Saturday, June 4, 2011


THIS WEEK IN BIRDLAND I got to realize how spoiled I am. First the floods. I was happily digging into some projects in the back of the house, when Ellis popped in. My youngest was on his way to an overnight visit, and went to the basement to grab some clothes from the drier. That’s when he alerted me to the basement’s flooding. I ran down to see about 2 ½ inches of water. Luckily he found it before it got too deep, and I quickly surmised that it was a sump pump malfunction. I got the sump going again and the floods receded, but that adventure reminded me that I’d better check the well pit. In the spring when we get a lot of flooding, the well pit that houses the workings of our pump gets full of water. If the water level comes up to the pressure switch, it will short out, and that’s an expensive repair. It’s easy to forget to check the well pit. Since I have to lift a 70-pound cement plug to check it, it’s easy to put it off even when I do remember.

Sure enough, the well pit was full of water, only a few inches below the pressure switch. I ran to get the spare sump pump, but it was a top-heavy pedestal pump and when I tried to lower it into the water, it would tip, wetting the motor and shorting out the connection. By then, Ellis had taken off for his visit and I was alone.
Picture a plump, middle-aged woman trying to empty a good-sized pit with a bucket on a rope. 
With all the rain we’d had, I was afraid the water was still rising. It was still flowing like a river through the grass waterway, and more rain was on the way. I pulled out gallon after gallon, and then went to town to buy a new submersible pump. My middle boy, Dylan, came back with me from town to help and we pumped out the pit, thinking we’d solved the problem.  

 Next morning I went out to check and found it filling up again, which was strange since it had stopped raining, and the floodwaters in the fields had receded. I lowered my new, expensive submersible pump into the water and pumped it out again. When the water got low enough, I saw the problem: a leak in the ancient pipes leading from the well to the pressure tanks.  Then the drought: I called my aunts next door, and warned them that we had to turn off the well. We each filled pitchers to get us through until the water could be turned on again. Of course this happens on Memorial Day. In the morning I got a hold of Perry, who would come out later, although he already had a full day of work  scheduled.
"Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? Living without running water for a little while is not big deal. Dishes and laundry pile up, you can’t wash your hands properly, and you think that all you want to drink is some cold water. A nice hot shower sounds pretty good, too. These little inconveniences gave me a chance to reflect on the 1.3 billion people who don’t have clean, safe water to drink, the 2.5 billion who don’t have access to sanitation. I begin to see washing my hands as a luxury, and I ponder my connection to these people. Am I using more of my share? Perhaps not in my household usage (though I can certainly revisit ways to conserve at home), but Tara Lohan tells us in her Alternet article, “Our Drinkable Water Supply Is Vanishing” that 70% of the world’s water usage is agricultural. Is there a connection between that number and the half gallon packs of plump strawberries I see at the grocery store? Are they a product of irrigation? How many gallons of water are pumped to produce a gallon of strawberries?
I ponder my connection.

Perry arrived around dinnertime, and assured me he would eat later. He strapped a light to his head like a miner and descended into the well pit. He diagnosed the problem and measured the pipe for the correct fittings. It was dark when he finished. He’d return the next day and restore our running water. We would go another day with the bucket flush. We would have another day to ponder our connection to this element that is vital to our communities and our lives, another day to be grateful for small things we take for granted, like hand washing, and friendly professionals who go without their supper to attend to our needs.

Appreciate Beauty; Repair Peace: Blessed Be.

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