A tall drink of water.
I'm drinking a not-so-big glass of water after a fairly long and exhausting walk. My water had run out towards the end of the day's journey, and I was sooo thirsty, and I literally dropped everything at the door of my room at today's destination and ran into the bathroom to fill a glass of water and gulp it down. But the glass was tiny, so I had to fill it up again and again to finally quench my thirst.
When I was a boy I remember one of my aunt's describing someone as 'a tall drink of water'. I don't know why, but I thought it was some kind of an insult, and remember thinking that was a dumb insult because, like today, a tall glass of water could be a very refreshing thing. It was a phrase that went out of style--probably with my aunt's generation--and it wasn't until I was grown up that I discovered that it was actually a very complementary phrase to describe a man who was considered very attractive and a handsome catch. Unfortunately, that phrase was never applied to me (and I do wish I was taller).
Today there were so many reminders of the grace of water. Yes, at the tap in my bathroom, but all day long. When I get ready to pack up and go in the morning, one of the necessary rituals is to fill my bladder. Not that one. There's a plastic one that is stored in my backpack, with a long hose-of-a-straw that emerges for ready service right next to my face as I am walking. On my first Camino, my good friend Phil reminded me to always 'keep hydrated' and recommended that I equip myself with a water bladder so that I would always have a vital supply. That was awesome advice. Of course it helps if you fill it all the way up in the morning, not like today when I tried to save some weight in the backpack. Never do that again.
I walked above and beside water all day. There were spectacular ocean views along the path, and at one point the Camino took me right beside a beautiful beach which was at the bottom of a mountain. It was a grace to be waterside until I realized that of course the path would inevitably lead back UP the mountain, and that was a struggle. There were many moments of required hydration up that near vertical climb, hence the shortage later on the route.
But once on top, the vital water escaping out of every pore of my body, God sent some rain, the first of this trip. It wasn't a downpour--though I wouldn't have complained. It was this gentle shower. "Here, you tall drink of water" God said, and the Holy Sprinkler followed me for a good long stretch. I opened my mouth like a little kid, which really didn't do anything for my thirst, but the rain sure felt great upon my face and arms and legs.
It struck me that we're just a bunch of walking bags of water, around 70% of our body weight. In every living thing, there is water. Without water, there is no life. No meadows of beautiful wildflowers and green grasses, no stately trees, no birds to nest in them, no animals, no bugs, no fish, no us. This whole amazing biosphere would cease to exist should it all suddenly evaporate. And how lucky we are to live in a world where we can turn on the miraculous tap and fill up a tiny glass with pure, refreshing water of life. Scientists have just confirmed that there is a vast body of liquid water under one of the poles of Mars, God's grace even on the red planet.
Keep hydrated, I was told, or you might suffer heat stroke. Still, as vital as it is, we continue to abuse the water of our home. As I walked on heights with stunning ocean views, I passed drains filled with polluted water. As much as we know this to be the source of life, we often knowingly choose short term economic benefits that bespoil the very creation that sustains us.
Sometimes I think our thirst for water is like our necessity for love. There have been people in my life who have been so parched for love that they could never leave the well, and no one could ever slake their thirst. Maybe we are all a little like that. I have long thought that if we really believed that God loved us (as we often tell ourselves and others) there would be nothing and no one who would be able to hurt us physically, mentally or emotionally. It we really believed God loved us to the very core, we would never engage in any deadly sins against one another, or against God's grace-filled creation. And yet we do, don't we all, and yet we are surrounded by an ocean of God's love, if we have eyes and a heart to see it.
A few days ago while I was enjoying the celebration of St James in the streets of Santander, I passed a family in a plaza filled with festive activities. One of the children in the family was a girl who looked to be 7 or 8 years old. She was crying quietly, tears streaming down her face. I had no idea what might have been the problem--she looked fine physically, no evidence of a fall or injury--but I guessed that she might have been hurt by the words of one of her siblings, or perhaps was sad because she was prevented from getting her way. It was just a moment in her short lifetime, one that she would forget, I'm sure, within a day or two. But it struck me that this water that sustains our bodies can carry our pain as well.
I don't believe there are tears in heaven, even tears of joy, because in heaven love and us finally become one.
Like the water
of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all,
or want it all.
In its abundance
it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore
to drink our fill,
while it flows
through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us,
except we keep returning to its rich waters
willing to die,
into the commonwealth of its joy.