The rain filled our cistern that was under the basement in our house in Port-au-Prince Haiti. I was a very young girl (which was a long time ago) and always the cistern interested my brother, my sister and me. We used to sneak out and open the cover unknown to the maids or our parents, to slide in, like in a dark cave and fall in the coolness that invaded our soul. It was fed by rain water collected from our roof. It should have given me an appreciation for the scarcity of water -- but that came later. After all, we were surrounded with water since we lived on an island.
I remember going to the beach every time we could and relishing our outings along a coral reef. We took a small motor boat way out off the shore to swim between long and luminous coral formations with so many diverse Caribbean fishes. The attraction of the deep and the height of the coral formation seemed irresistible to us; it was like an underwater fortress full of life and unimaginable riches. The beauty, the shapes and colors it displayed overwhelmed me.
One time I got off the boat while my friends were getting in. Alone and armed with my spear gun, I was safe. I swam to a place all sunlit and looking like a pool; white sand, with the light falling on a slant and creating marvelous patterns, maybe twelve feet under me. I was mesmerized. Suddenly I knew I was being watched. A barracuda, a huge one -- I remember it being huge -- was swimming creating neat circles around me. My brother-in-law who was like a fish himself had told me many stories about Barracudas. In the Caribbean they are the next most dangerous fish after sharks. I froze, nearly dropping my gun that I trailed along my side instead of using it, and started to swim toward the boat knowing that I could not out swim a Barracuda but taking my chances anyway. It was a simple reaction in my mad pursuit to safety.
My friends on the boat waved at me, smiling from a distance when I lifted up my head to get my bearings, until they noticed that my swimming was at a pace much too fast for being normal. They put the boat in gear and I arrived to it out of breath, barely able to tell them that a Barracuda wanted me for his next lunch.
One of our friends puffed up his chest, macho that he was, and told me "I will bring you your Barracuda." Just moments later, he, too, was swimming at full speed toward the boat. "My god a huge Barracuda," I never forgot!
Water was a pleasure and an adventure. We loved swimming at the time. With my sister's family, we went to a river on the outside of the city to spend a day of picnicking and fun. We settled on its shore and found a green pool where my sister and I took off our bikini tops and talked and laughed a storm, once in awhile shooing our curious husbands away. It is one of my best memories of this time, sitting in the water and watching our families downstream swimming and kicking water.
But I live now in Colorado where water is becoming scarce with the weather changes out West. We live inland and rely totally on our lakes and rivers. I live close to a lake created by a dam and it is already maybe 10 feet or more below its original level. Its sandy borders lay dry and whitish and remind me every time I pass by that water is indeed the stuff of life.
When I do the dishes by hand, I turn off the water and first wash everything with only my sponge being soapy wet, then rinse them with a diminished flow of water. My husband saves water while his shower warms up and captures it in bottles labeled "plants." We do what we can. I keep thinking of so many women or children who have to walk each day to the nearest source of water and bring it on their back to a simple, humble home. Water that is not necessarily potable. My water comes easily,safely in a faucet. In so many parts of the world clean water is a luxury. Many people are dying now is Haiti with its epidemic of cholera, a waterborne disease. When I went to Cambodia, we gave money to build a pump and a well and we hope it got used for the community that was so poor.
Clean water is our safety and our life giver. Water here comes from melting snows and ice that cover our mountains and feed the rivers. There is talk here of bringing more water to our growing city from the Pueblo reservoir one hour south of town.
The Colorado river that springs from Rocky Mountain National Park to irrigate the Western states is the source of many concerns and competing demands. The Colorado river feeds many towns in many states of the West where the water shortage is greatly alarming.
I like to think of my days spent at the beach where we spent time under a thatched beach umbrella waiting for the air to get hot to the skin in the afternoons; we would then close our eyes in ecstasy while cooling off in the nearby waters. Sometimes little fish nibbled at our skin and that was such a treat.
Whether ocean water or river or lake waters; they all are our most precious commodity. I think that water is also our big connection, our link. I remember sitting on the beach thinking that on one more shore around the world, in the same ocean, someone is also sitting by the beach and thinking of our sense of connection, our common humanity just as I was.
Ships connect us and run these deep routes of the world as they have for centuries. They run rivers as well as oceans and it makes with airplanes in the air, the global village our earth has become and will stay. Water is our life blood. After all, it makes us human; we are mostly water.
Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre
Editing by Barry Kaplan