Todos Santos in Baja, Mexico.

Nature plays wicked water games.

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At first I thought of water here as fragile, delicate, easily consumed.

Not so.  Water runs the show.  It holds all the cards and the house always wins.  We can’t help ourselves.  We have to play.

Surf crashes in thunderous volleys.  Once during a storm, a neighbor’s window shattered from the noise of breaking waves, or so claims a local, an expatriate from France, who chats amiably over a carefully irrigated vegetable garden.

A whale breaches, blows, rolls.  She knows more about water than we do, although with all our managing and filtering and diverting, we pretend otherwise.

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Landscape with the fall of Icarus, Bruegel, 1558

The air smells clean and the light dazzles, hot and defiant, glinting off the ocean with a waxy sheen, like the sun on Icarus’s wings.

Sometimes it takes a generation or two, or a hundred, to learn water’s lessons:

Todos Santos is an oasis.  The greenery around its spring is dense and riotous, a balm after miles of  scrub and cactus.  The town mantles its water source like a bird of prey over food.

From the 1750’s to the 1950’s, sugar cane farmers guzzled water here until the aquifer went dry.  People slunk away.

Thirty years later, miraculously the locals say, it replenished itself.  So did the population, a new mix of ranchers, artists, urban refugees.

The road here is in bad shape, buffeted by wind and inundated during rain storms; but it is being widened, bridged, straightened.  When complete and if all goes as planned, it will bring more people, thirsty like us.  This is a blessing and a bane, foreign cash in a country where the minimum wage is $5 a day.

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Our week’s water allotment is two storage tanks holding X hundred kilos. We calculate the gallons.  It sounds like plenty.  Besides, we have a case of Pellegrino and two jugs of drinking water in the pantry.  Yeah, and beer.

First day goes swimmingly.  Second day, water pressure in the shower is appreciably lower. We soap up ahead of time, stop fiddling with water temperature, skimp on flushing. Water from the aquifer is reputedly sweet, but the delivery system old and leaky, so we boil dish water and brush teeth with water from the jug in the pantry. But we’re guests, just dipping our toes in, heading back to our rainy Northwest home soon.

The people who live here will continue the thirsty dance.  The local municipality works on plans to re-use water for a golf course.  The Mexican and the Baja California governments allot $40 million for water and waste management, drainage and sanitation.

Sounds like a drop in the bucket.

No matter.  In the end, water wins.


  • The town mantles its water source like a bird of prey over food.

    What beautiful writing. Thanks for sharing. An issue that is near and dear to my heart- this is the country I came from in Arizona.



    • Ann, thanks for the reply. An issue everywhere, but here, so nakedly apparent. Jungle right next to desert. I forget you grew up in Arizona. You could write the book on Water. Best, J


  • I like it! I mean, I like the post. Not the water situation! I’ve had my own experience with water shortage in India. I worry about what it portends for humanity in the long run, but I like the way water rationing draws me into an immediate intimacy with nature and our basic needs. Mostly, it’s water! Water Wins!



  • Hi Julia!

    I haven’t been by to see you in a few weeks. I love your post on water. I too lived in Arizona for nineteen years and yes, water is a huge issue. I also loved the pictures along with your writing prose. Wonderful.

    Come pluck that blogging award girl and post it on your page. I think Versatile awards fits your posts. And you deserve it. And don’t think that you have to pay it forward if it’s not your thing. No worries.

    Take care! 🙂


  • Karen, you are a writer’s angel. Thank you for your support. I appreciated your recent blog about setting goals and checking up on yourself. The simplest things keep us rolling, don’t they? Much appreciation for your follow up.


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