I have been commissioned to write the 2015-16 Horizon Magazine Presbyterian Women’s Bible Study. For those who know, this is a very big thing and for those who don’t, that’s okay. For me, this will be a three year project, two of which will be devoted to writing and editing and one of which will be presenting and promoting, including social media. This blog will be one of the places I will play with themes and lines of thought as I prepare for the final document. Please consider everything written a first draft with all the mandatory spelling, grammar, and thinking errors that come with wrestling words and sentences to the ground.
While I’ve been reading avidly about water from several different perspectives, the drought headlines of this summer have picked a special urgency. As a city girl from the rainy Pacific Northwest, I don’t think much about water. It comes cold out of the little spigot in my refrigerator’s door or hot from the shower head in the bathroom. I have it on timer for the garden and the lawn. But I do live in Northern California where the majority of summer water comes from dams that capture the winter rains. There is no snow storage in my watershed. The rest of the water comes from wells, four of which are within a mile’s drive of my home. We export our water to the rest of the world. We ship it out in thousand and thousands of wine bottles. Some years, there isn’t enough so we skip watering the lawn but there’s (so far) been enough to keep the house pipes full.
It turns out that water doesn’t just collect in surface rivers and streams but often moves about or stands still under our feet. Rivers are just the place where that water bursts out. Rivers are larger then what we see. And in decent years that’s great, we can pull water from the side of the river where the dirt has already filtered a lot of the gunk. However, that water needs rain to keep moving. If it stops raining then the whole cycle of movement from sky to ocean stops. Or, at least changes.
The Euphrates River that moves from the Turkish Mountains to the Persian Gulf, the river that watered humanity’s first efforts toward civilization, was notorious for significant and sudden changes in course that would leave cities sitting alongside dry riverbeds. One week, you’re fishing for dinner from the front porch and then next week that river, swollen with a mountain rainstorm, breaks a new course hundreds of miles away.
In a discussion in a New York Times blog entry that suggests we have been in an unusually wet cycle here in the American West since the 1950’s. Old Normal was much more dry then what most of us have experienced in our lifetimes, and Old Normal is coming back.* The river’s course appears to be changing yet again and our use of carbon-based power is amplifying the change.
The Euphrates’ ancient fickleness was said to be the prodding of humanity toward organized group activities. Humanity needed water in certain places in order to grow crops and out of other places in order to live. It’s difficult to sleep when water is flowing through your bedroom. We’re being prodded again.
This world is not an easy place to live. Honestly, there’s always something trying to kill us. As a privileged member of a first world economy, I’m very protected from that reality, but chaos still trumps civilization, water still goes where it will go and we have little choice but to catch up. It’s hard to have a city when the river stops running.
The Euphrates is one of the four rivers that our ancient creation stories retold in Genesis tells us originated in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had to leave that garden, that perfect non-killing place of first creation because they took in knowledge and God was concerned that they might keep eating till they had God-like power. Given our ability to re-arrange our geography or to toss some toys up toward other planets, it might appear that God had cause for concern. The advent of the nuclear bomb made it undeniable clear that we have to choose carefully, we can end Life as we Know It. We now have God-like power but chaos remains a formidable opponent. A year ago, an earthquake and a tsunami invaded a carelessly tended nuclear power plant and now the butterflies are having trouble flying.
Part of that same creation story has God placing all of God’s creation in human care. I’m not sure that was a good plan but I also like how this calls us into remembering that we are partners with God in all this. Junior partners, but clearly partners with significant responsibilities. How then do we carry forward good care for what we have been entrusted with?
*http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/13/a-closer-look-at-extreme-drought-in-a-warming-climate/?src=rechp – viewed 8/15/2012
Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody. – Mark Twain