From space, our earth’s water supply is far more evident at first glance than its land masses. Most land lies at the bottom of oceans, of rivers and seas; only thirty percent of land or less rises above these expanses of water. Miraculously, this water clings to the earth through gravity rather than being flung out into empty space, and the result is a sloshy, soggy sphere we call home.
Yet humans, gill-less, can only inhabit the thirty percent, though our bodies, ironically, need water desperately. Our bodies, walking sloshy masses, are comprised largely of water. Our body mass mirrors that of the earth’s: only thirty percent consists of dry land; the rest is water. This, no doubt, is why a human can live for only eight to ten days without any water, though he can survive several weeks without food. Every day, we thirst, yet in our busyness, we may not even recognize that thirst. Usually, by the time we acknowledge our need, we have already lost one percent of our water content. We deplete rapidly. We need filled.
But in this water logged world, only three percent is fresh enough to meet our need: ninety-seven percent is salted, bitter to our bodies. “Can a salt stream mingle with fresh?” Jesus asked, and of course the answer is no. So we search for the three percent, roaming the desert, dessicating as we seek. Most is underground, in secretly streaming aquifers, out of reach to us. Almost seventy percent of fresh water above surface is trapped in glaciers, a frozen mockery of our thirst. Our parched tongues stick to its hard surface, not quelling our need, ripping our tongues to bleeding flesh when we recognize, too late, that no satiation is possible.
Too often, we turn to the salt water to quench our thirst, forgetting or ignoring or denying that salt, as any meat preserver knows, only dries flesh further, that it leeches what moisture we do have from our pores. It is salt in the wound to our souls. If we continue to drink we shrivel, sucked of soul, and die.
Should we not instead seek the aquifers? Across the flat land, moving steadily towards us, comes a dowser. His hands grip tightly the forked branches of a witching stick. He seems, however, not to follow the caprices of the trembling wood but rather to will it forward, direct its path. The branch dips. Deep calls to deep. The dowser stops, raises the wooden limb, hoisted by his own limbs of flesh, towards the sky, as though offering a sacrifice or giving thanks or both, then plunges the shaft of the stick into the ground. Instantly, water spews from the soil’s puncture point, Noah’s fountains of the deep re-discovered, Moses’ gushing rock re-born, Cherith brook still flowing, these centuries later. It rushes upward then falls like the first rain upon the parched ground, pooling then running in fast rivulets outward, surging to fill the barren space between the dowser and us with a lake of water. We stand agape until the spreading expanse wets our feet, carries away the dust from our toes. Only then do we begin walking, across that clear body, our eyes disbelieving the miracle at the same time that our feel feel its cooling wetness. By the time we are half way across, we are running like children, splashing drops upward that we catch on mangled tongues. The water is icy cold, like glacier melted by flame, and each drop is a healing to our mouths. It tastes sweet, like honey-combed scrolls or wine.
When we reach the dowser, we collapse. The water saturates our skin; dry bones are enfleshed and the salty sweat of our desert wanderings is dissolved. We are sinking, but we feel no fear. This drowning is a baptism and we want to go deeper.