There is a visceral sinking, a drop out in the gut, that hits the moment I realize the water system is down. This week it occurred in the form of a morning phone call from two of the World's Best Neighbors, informing me that their tank was empty and inquiring about the status of mine. They get my overflow. I had been tinkering with my ram pump system the previous week, replacing the weak link again. (The weak link is the only plastic part in the system, a check valve between the pump and the delivery line. The plastic casing keeps cracking under all the pressure. I'm going to try to get a metal one custom made in the local factory.) Skipping over the tedious details of the troubleshooting steps of repairing the system, I will focus here on the sensation I experienced when I hiked up to my reservoir, and, upon opening the lid, discovered it to be nearly empty. For me it was like a quick sinking, not dissimilar to the feeling when you drop down hill on a roller coaster. Accompanying the physical gut drop, there was some sort of cerebral switch-over that occurred with equal swiftness. I can best describe this mental shift as turning a dial from a setting that is called "Post-Industrial Modern Brain" to a setting entitled something along the lines of "Lizard Brain." Something old and animal and basic kicked in. All other pending tasks and plans melted into a descending blur down the priority list as all of my mental, physical, and hormonal resources immediately mobilized into a charged and focused mission of securing usable water. Survival instincts kicked in. And it felt like, as my dear neighbor so poignantly put it, "a punch in the gut."
Don't get me wrong here. I live in what is sometimes referred to as a borderline temperate rain forest. Water is an abundant resource in this nook of the southern Appalachians. I personally live in a private little watershed, where a bowl shape of hills and coves collects and cleans water, conveniently dispensing it into a continuous flow of cold, clean, accessible spring water year round. I am at no eminent risk of being without water. But I find it awesome, especially with all that being said, how quickly and efficiently the body switches gears when it perceives a decline in access to basic elemental needs. I can only begin to ponder the psychological and physiological state of humans living in drought-stricken parts of the earth.
Skip the details of fixing the system, which was relatively easy when I think of the on-going benefits and convenience that the system provides, pumping water around the clock, night and day, with no additional power inputs other than water and gravity- supplying 3 households with clean, cold life-blood straight from the teat of the Mother herself. The feeling of buoyancy endowed to the person who realizes she has an ample reservoir of water with more flowing is the instant antidote to the previously described gut-drop fear of the empty tank. Amazing. Light. Free. My list of things to do ascends back to my awareness, but this time everything seems easier. A shift in perception. We have water.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each element is affiliated with a major organ system in the body as well as an emotion, time of day, and time of year. Water governs the kidneys, and is associated with winter time and fear. I think I can experience this most readily when I am confronted with situations involving too much or too little water. A dry tank. A flash flood. The fear is instant, primal, real. Elemental.