Despite the fact that the surface area of our planet is more than two-thirds water, usable water is not necessarily readily available. Most of Earth's water is in the seas and marshes, and consequently, way too salty to be potable. Most of the rest is frozen solid, locked in ice or perpetual permafrost.
Fresh water, above and below ground, which is replaceable only by rain, represents a tiny fraction, only, unbelievably, 2.8 percent of the total water supply on Earth. It was not much of an exaggeration for Coleridge to write "Water, water, everywhere. Nor any drop to drink."
Rain is the vital, vivifying fluid, which flows down from the heavens to recycle and replenish the world's water stores, to refresh and revitalize the lands and all those species who live upon it. A celestial substance of necessity, rain is absolutely elemental and essential. But it's quite quirky. You never know with rain -- too much, too little, too late, too soon, too hard, too long. You can't really depend on it. And yet you have to.
Talk about too much rain. 2011 has been quite a wild and wet one. Much of the world is inundated with more rain than we can possibly deal with. You have to be careful what you ask for. This massive soaking is international. This year there has been severe flooding of historic proportions in the Midwest, South and West Coast of the United States; Germany; The Philippines; Indonesia; Australia; South Africa; Angola; Colombia; Brazil; Thailand and Sri Lanka.
In the best of times, precipitation is seen as beneficent, raining down life-sustaining liquids for our benefit. And then we are grateful, or ought to be. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We are nearly drowning in the stuff. Saturated, soaked, sogged. Completely waterlogged. Mushrooms are growing out of the cracks in the sidewalk here in Exotic Brooklyn.
Rivers rushing down city streets, the drains overflowing. Towns, fields and highways flooded. Dams, bridges, houses and lives swept irrevocably away. Deadly mudslides, erosion and the disappearance of fertile topsoil. And the predicted storms aren't over yet.
People have long believed that bad weather is some kind of vengeful divine retribution, punishment for our earthly misbehavior. Certainly in the face of extreme hardship, this is a tempting response, based, perhaps, on guilt. But, of course, weather is weather, a neutral natural force. Our perception of whether it is good or bad is based solely and myopically on our own immediate inconvenience.
But maybe this rain is not aimed at us. Maybe Mother Earth is engaged in a deep purification ritual, a spring purging of Her soiled body and profound pain. Picture Her, like any rape victim standing under a pounding shower for hours, days and weeks, trying to wash away the dirt and degradation that we have heaped upon Her so mercilessly.
Or maybe She is weeping, sobbing, down pouring tears of sad disappointment in us, Her errant, arrogant offspring, so rude and disrespectful. After all, just look at what we gave the Poor Old Dear for Mother's Day in gratitude for all of Her great gifts to us: greenhouse gases, radiation poisoning, drilling, fracking, missile tests, oil spills, chemical trails and the slaughter of Her plant and animal offspring.
Or this is a watery warning, perhaps, a reminder to appreciate the present and prepare for the future, to reinforce our roofs, buy Wellington boots and build a safe, waterproof ark where we can collect, preserve and protect, two by two, all of our best intentions and human qualities: hope and love, charity and compassion, understanding and forgiveness, peace and reverence for all life.