Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Our water buckets are white. One, unlabeled, is perhaps an old restaurant bucket; the second bears the logo of a sheetrock compound. In their current use, however, they are clean, well washed, and well cared for. We may not have running water, but these buckets are our source of “walking water.”
With a bucket in each hand, I walk down to the river. Our path is the gentlest it can be considering the slope of the land. A few hundred yards in length, it descends the ravine over seeps and downed trees, past viburnum and under the cover of scraggly pines. The sound of the river – easily heard inside the cabin much of the year - is becoming softer with the touch of winter. In the spring, the water is often raging with the melt of ice and snow, and the influx of spring rains. Come the summer, hot, dry days can quickly leave the river much lower and quieter, exposing otherwise unknown rocks and features. By autumn, it rises again, the extent to which is dependent on the weather. As winter descends, it begins to ice over. Such is the condition it’s in now. Snow and slush blur the distinction between bank and river, dull the cacophony of rushing water, and easily disguise the quality of the ice beneath. Prudence is essential.
At some point each winter, the watering hole becomes inaccessible. It is necessary, then, to carry along a hatchet as well. It tests the ice and carves a hole in which each bucket can be dipped. Maintenance can be daily if the winter temperatures don’t moderate. Regardless, care must occupy the forefront of our minds: one mis-step and the situation quickly turns dire.
Once the buckets are filled (and not to the tip-top, so as to avoid the cold effects of sloshed water freezing on my clothes), I head back up the hill. If I wasn’t warm to start, I certainly am by the time I return to the cabin.
Back inside, the process has just begun. We have a ceramic filter through which we drip all river water, erring towards caution with regards to water quality. A stomach bug would certainly dampen our enthusiasm. Mica, to note, does just fine drinking “raw” water. On the rare occasion when Ryan or I have done the same through oversight or impatience, we, too, have been unaffected.
I am, some winter mornings, reluctant to make the trek to the riverbank. Breaking trail through the snow, leaving the warmth of the cabin, rushing myself with the next endeavor already in mind. Even so, I routinely end up appreciating the walk and the fresh air, as well as the act itself. Upon my return to the cabin I look forward to a drink, and am pleased at the explicit connection between my wants and my actions. It is fulfilling to daily be reminded of life’s simple needs, and to satiate those through simple acts. Through such a pattern, I – we – negate the struggle to sift through life’s hub-bub in search of the “basics.” In the mundane and simple – like the hauling of water - there is something infinite. Identity, understanding, discernment, and appreciation are the unexpected benefits offered by the daily acts we perform to care for sparse necessities.
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