‘Water, water everywhere … [not] any drop to drink.’


My feet splashed through the couple inches of water that covered our basement concrete. Where should I start to clean up? The narrow path through the stuff piled everywhere overwhelmed me.
Luckily we had switched most of our things into plastic totes, but, being full of optimism and faith, I continued to mix in some cardboard boxes, now soppy, ready to be pitched, the state of their contents questionable – big mistake.
I carried them, dripping, across to the outside door and started a trash pile. A set of braided rugs, demoted to basement use, reminded me of times past: the chairs they used to lie in front of, protecting the carpet below; the toys played with on them – a baby gym set above a colorful, quilted mat, the yellow box with the keys of learning, its pieces scattered over the colored braids of the rugs, now so faded; and sippy cups turned on side and never completely spill-proof that left a few staining droplets to be sponged away. I envisioned little pink sweatsuits topped with toddling, curly, blonde heads.
Armed with our big shopvac, a necessary purchase during last summer’s unusually large rains, I drew the nozzle over and over the seeping soup, dumping several tubfuls in the yard. Each time, I eyed the filter for build-up, and finally stopped to unplug the spongy mess. Teeth clenched in determination toward the ugly job, I picked off the thick of the debris with my fingers, then, drew a bucket of water to give the airy foam rubber a final rinse.
As I squeezed out the fresh water, the paradoxical situation made me wonder. Desperate to get rid of the abundant rain water that spoiled my living space, I was helpless without the aid of more fresh water to clean up the vacuum ( and eventually clean up myself).
I hated water; I loved water. I needed more water to end up with less of it.
The thought twisted me like the spongy filter I squeezed in my hands.
After a day in the cellar, I needed to smooth out the kinks in both my body and my soul – time for a good scrub and a loud sing in a hot shower. More water!

*Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner (from Part the Second.)

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.


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