Sunday night, the two ponds at Churchill Park became one. Now, the pond fish were in a predicament: marooned in puddles on the paved bridge, puddles which hourly lost their depth in the desiccating sun and wind. Droughts and floods go together.
The rain had thickened into the visibility that is not snow, but not rain either. It is spring, although it’s not so far accomplished* that snow's out of the realm of possibility. I'd been watching it the afternoon before, thinking, the rain is like lemon lozenges, or, the rain is like frosted glass beads in the bottom of vases. The rain made the sound on the roof that I'd always longed to hear on the roof, the sound of all the lozenges on all the tongues at once.
In the morning, Jackie and Mariah (the two girls who walk ahead of us on the trail, and whom I daily imagine in bright futures of environmental conservation) were stopped along the path between the ponds. They watched the smaller catfish flit skittishly whenever their shadows changed the light over the puddles. I could see why it was so arresting: we were walking on the same path as the fish swam. This seemed wondrous. Except we could walk on through, if our sneakers were getting a little wet. They were in trouble, or would be, soon, because it didn't seem like they could get back out of those puddles. A little overwhelm of water and there they were.
The rain must have slipped between the leaves of the fringe of reed grass at the edges of the pond, lipping out, and the fish must have followed its lapping, past the former shore. They must have felt that the reedy grass was just a patch they could get through if they tried hard enough, like a woods you were midway through, a bit lost from the straightforward path.
And so by Monday morning, the fish were swimming on the same path as we walked. They slipped over the tongue of path that had been the bridge. They swam in shallow hollows, spooked by every switch of wind or whipped lace, but with no hollows now to hide in, the hollows being the pool itself, with a little mud there. It wasn't, perhaps, even very different than the pond bottom--each puddle had its its own detritus and grassy bits, which swayed slower, underwater, mimicking the sway of their aquatic counterparts, rather than their usual brisk bristle in a stiff wind.
We were late; we were cranky; we were dehydrated. By Mondays, see, we've forgotten entirely how to get ourselves up and going in our big house with no light or water in the kitchen.* And we were late with the rain, the sound of it, that had put us to sleep so thoroughly.
And the kicker: we were late with the need to turn around and go back home when we were just halfway to the first turn from the first road we drive on, before we'd really even settled into driving, perhaps, but still quite in the time when I'd resigned myself to the drive, perhaps with gratitude that the hard part of getting going, with shoes and coats and lunches and bathrooms was over. But then of course the hard part of the morning wasn’t over because the child had said again, “I have a headache,” and then it has turned out I hadn't really been grateful at all, really, or it wouldn't have gone away so soon like that, with a rising flood of fury. When he said, "I have a headache," I remembered that I’d meant to get him some medicine, because he really is old enough now to know when he has a headache, and the cold he has is real (I know from the pile of tissues).
The difficulty of the hard bit could be described something like this: you’re late already, later than you want to be in starting out. Then a child says, “ I have a headache,” and you hear it with the exhaling spout of remembrance; you've forgotten the medicine you intended with all parental good intentions to give to him when he mentioned that same fact earlier. And then you remember, just then, utterly certain though you are that the child ate fruit and protein at breakfast, that he has surely not ingested even a drop of water--not even a small slurp of necessary, life-giving, healing water, this whole morning.
If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
And you wouldn't say it like this, of course, but a child can be a cranky sort of fellow--at least when he’s sick and maybe other times, like when he's dehydrated, come to think of it, though you’d perhaps try and not say that--you would try, except for the fury and the hard part getting the better of you.
It was like this, metaphorically, I mean--using a simile: what you really just wish and maybe even say, because it is Monday, and it is rain, and it is late, and you're having to turn around the car, WHILE LATE, is that you wish he’d finally, at this age, this age, when he’s old enough to treat your admonishing words with the passionate, ironic disdain that only years can truly bring, know what the most basic creatures know, that we need water to live, that we need water not to feel as badly about things as we can feel, that we do really just feel a little better when we do drink a little water, when we're around water. This is something that most creatures know, especially when their mothers have told them so so very many times before, though not perhaps this very morning, until this moment. And of course, even though it took you thirty years and two kidney stones to really learn that lesson about the water, which is why you say it so very often now, it was still surely true that you weren’t as cranky without it then, when you were 8, as both you and he seem to be now. We could blame this on having no kitchen sink, of course. But that would be just as damning, because, well, you the have perfectly functioning water spouts of privilege upstairs in the bathroom sink and tub, and are you really THAT lazy that you can't get yourselves a drink when you need one? Shame. (And donate here to clean water.)
Here is an extended simile; this is what it was like. There aren't any solutions other than turning around and going back to get water and medicine. Even though he clearly needs water, you can’t, simply CAN NOT share your water bottle--which you were sort of proud to get filled at all, it being so hard to get these small tiny details taken care of on a Monday, with the rain, and the lateness and the upstairs sink business--because he is ill, truly has a cold, and, though you didn’t measure it (because where is the thermometer anyway since you moved?) he may have a tiny fever, though you definitely can't say definitively, because the back of your hand only felt warm right when he woke up, when you held him there, against you, willing him to wake in peace and get going right away because you were already behind schedule.
You pull into the driveway that says No Trespassing, and you turn around.
It's like this: you turn back, flooded with fury, and leave the car running while you bolt into the house where there are, in fact, no water other bottles, because, naturally, the child has broken or lost all the waterbottles--expensive, formerly-non-leaking water bottles that have been designed to remove the need for buying bottled water, saving the earth by reducing plastic, which, you are extremely sure at this moment, you have not in fact reduced, nor, in fact, the earth saved, because he has lost and broken so many reusable plastic bottles. At every reorganization effort, you have purchased another, because you can’t live without water, and you know that surely he needs water, for his cold, and he’s so cranky (as are you) when he hasn’t drunk any water (which, now that you think about it, neither have you this morning, just the coffee and maybe half a cup of hot water, which may be why you are so poseidonishly furious, tidal waves pouring from your temples, tsunamis from under your tongue). And your husband acts offended when you ask him where the water bottles are because, he reminds you, he has ASKED you where the water bottles are...as if there WERE water bottles, which you were to have taken care of, but the location of which you have withheld (the occult knowledge of motherhood) along with the water.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
That was a simile-type illustration of what it was like.
Here's what I did: I grabbed a pint ball mason jar and an old spaghetti sauce lid, and filled it with a cup and a half of water, which I knew would likely spill or break in the back seat--probably on a library book (which is so embarrassing now that I know our librarian so well: hi, Ita!). I grabbed the medicine for the headache. I got in the car and gave him the medicine and the water. Thirty seconds after taking the medicine and drinking the water, he said it felt better, which itself was slightly maddening, as it made me wonder about the whole thing's actual existence in the first, place, the headache, the dehydration, the crisis, etc.
But even so, I felt like there was nothing else I could have done. I drove on, the miles and the psalms ticking by, past water pooled in the fields, so much flooding when we were so thirsty, the river very very high. I drank my waterbottle down; he drank half a cup; I took the unbroken mason jar and put it safely in my cupholdher. I reached for his hand behind the seat; I said sorry for the whole temperamental-greek-deity-of-the-ocean thing.
And after 50 minutes of driving, we got to the ponds--the two ponds which had become one, shaky, but there. And then the fish, and Mariah and Jackie--gaping at the bright, wet morning after a flood, when you go out to see what wonders and anomalies are there.
At first, it was all delight--what a rescue of a morning! The wonder, fish! Rainbow, rainbow, rainbow, am I right? Fish flitting as shadows from clouds in the very puddles, now here, now there, but visible! We could see the workings. I thrust my hand in my pocket to snap a photo and thought of Marianne Moore, the fish wading through black jade, and us being finally close enough to see the fish closely, as close as she could.