A Walk to the Well

No Water on Thanksgiving Day Reminds Us to Be Thankful

Just in time for Thanksgiving, we had no water. This discovery greeted us when we arrived home late at night; by Thanksgiving Day’s dawn we were outside checking the waterline from one end of the property to the other. We examined pumps and filters, hiked up to empty storage tanks, and set out to look at the well. The well is about a quarter of a mile from the house along a narrow trail through oak and sycamore trees, a lovely walk in the early morning light. But now we had explored all variables, and the source of the problem remained a mystery.

In the meantime, even with a supply of bottled water on hand, we kept discovering the little nuisances the shortage implied: no showers or flushing, for example. Our quandary was compounded by the fact that we had a dinner planned for eight people that evening, an unusual event for us, and my sister was visiting and staying overnight. At one point, I simply sat bewildered on the steps in my sweatpants and knit cap. Maybe it was the water problem, maybe a shortage of sleep, but I just didn’t know what to do.

Our daughter Miranda called from England and suggested I make a cup of tea—if not the solution, it was at least a lull-filler and a manageable course of action. I carefully poured a bit of distilled water from an emergency jug and waited for the whistling of the kettle.

The irony of this situation was not lost on me. It was Thanksgiving, after all, a time for conscious gratitude. Wasn’t this the perfect opportunity to contemplate the many things we take for granted? And wasn’t I fully expecting to twist a tap and receive all the running water I wanted without even wondering at the miracle of it? I thought of women in Africa walking miles to fetch water from unsanitary waterholes, waiting to fill their containers, carrying back the heavy loads on their heads, and sometimes returning for a second trip in the course of a day. It was hard to imagine, sobering to contemplate.

And then, in the midst of these unhelpful musings, our water suddenly returned. “We have water!” I shouted. I don’t know what my husband did to make it happen, but I called Miranda, and, as she later said, “If hundred-dollar bills had started falling from trees and rivers began running diamonds, I don’t think I’d hear half the excitement that you put into those words.”

I suppose the entire anecdote could serve to remind us how lucky our life is, and it really did amplify my gratitude. Water in the tanks? Give thanks. But it’s also about life on this ranch—beautiful, yes, but trouble enough to keep you humble. Nothing is flat, and nothing is easy. If it isn’t blowing, it’s raining too hard, and if it isn’t raining, it’s frighteningly dry. And if it isn’t the fence in need of mending, it’s the batteries for the solar power system that seem to be malfunctioning, or a window that’s leaking, or something gone awry with the pump. There are mice in the car, bats in the doorway, and even now some noisy rodent gnawing in the wall. So we coexist with nature and try to keep our technology humming, but we never assume we are in charge.

Maybe a walk to the well, metaphorically speaking, is the perfect way to start Thanksgiving Day—taking note of what makes sense and works, breathing thank you.


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