We had two dry and hot weeks, so that when rain arrived earlier this week, I felt a lightening of my mood, an easing of the low-level stress of watering gardens of soon-to-be-food and watching the levels of the stored rainwater barrels creep ever lower until the barrels were completely dry.
It gave me a tiny taste of how people in California must feel and how we must all turn our thoughts to the question of potable water and its availability, how we must prioritize its use, how we must find ways to be sensible as well as humane.
We use drinking water to flush our toilets, for pity’s sake. Hard to square that with the places in the world where the drinking water isn’t always safe. I am thinking this evening of the fine work of my friend Helen Bond. You can find more information about her water filtration systems work–the Benkadi Project– in Africa here–
Texas has been in a drought situation for several years and now it is flooding in ways terrible to behold. It is a powerful balance: too little and there is drought. Too much and there is ruin. It is the same with sunshine. We need the right amount of both–the warm and the wet–to grow the food we all eat, here in this land that we tend.
We Pagans often deal in the four classical elements–earth and fire, water and air. And I wonder how much attention we pay to the actual elements around us, the ones that make life possible here on Terra. Are the elements placeholders for support and passion, for transformation and inspiration? Or do we–as we call the quarters in and raise our intentional working circle–do we hold in our hearts and minds and souls the true essence of these symbols? Do we truly honor the fertile soil and thrill to the fire of volcano as well as hearth? Can we hold in a peculiar balance the symbol of water as transformation as well as the blessing of water in aquifer and tap?
It isn’t a binary. Nothing ever is. Water is a symbol. Water is necessary for life here, on this planet, to continue. Can we ever love it, consider it, appreciate it enough? And when there is flood and devastation, we must summon the strength and wisdom to know water’s full power, agency, authority.
It is so with each of the praise-songs we hold as “elements.” How far can we go in honoring them, when we are only lightly in relationship with these things, these building blocks of our lives.
That is, after all, the very meaning of “elemental.”