AncientMariner albatrossWater, water, every where, nor any drop to drink…

This is the famous line from the famous Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner. Perhaps you recall it from Jr. High or High School or College? No? Ever heard of an albatross around your neck? Yep, it comes from this poem, too.

I thought of the poem on Friday night as Phil, the general manager of our golf club, was chatting with me and Nettie while we enjoyed our Boston clam chowder and sipped our martinis, which look a lot like water in their chilled glasses. We were talking about the drought that has come once again to our fair state of California. Jerry Brown had just declared a state of emergency asking for a voluntary 20% reduction in water use by all of us.Jerry

We’re staved for water. We’re drying up. We’re shriveled you could say…the whole state, not just a few of us on board some kind of vessel in the South Seas like the Ancient Mariner.

Or maybe we are like the Ancient Mariner on some kind of vessel I thought as I drained my martini. Of course we are. We’re on a vessel that looks like a blue marble zooming through space. All that blue is water. Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.

Then I felt guilty. I hadn’t shot an albatross like the Mariner did which doomed him and the rest of the crew, but I am playing golf on a verdant landscape in the middle of a virtual desert called the San Fernando Valley in the middle of a drought. We use a helluva lot of water to keep all this grass green and keep all us golfers happy. (Notice how I’m calling myself a “golfer” so casually these days?) Hundreds of thousands of gallons, probably millions of gallons a year. Jeez!

2 club green


I felt a little better when the citrus chicken arrived and we switched to red wine. Not just because wine doesn’t look like water, but because Phil told us that the club has plans in the works for switching to reclaimed water very soon to keep the fairways green. So that’s something…but still…

Drought SignsI couldn’t stop thinking about water, and when I awoke this morning, I was sodden with imaginings and with real life images from just last week when Nettie and I drove up Highway 5 through the San Joaquin Valley where virulent water battles are going on between farmers and fast growing cities like Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield. Farmers are shrieking! City managers are clamoring! Sirens are going off in my own head. Global Warming is upon us! Too many people on the planet! Too many mouths to feed! Too many cars driving too many miles! On and on and on the sirens scream!

Holy moly. Get a grip I told myself. Take a breath. Have a cup of tea. No, that’s more water use.

What to do?

I went outside into my backyard where the swimming pool glistens in the summer-like January morning. Water again, yes I know, but I thought not about the water this time, but about myself. About me standing here on my patio. About me being here now…here in the middle of the world of my life. The world of my life. My one my only life. The Rhyme of Ancient Mariner came to me again:

Day after day, day after day
We are stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.


Beautiful words, yes, but I am neither of these, neither stuck without a breath or motion, nor stuck on a painted ship upon a painted ocean.

Though it’s true that I can’t go back, and though it’s true that I can’t change the past or even the present that instantly becomes the past, I can change my future by what I do in these very moments of my present. Yes, I’ll take action, and action will carry me beyond the abyss that panic so quickly digs within my brain.

So I’ll reduce my watering schedule around the planters, I’ll shorten my showers, I’ll sweep the driveway, I’ll drink more beer and less tea, I’ll change any number of things I can change. And then perhaps, unlike the Ancient Mariner, I will find myself at peace and sail safely home after all.

Here’s how I hope it goes…

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze  —
On me alone it blew.
And I wish the same for you…
And I wish the same sweet breeze for you…
This is invisble text.
This is invisble text.
Sailing Home















2 Responses to Water, Water, Every Where…

  1. Stephanie says:

    Great post and something that is sadly on many of our minds. Traveling through the Salinas Valley and Monterey Pennisula this weekend put it all in perspective for me. I’ve never seen this usually moist, foggy region so awfully dry. It was in the mid-70’s and arid in what is usually a rainy month. Our beloved Eucalyptus, Pines and even the Cypress trees are sallow and crusty from dehydration. Many fallen trees on 17 Mile Drive. It’s scary-weird.

  2. Carol says:

    Great post, yet again! Thanks for raising our water consciousness level. Congrats! on your sons wedding, it looked wonderful.

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