On Appreciating Water

As part of mindful eating, I sometimes talk about how it can help to focus on a feeling of gratitude for food. But recently I had an experience that made me appreciate something even more basic.

Water.

More specifically, running water out of faucets. Water that comes when you want it, in seemingly limitless supply. But when it’s not limitless, and it’s not there when you want it, it gives you a whole different perspective.

Running Out

It started on a Thursday morning when I got water for tea, and I noticed the flow from my kitchen faucet was really low. At first, I didn’t know if it was just that faucet, so I checked elsewhere. Same in the downstairs bathroom faucet, and upstairs, nothing came out of the bathtub and only a trickle from the other bathroom faucet.

I tried not to panic, but this was not a good sign. On the plus side, since I live in a condo development, I could call the property management company for help. When I did, they told me the bad news.

A water main had broken not far from where I live, and they had no timeframe for when water would be back.

Luckily I keep a pitcher of water in the fridge, and since it was snowing, I knew that in a worst-case scenario I could melt snow to flush the toilets and do dishes.

But then I got a reprieve! Around 11 a.m., I decided to try the faucet for the heck of it, and I had water. Yay!

Except it was a tease. I lost water again by 5 p.m., and this time I didn’t get it back for a day and a half. I was able to fill up a bunch of water bottles elsewhere, but it wasn’t ideal.

Many Uses of Water

It’s amazing how when you take something for granted, you don’t notice how much you use it. But as soon as it’s gone, or even reduced, it becomes crystal clear.

For example, last week I mentioned how I like to have celery with sunflower seed butter (since I can’t have much peanut butter) as a snack. Well, I’d gotten some organic celery on Wednesday, and when I went to cut it up, I remembered I needed to wash it. But it felt wasteful to only use the water to clean the celery, so I saved the rinse water and added it to my bucket to use for flushing toilets.

Then I pulled out the hand sanitizer that I usually take camping, to minimize washing my hands.

I also realized I needed to forgo filling up my humidifiers (one downstairs, one in the bedroom), which meant that by the time I got water back on Saturday morning, I had lots of static electricity going on. I’m afraid I shocked the cats a couple of times when I patted them.

Plus, I felt like I couldn’t do any cooking while I didn’t have water, especially anything that was particularly messy, like ground beef. Although one of my neighbors filled up a pot of water at her son’s house and then used it to make vegetarian lasagna, including a homemade sauce! I was impressed.

Thank goodness I’d done laundry and taken a shower on Thursday during the brief spell when I had water! I would have survived without it, of course, and I did have offers to go elsewhere for a shower, but I was glad I didn’t have to.

How Lucky We Are

All of this made me realize in a much deeper way how lucky we are to have running water, and here in Portland, water that’s safe and good to drink.

Not everyone is so lucky. According to Water.org, 785 million people in the world (which is 1 out of 9 people) lack access to safe water. Furthermore, more than 6x the population of the United States doesn’t have a household water connection and have to spend time getting water. When you consider that the U.S. population is estimated at over 330 million, that adds up fast.

I thought about the time it took me to fill up water bottles, and then to melt snow, and I realized it was minimal compared to the time it takes many people to get safe drinking water.

All of which meant that when the water came back on Saturday, I found myself extremely grateful in ways I hadn’t been before.

I don’t know how long this gratitude will last, but I’m trying to hang onto it.

Remembering Not to Take it For Granted

Even after we got the water back, I kept my bucket of water on hand for a couple of days, just in case. And at least my cat Fezzik enjoyed it – for him, it was just a big water dish.

In general, though, I want to try to take fewer things for granted. This includes water, but also the easy access we have to food, and many other things.

How about you? Is there anything you want to pay more attention to, so you don’t take it for granted?

For now, I hope you also have access to safe, clean, running water, and I’ill be thinking of those who don’t have it.

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