Missing the universal solvent
It was Joanie Mitchell who wrote in her song Big Yellow Taxi the following lyric: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
I thought of that line after what happened at our house last week. It’s all too easy to take things for granted when they are working as they should. Only when the running water in our house stopped running, then stopped walking, and finally let out a series of small drips and came to a halt entirely, did we fully realize how much we missed it.
In the days since that happened I don’t know how many times I have, without thinking, turned on the tap only to be brought up short by the reality that there wasn’t any H Two Oh! coming my way. And Oh! Oh! Oh! how I miss it. It is a good thing that the term “global warming” has been largely replaced with the words “climate change.”
If we were still using the word “warming” to describe what is clearly happening to our weather this winter, there would likely be public protests against the irony of it.
The water in the municipal pipes leading from the pond on top of the hill to the curb stop outside our house and thence to the kitchen sink and bathtub, have decided not “warm,” but to “change.” From water to ice.
Ice does not pass smoothly through the pipes under the road outside our door. Ice in a pipe stops the flow of water. This causes all sorts of practical difficulties.
When we first came to Salvage in the early 70s, summering for the next 30 years on Burden’s Point before moving year-round to our yellow house across the harbour, we were surrounded on three sides by water.
We were surrounded by salt water, as fine a source of food as you could ask for, including first and foremost among it all, cod, which in those days we could jig in numbers as plentiful as we wished.
Providing a surface upon which we could row our punt to and fro, the salt water was also our road.
But as Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” there was one difficulty: “Water water everywhere: Nor any drop to drink.”
To get drinking water in those early summers we walked to a shallow well 200 metres distant that seemed farther when measured in feet, but no real trouble for healthy folk in their mid-20s.
Using a hoop and two buckets we would lug the water back to the house where we learned to treat it as the precious commodity it is, heating it on the woodstove for cooking and washing.
Since last week we have been doing the same thing, except we heat the water we carry in buckets on an electric stove, which we find quite useful between Nalcor blackouts when we revert to wood.
This climate change lesson we are now enduring for, I hope, a short time, is making us revisit the practical decisions we made in those days. It is making us remember how long it took back then to do simple tasks like boiling the kettle or taking a bath.
At the centre of it all is water, the universal solvent, to which I have been attracted since I was a child, and which no doubt was what made me fall in love with Newfoundland when I first came to this island at the age of seven.
When Lisa and I visited Salvage shortly before we were married, she was hooked too. She loves to be by the sea.
Science tells us that the human body is made mostly of water. Depending on how much you have been drinking, somewhere between 60 and 90 per cent of each of us.
Is it any wonder we are so attracted to it? It is us. Or a close cousin at the very least. We need it, we long for it, we are happy in its presence.
Now, if only I could get some of it out of the tap.