Watering our little patch takes about 90 minutes.
That’s every evening; we have a three month dry spell going on. Here is the picture for September 5, at http://wasmoke.blogspot.com The red triangles indicate areas where the air quality is a danger due to nearby fires.
At 6:00 when the sun tucks down behind the rooftops, I pick up the bucket and head outside, saying the Jesus Prayer. But after a day of checking the fire maps and packing a bag in case we have to leave, tonight the prayer stitches together over and over. It flows at its own rhythm step by step with the sloshing bucket of dishwater toted down four floors, over the rocks and roots and pavement cracks to the fragile patch of leafy greenage. The ballast from the water and the prayer opens a calm and central space, letting in impressions of other small things.
Here is a curious wasp. Every time I step outside with a bucket, a wasp is right there. How can a wasp tell so fast that there is water on the way? They have a place to drink of their own in the garden patch; every night I fill a shallow little water dish with a broad edge where the insects can drink safely, clinging with their feet instead of falling in.
Here is the holler and squeak of kidlets in the swimming pool.
Here is beige dust of dry and crumbled pine needles, edging like splinters into my socks.
Here is the sound of fine crushed glass as my shoes cut across the baked grass.
Here is the disturbing smell of smoke coming from everywhere, and haze across the red ball sun.
Here is the nice smell of pasta sauce bubbling on someone’s stove.
Here are the crows coming home to roost, but instead of rivering high up in a silent graceful flow they shoot past bunched like a fist, just high enough to clear the trees; the security guard at the bank says the birds are staying out of the smoke by hiding in the thickest bushes all day, and that he saw one crow leave a roost and fly up and die in midair, and hit the ground.
Up stairs and down, one bucket of dishwater at a time.
It’s like the women in Samaria (the proper ones, formally married, drawing water at the decent hour of early morning). But the women brought their water home, and I carry mine away and out to the yard.
The proper women with their early habits missed seeing Jesus show up at the well. And, so did the rest of the town.
A more efficient preacher would have known that. A more efficient preacher would have gone straight to the city gate where the men of importance hang out, and would have talked to them. But instead even with no bucket to draw water he went right to the well. Not only that, he picked the very hour that no proper woman would be there to draw him a drink. That is how he came across the one woman who wasn’t much welcome in the town and who showed up during siesta hour at noon to avoid the comments of the other women.
So Jesus has a talk with her about spiritual water, and how by showing up and offering a drink to him, she could find a drink for her own soul and even become a woman that her townspeople will respect and follow. By being open minded and hospitable to a Jewish stranger, she gains something that all her neighbors will want too.
“Where are we supposed to worship?” the woman at the well asks. “Jerusalem?”
But Jesus tells her to just worship in spirit and truth, and then anywhere is fine.
Finally it’s the last bucketful. We’re done.
The yard is silent; not a bird song anywhere.
The sky is soft and rosy from the closest forest fire, east over the mountains.
A breeze is coming up.
Jesus never got his drink that day.
But the wasp has his fill, sipping at the dish edge, tipping forward on little feet.
The leafy greens are safe for one more day, amen.