Charlotte has had a particularly dry year this winter and spring, although no one is saying the “d” word yet. I moved here from Northern California where two particularly bad droughts have imprinted on me a need to keep track of rainfall, mostly on the subconscious level. The droughts I lived through there required us to try to save our landscaping by using “grey” water, the rinse water from the washing machine delivered through a garden hose, to take Navy showers by getting wet, turning off the water, soaping up, and then rinsing off, and to put a brick in the toilets and to flush only when necessary.
The first year I was here, 2008, there was a drought with watering of lawns limited to three days a week. This year, just in the month of April, Weather.com reported 1.44 inches of rain for Charlotte compared to April’s average rainfall of 2.95. At the middle of May, we’ve recorded .42 inches of rain compared with 3.66 average precipitation for the whole month. It did rain overnight last night, and rain is predicted for today and tomorrow, so maybe we’ll catch up to the averages yet.
Dryness can be part of our lives in more personal ways: a job that we cling to even though it does not engage us, a relationship that needs work, a life lacking meaning or purpose, the absence of someone we love, maybe through death, a milder form of depression or maybe just the nagging feeling that something is missing from our lives. Dryness in a life suggests a kind of dustiness, a lack of flow, an inability to heal what is wrong, or maybe a sense that God doesn’t hear our prayers. That aridity in life is isolating, because we watch others seemingly enjoying what is not within us to enjoy, and we feel even lonelier.
The opposite of dryness is juiciness, ripeness, an ability to enjoy whatever our live consists of, the good and the not-so-good, a full participation in life and a joy taken in the littlest of pleasures. How do we move from the dryness to the juiciness? One way is suggested in the Bible: to draw up water from a well. The wells in the Old and New Testaments are often meeting places for the unexpected, for instance when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at a well. Water, in this case symbolically drawn up from a deep well inside of us, is the living water that Jesus offers the Samaritan woman. Living water is the divine source of life and liveliness, a moistening agent that allows the juices and the blood to flow, that calms and soothes and washes away the unwanted, that heals our souls. Water echoes our deepest selves; after all we consist of 57% water(in an adult male).
Whether we are drawing up the “water” from an inner well or seeking the waters of an ocean or lake for our vacations, water is a substance that plays a big role in our lives. Not only is it necessary for life, to keep us liquid and the blood flowing, its presence in the form of soaking baths or watering the garden meets our needs on many levels. I met a teacher once whose townhouse was right on the San Francisco Bay. She said that it was like living at a resort, coming home to the water every evening. Small fountains in the house are a contemporary way to use water as balm for the soul without having to travel: the sound of water is so soothing. Or we can just close our eyes and imagine ourselves in a setting with water—a lake or pond, waterfall, ocean—and derive all the benefits of water without getting wet! A long, hot soak is wonderful for alleviating the aches and pains in the body and soul.
There may be a natural rhythm to dryness and juiciness in our lives like a climate’s rainy and dry seasons. Certainly dryness is a part of the cycle when we are adjusting to something new and probably unwanted in our lives. It takes time after a death of someone close or an illness or loss of a job to incorporate a new reality, to return to the feeling of moving forward in our lives. The trouble starts when we never get out of the aridity, a feeling of being trapped in a dry place that we can’t escape. It may take more vigorous efforts(which can seem impossible from a dry place) like having a circle of people praying for us daily or undergoing therapy to uncover the resistance to moving on.
Today the earth is darker, moister because of the rain last night. The plants contrast more vividly with the soil with the raindrops still on their leaves. Moisture brings out the best in the landscape, as the thirsty plants are at last satisfied. The same works with us, too; we, in our dryness, begin to flourish again when the water, the living waters again begin to flow and we can return to wanting to move forward in our lives, to be creative, to try new things. We can almost feel the juices flow.