if not more. I was a bit grossed out by that, but it also gave meaning to the mild and intermittent diarrhea that occurred with regularity. I was really happy to have the well, even with the work of carrying it up the hill. It always seemed so sparkling and clear and I loved the taste of it. I now live in Seattle and I still drink my water straight from the tap. I don’t purify it or buy it in a bottle. I love that there is water flowing into my home that I can get into a glass by opening a spout. How incredible. Taking a shower with hot water is also something that I delight in. Before we had the well, washing up was with a cloth and a small basin of water, while standing at the woodstove. I bathed the kids in a 5 gallon bucket until they were too big and then we moved on to a round aluminum tub that I poured heated water into. Once the well was functioning, we put a black painted 55 gallon barrel on a tall stand so that the sun warmed it and I could stand underneath and have a real shower. Right next to the pump, we placed a porcelain tub. I could build a fire underneath and put a slab of wood inside to keep from sitting directly on the hot bottom. But, the sides were usually ok and it was such a treat. We usually put as many of us in there at a time as we could fit. This was only great in the summer. Winter brought back the celebrated spit bath. Once I moved to the city, I had hot running water. Living in a dry area meant water conservation. I took a shower by getting wet, turning off the spout to soap up (with biodegradable product) and turning it back on to rinse. All the water was collected in a basin I stood in and used to water the garden. I now live in Seattle, which is the opposite. Water is everywhere, often too much. I still don’t take more than a five or ten minute shower, but I am grateful every time I turn on the faucet and hot water showers over my head. I have never underestimated the joy of running hot water.


You are admirably built of stern stuff, and through the lens of this piece, we readers see how it has served you well to build appreciations and awareness of the contrast between our almost too comfortable lives and the challenges and strengths of those who live so much closer to the ground, by choice or necessity. Thanks for showing that gratitude can be built from challenges. Thanks for posting the piece. 🙂

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