The glass of water

tree frog

When I was planning to go to Crete in the fall of 1976, someone asked me if I’d read Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi. I hadn’t. I remember reading it the month before I left and loving every word. Would I love them all now? I might just read it again to find out. But today I thought of the passage about water, so rich and vivid and mythic somehow. I was watering on the deck upstairs, late, because we had to go down to Sechelt this morning on errands. It was overcast and cool when we left but blazing hot once we got home and so after a quick lunch I began to take hoses and watering cans around to the potted plants. Water dripped on my feet and I thought how welcome it was, cool drops on dry skin. I filled the blue dish I keep on a planter for frogs. And that was when I remembered The Colossus of Maroussi and wondered if it still held the same beauty. I found it on my shelves, Theresa Kishkan, August, 1976, the price tag–$2.00–still stuck to the cover.

I sauntered slowly through the park towards the Temple of Jupiter. There were little tables along the dusty paths set out in an absent-minded way; couples were sitting there quietly in the dark, talking in low voices, over glasses of water. The glass of water . . . everywhere I saw the glass of water. It became obsessional. I began to think of water as a new thing, a new vital element of life. Earth, air, fire, water. Right now water had become the cardinal element, Seeing lovers sitting there in the dark drinking water, sitting there in peace and quiet and talking in low tones, gave me a wonderful feeling about the Greek character. The dust, the heat, the poverty, the bareness, the containedness of the people, and the water everywhere in little tumblers standing between the quiet, peaceful couples, gave me the feeling that there was something holy about the place, something nourishing and sustaining.

When I fill the birdbath, often a robin comes almost immediately. When I take the hose around to the tomato plants in their deep pots, I can smell the water on their lower leaves. They must feel like I feel every morning at 8:30 when I step into the lake and push my body into the water shimmering with sunlight through cedars, tiny schools of fish darting here and there, kingfishers further along the shore diving for breakfast, and yes, there is something holy about the place, about the cool water quiet in the morning, a few footprints at the very edge, marks left by the crows who are waiting for us to leave.

4 thoughts on “The glass of water”

  1. oh such beautiful moments you share with us. I am close enough to the sea that I could walk there — and swim. But I have fears. Not so much of the water, but of people. Would they see me? Why should I care? How far can I swim before the currents get hold of this aging body?

    1. Diane, I understand those fears! I didn’t swim for a number of years because I felt self-conscious in my bathing suit, imperfect body, etc. But once I started again, wow, I found my element so completely. (Even swam in my underwear a few years ago when the occasion presented itself!) The currents are something to be careful about. Last summer we were swimming in the Thompson River and I realized how easily I could be taken by a strong current. It made me cautious but oh how memorable that swim was! These days at the end of my swim, I just hover in some very deep water and marvel at how my body is kept afloat, how cool the water is, how refreshing, and what a privilege it is to be able to go each morning.

  2. Theresa, Up until now I was completely unaware of Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi. Now I will try to find a copy and read it. Such beautiful writing (yours too).
    All I have read of Miller is the Sexus, Plexus, Nexus trilogy.
    Very cool and overcast here in Paris.
    Tell me, I’m sure you have visited Spain. Do you have any favorite spots?

    1. Miller’s book about Big Sur is also worth seeking out, Juliet. As for Spain, I was there so long ago and everything appealed to me but I don’t know it well enough to have a favourite place. We were in Portugal five years ago and I loved it. Not the Algarve so much, mostly because so much of it seemed to be about golf and pub food because of all the British who spend time there (though John was there in the 1970s and found it so enthralling). But Evora — I felt I could live there somehow. It would be very hot in summer, I think. (Was there in March.) But very lovely. Lisbon too was so beautiful and so intriguing. The pleasures of fado and cool parks and blue tile. We didn’t go to Porto or Coimbra or other places I’d like to visit once travel is possible again.

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