Saturday, January 8, 2011

Water and Words

Thoughts creep in at the strangest times.  While brushing my teeth last night, I realized I had done something I learned to do here that I wouldn't have thought twice about in the past, living anywhere else.  I wet the toothbrush and then turned off the tap while brushing.  Water, that resource that seemed infinite down in the valley, is precious and limited.  My water comes from a well down by the road in the front pasture.  We once went away for a few days one summer and my neighbor came to tend my garden and animals.  She left a just a trickle running from a hose, and that simple act of forgetfulness ran the well dry so that nothing came from the faucets when we got home.  The thought of no water is really terrifying.  It's the worst thing to lose when the power goes out.  I can always tell a flatlander if they insist on helping with dish washing because they will let the water run while rinsing a pan full, instead of turning it off in between plates, etc.  I really regret those days in "another life" when I would use the hose to clean leaves from the driveway instead of a broom or let the sprinklers go until there was runoff down the gutters.  I was thoughtless and wasteful.  It's not just fear of running the well dry; it's the realization that I am, as we all are, a conservator of our world. 

Arden loaned me a book when she was here the other night, telling me that it was a real page-turner and I would just devour it.  It had been loaned to her and she had received a special dispensation to loan it on to me.  The days are sunny now, and I am giving myself permission to go out to sit on the deck after the barn chores and read.  A long time ago, when I first read Shogun by James Clavell, it was the only book I'd ever read that I put down for awhile just before the finish, because I didn't want to leave those characters or have that story end.  Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is just such a book, and instead of devouring it (as I so often do), I am savoring it like a mouthful of chocolate mousse (or a piece of See's candy), reading and rereading passages, and setting it aside to pick up again as a reward for duties elsewhere.  The author has a lyric turn of phrase, nothing like the self-conscious, pompous descriptions of Hemingway or Dickens.  Roberts's words flow in a molten stream that simply draws you in.  Shogun was set in Japan.  Shantaram takes place in India.  Having just seen several documentaries of India, Roberts makes the sights, sounds, and smells of that country live.  He writes the accents and dialogues of the Indians without making them cartoons.  You hear the unique cadence of English as a second language, and that's not easy to write.  In addition to being entertained by the story, I feel I'm learning at the same time.  I don't know where this story is going to lead me, and I'm going to get there slowly, but I am a willing follower.  In a way, I suppose I'm conserving this, too.

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