Every hole of the chain link fence had a small bird perched in it with beaks open in anticipation of a drink. It was one of the endless scorching hot, dry days last month, and I was in my brother’s pool when I noticed the birds in the fence. It would have looked like a scene from "The Birds" if they weren’t so small and pitifully parched.
My brother said they come and thirstily watch the pool as if there is no other water available for miles. He wondered why they would be so thirsty when just over the hill behind his house is the pond at Prospect Park. Do they not fly over and see the pond? Why are they so thirsty? I know some birds can’t see still water; but the pond has aerators so I think they should know water is present. I splashed water onto the pool deck. The relieved birds quickly swooped down to lap it up. My brother said that is what he had been doing all week so the birds could have a drink.
I once met a woman who had emigrated from Uzbekistan to the United States. She was so happy to be here where her daughter could get top-notch medical care. Her daughter had severe renal disease due to poor water conditions where they used to live. She educated me on the decline of the Aral sea, telling me it was once the fourth largest lake in the world but had shrunk to a tenth the original size due to the diversion of water from the rivers which flowed into it. The diverted river water was used for irrigating cotton fields. Her daughter was hospitalized here in a renal care unit and they searched for children for her to play with. They could only find adult patients. She was shocked to learn that the most common causes of kidney disease for children in the United States are congenital and hereditary conditions; her past experience was of wards full of children with failing kidneys.
My friend was taking me on a road trip from Las Vegas to Laguna Beach. It was going to be my first trek across the desert. I filled a jug with water for our journey. As we were packing our beach chairs she questioned my frozen jug. I explained that I had heard it was prudent to tote water if traveling through the desert in case of emergency. A few hours into the trip we were still on a densely packed multi-lane highway when I told her this wasn’t at all the type of desert travel I was expecting. I had envisioned a two-lane road taking us through sand as far as the eye could see, with the only thing in sight being some tumbling tumbleweeds.
I thought we would be passing a rundown one pump filling station with the sign askew and dangling in an arid breeze. Instead we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic passing casinos, restaurants and shopping malls. When it was time to return to Vegas, I decided the water wasn’t needed on this type of desert journey. We encountered an enormous traffic jam on our way home in the middle of the night, and I had to confess to my friend that rather than lug the jug back to the car I had used it to wash sand off of my feet. I haven’t heard the end of it to this day.
After a dry August, we were delivered last week from near drought conditions with a deluge of rainy days.
The need for water is universal, whether it be parched birds, desert travelers, residents near the Aral sea, or a brother and sister playing in the water like they did at motel pools on summer vacations fifty-five years ago.
Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.
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