United States42° 25' 57.3744" N, 71° 3' 20.592" W
United States42° 25' 57.3744" N, 71° 3' 20.592" W
There is nothing like being thirsty.
If you haven't been, I couldn't tell you.
First you salivate
You start to fantasize about cold springs,
surrounded by bees and little flowers.
I know. I have walked through the desert for years.
Drinking of standing water
out of desperation,
it is a degradation.
straining it through my teeth,
sharing it with the flies.
Flat on my belly,
greedily slurping, sand in my teeth,
out of miniscule puddles that will be dry tomorrow.
Oh yes, I have known thirst,
it is an old, old friend.
in a perverse way I was proud of it.
And these puddles did not quench
No, they did not quench at all.
But after the watering mouth,
and the dreams,
comes the dryness.
That is another thing altogether.
The end of each hair on your head splits,
the skin becomes sandpaper,
and your tongue swells up.
You find yourself licking the inside of your mouth voraciously
like an unruly lover,
in hopes of lubricating that uncomfortable place.
You squint to preserve the moisture in your eyes.
When sand blows into them,
You cannot get it out.
I know. When this time comes, you will not think of water.
The thought produces an ache that hurts in your very bones.
You will think only of stepping one more step.
Your life will become very simple.
Breathe. Walk. Breathe. Step.
And so it is clear then,
when I came upon a pure, cold stream
I was not embarrassed by my relief,
I fell upon my knees.
And wept into its perfection.
I felt like a tiny child.
It cradled me there, as it could not help but giving.
So I set up a camp there,
I felt sure that I had no need to travel anymore.
With broken branches, I built a hut
beneath the cottonwood tree
on the shores of my salvation there.
My gratitude overcame me,
I did nothing but cry
(first tearlessly, then after I had drank my fill,
actual tears came for the first time in maybe years)
and drink for the first several days.
I laid myself in the grass on its banks,
so joyful I could scarcely form words,
could not even say
thank you, I love you.
On a morning when the sky was rich
I began to till the soil, to plant a garden.
Over that autumn, I built a cabin,
I harvested and foraged and fished.
My hair became smooth, my skin softened.
The silence... inside....
Looking back still floors me with its beauty.
Everything grew on the banks of that stream.
I kissed each leaf, each blossom.
And in the silence, I learned from that stream.
I needed only to sit beside it,
in the darling grass, and be nurtured.
Vaguely, somewhere hidden,
I began to wonder where it came from,
so perfect, so generous.
But for the moment, I was content to rest
and play on the green shore.
The days slipped by, beyond time,
the leaves on the cottonwood tree turned yellow,
then grey, they painted the ground with silver.
So golden was that autumn.
In the winter, I was forced to begin hunting.
I spent long days setting traps and checking them,
returning late with soaked, cold feet,
unable to start a fire because the wood was all too wet.
I was running out of potatoes.
Game was scarce.
Thank goodness I had water,
but it was frozen of course,
and sometimes when I couldn't start a fire to melt it,
I had to chisel off bits of ice from the stream
and suck on them.
After three days of this, on a particularly snowy week,
my sides of my mouth began to chafe and get sore.
The next day, my lips and tongue began to bleed.
Fortunately, after several days of sleeping with the wood
to dry it with my body heat, it dried enough
that I was able to start a fire.
By then I was exhausted.
All together, I had walked one million miles, roughly,
and now I again would drink, and put my feet up briefly,
before the next day of traipsing through the snow, trapping.
And I did drink; my heart overflowed.
But the water from the stream whispered something to me
that made me uneasy.
Utterly clearly, it said that I will not stay here.
Here, where I had built my cabin with soft wood,
where my strength had been restored,
where I had planted potatoes
where I had kissed everything that grew,
so beautiful was the greenery to me.
So shocked and distracted was I,
that I set down my goblet and went out
into the snow and sat again by the stream.
Melting a little bit, it gave me a drink,
which restored my strength and clarity.
It told me I am a drop of water
Destined too, to dissolve.
That we are all the same,
and I'd been looking for satiation
in all the wrong places.
It told me I would have to travel on
Until I found the pure water
From whence everything comes and goes.
Gazing into the frozen depths, utterly full of fear
lest I start out again only to die of thirst,
The very next morning, early,
I packed up my homestead.
I had almost nothing left, so it didn't take long.
I knew somehow that before I arrived,
I would leave everything behind.
I decided to follow the stream up, into the mountains
as I guessed the Source would be upward.
so without a map, without a compass,
but with only gratitude and silence in my soul,
I again began to walk.