Tuesday, June 07, 2011

On the Custody and Conservation of Water

New Jersey is getting ready for another heat wave. We have been high, and dry, and hot for the past couple of weeks. There was a respite or two of cool nights and bright, clear days...but I have a feeling those are gone for a while. Storms, heat and humidity. Lovely.

Lovely, really, for the garden. Our hard work this spring has paid off with the blessings of new beds and plantings of ornamental trees, flowers and shrubs. The raised beds we put if for the growing of vegetables is chock full of goodies. The zucchini is growing fast. Our kale is really looking great. There are buds and flowers (and even signs of early fruit) on the pepper and tomato plants. The lettuce and greens are on their second time around and the peas are starting to recover from the rabbit assaults earlier in the season. We are blessed.

And busy.

All that new growth is needing care and protection from pests. All these young plants need lots of water.

Each morning, after the dog walk Laura and I hit the yards and pull out the hoses in order to make sure the gardens have enough water to make it through the day-sustained for the hard work of turning sunlight and soil nutrients into food, bright colors and beautiful smells. Water is important, paramount, to their health. We draw that water for the most part from the hoses off the house/city supply. Soon, we hope, we'll start using water from a reclamation barrel we put in a couple of weeks ago. All that water, giving life and bringing forth growth. It's been a blessing to embrace that chore of watering as a spiritual exercise...and more and more I find myself meditating during the watering on the sacramental grace of the work. It isn't just about spraying things down and soaking earth. It is about striking a healthy balance in life for living things placed in our custody and care.

As we get ready to mark the Feast of Pentecost with baptisms, I am seeing some strong parallels between what I do each morning in service to the garden and the work of sprinkling a little cool tap water on the uncreased young foreheads of new souls being brought to a life in Christ. The water of Baptism is an apt sign of the grace of the Spirit. As John Chrysostom said in one of the Catechetical Instructions:
"...why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each as the Spirit wills."
Simple water: two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Basic, elemental and crucial to life on this planet as we know it. It is so essential...and yet it is not until it is given freely and with abundance that it in itself can give life.

Tomorrow...what about floods?

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