February 23, 2010
Gush and flow. Trickle. Pool. Cool sip. Celebration.
Oceans. Rivers. Fountains. Faucets.
Dreams. Birth. Renewal. Life.
Water is the focus of this month’s Social Justice Challenge over at Maw Books, with thanks to Hannah at Word Lily for organizing. While I didn’t post answers to the questions posed earlier this month, I have been thinking about water—its abundance and its scarcity; our use and over-use of it; the necessity for clean water, and the absence of it in many places.
Some sobering statistics:
3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease. Approximately one in eight people (884 million) lack access to safe water supplies. (Water.org)
Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a lack of access to clean water. In many communities, women and children spend up to 60 percent of each day walking to collect water. Many girls stop going to school when they reach puberty due to lack of access to a latrine. (H20 for Life)
Worth thinking about when we turn on the tap, or flush, or wash up.
Saturday morning, I woke up with the song “Cool Water” in my head, the version Joni Mitchell recorded with Willie Nelson on her 1988 album Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm. Do you know it? (Original song, about a mirage, by Bob Nolan):
All day I face the barren waste
Without a taste of water
Old Dan and I
Our throats slate dry
Our spirits cry out for water
Cool clear water
See all of the lyrics and listen to a sample of the song here.
We all need cool, clear water, but it’s heartbreaking and infuriating to know that so many don’t have it. So how to help? There’s the obvious (and needed) monetary contributions to numerous organizations involved in clean-water and environmental efforts. Reducing our own use of water, and not taking this resource for granted, are certainly other steps. I’d like to identify a student-led project in my area that might be a good match to get involved in.
On the reading front, my TBR pile continues to grow with the many titles suggested through the challenge. If you’re interested, take a look at the lists.
My own reading over the past days has focused on water-related poems, a swirl and variety of them, and a kind of buoy, I think, for anyone contemplating the alarming state of the world’s water situation. Among poems I’ve explored:
“Wells,” which I mentioned in a January post, after the earthquake in Haiti. It certainly fits with this month’s theme, too. It’s from Marilyn Singer’s 2003 children’s collection How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water. An excerpt:
–From “Wells” by Marilyn Singer
Also from the world of children’s poetry, Charlotte Zolotow’s “River Winding,” the title poem from her 1970 collection:
Rain falling, what things do you grow?
Snow melting, where do you go?
Wind blowing, what trees do you know?
River winding, where do you flow?
–”River Winding” by Charlotte Zolotow (1970, Abelard-Schuman; 2nd edition, 1978, Crowell). To learn more about Charlotte Zolotow and her work, please visit her site.
Yesterday, I found myself drawn to Randall Jarrell’s “Well Water”:
What a girl called “the dailiness of life”
(Adding an errand to your errand. Saying,
“Since you’re up . . .” Making you a means to
A means to a means to) is well water
Pumped from an old well at the bottom of the world.
Read the whole poem here.
And I’ll wrap this post with one I really like, Mary Oliver’s “At Blackwater Pond”:
At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
As the month winds down, I’m eager to see what others have been reading. Links to those reviews can be found here.