Drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . swoosh . . . gurgle . . .
Our house makes sounds—sometimes it seems to be alive. We regularly hear the sound of water running through the pipes in our walls. Whenever anyone takes a shower or flushes the toilet on the second floor, the muffled roar of a waterfall cascades through the kitchen walls on the main floor. Perhaps the walls need better insulation.
These noises tend to annoy my family. They’re right—water gushing through the walls of your house can be a bit disconcerting and bothersome. And since we are contemplating a renovation, suggestions have been made that this construction defect needs to be “fixed.”
It’s funny, though: the sound of water is not an annoyance to me. It puts a smile on my face and makes me feel rich. Why is that? I began to wonder. As with everything these days, I thought an explanation might lay buried deep in my childhood experiences.
Before I propelled myself into some heavy psychoanalysis, I stopped, psychologically speaking, at a New Year’s Eve dinner party I attended about fifteen years ago. Roughly a dozen people were there, ranging from 30 to 75 years of age. If you can believe it, dinner conversation turned to the topic of plumbing, and we all had to answer a question: “What kind of plumbing did your house have when you were ten years old?” Amazingly, only about half of us had indoor plumbing and running water. My wife was on one side of the great divide (she had running water and indoor plumbing in her eastern Ontario home) and I, in my tiny north western Saskatchewan farmhouse, was on the other.
That was it. The drip, drip, drip, swoosh, and gurgle—the sound of water was not to be taken for granted when I was a child. Water sounded wonderful . . . Water was precious . . . Water was hauled into the house by the pail from a well, or a pump or a tank. Water was collected into a rain barrel in the summer and from snow brought into the house to melt in the winter. And when it was poured, it made a delightfully sweet sound that could mean many wonderful things were about to happen: a refreshing drink being served up, garden produce being prepared for supper, or a wash basin or a tin tub readying itself for an act of cleansing. Water always sounded good and there was none to waste.
By the time I became a teenager, my family had been blessed with sufficient revenue and the fruits of progress to be able to install running water and indoor plumbing in our farmhouse. My parents were no doubt thrilled with these new conveniences, as were my sister and I, but my parents never really became casual about water use, even when there was so much of now at their ready disposal. They continued to cherish water, with all its sounds and its uses.
I suppose my childhood experience is not unique. Much of the world still lives without daily access to running water and indoor plumbing. The sound of water for middle eastern peoples of 2000 years ago, as for Bangladeshi peasants today, is a sound to be cherished.
Collecting life-giving water becomes a constant and inescapable reality, but the rewards are immediate. Water—in its literal and metaphorical states—is mentioned over 600 times in the Bible. In the parched land of Israel, the sound of water was the sound of life itself. It comes as no surprise then that Christ used water as a means of ministry and teaching—turning water into wine, asking for water from a Samaritan woman, and washing the disciples’ feet. Christ’s use of the metaphor of being “the living water” had and has a clear and audible ring of riches for people with limited access to the basic necessity of human life.
So, as I hear the water in the pipes of my houses hurtling down from the second floor to the first and then out into the sewer drain, I smile and think I’m an aquatic millionaire. The sound of water is a sweet, sweet sound. It reminds of a happy childhood, it replenishes and cleanses my body, and it soothes my soul.
If we decide to go ahead with the renovation, I think I’ll tell the contractor not to worry about changes to the plumbing, because it works fine and sounds wonderful.