I wanted to talk about water. I wanted to tell you what I remember about the last big California drought back in the 70s, about how we were only allowed to flush the toilets a couple of times a day and how my mother used to run the hose from the washing machine into the garden to water the plants–especially the hydrangea which never seemed to get enough. Funny, because of that I never liked those plants when I was a kid. Now they are one of my favorites.
The first time I came to Santa Fe , I got a letter in the mail explaining the retreat center’s policy on water usage. The told us only to flush toilets when they really needed it. They encouraged us to take military-style showers which consisted of rinsing quick, turning off the water to soap up, then turning it back on to rinse again. Even during the worst of the California drought, I’d never done that. It was eye-opening.
These days I keep a bowl in the bathroom sink to catch hand washing water for flushing the toilet or watering plants. I wear clothes longer between washes. I don’t plant hydrangeas.
Water is one of the most difficult things to do without. They say that a person can live without food for more than three weeks, but without water, only about three days. Especially in the desert when summer humidity levels can drop as low as 4%. But I’m not just talking about survival here. I’m talking about the everyday mundane tasks like washing our hands, or doing the laundry or dishes. We are so used to turning on the tap, it can be hard to resist. Would we be able to survive in a world like the one in the film? How about a world like Frank Herbert’s Dune where even the clothing is designed to recycle every bead of sweat and then some? It’s hard to say, but with California in the midst of their worst drought in history, and the southwest sweltering and dry as a bone, I hope we can.