The gods of water, rain and rivers are angry.

Let us not anger them further by shaking our brown hydrangea cuttings at an empty sky. Instead, let us praise these gods, and regain their favor.

Otherwise, we worship the dust-devil of drought, which is a false god.

So we praise you, O Water.

The offhanded thunder of a rapids.

The way a hiss seems to rise from a nighttime river, like mist.

The fabulous breathy roar of old-time toilets with the tank up on the wall and the chain you pulled.

And the sabbath rang slowly

in the pebbles of the holy streams.

--Dylan Thomas, in "Fern Hill"

When you were a kid you'd lie in bed listening to rain on the roof. You shivered for the fun of it. You could make yourself feel goose bumps all over whenever you wanted. It was like feeling lucky.

Bubble, babble, burble, gurgle. Dribble, splatter, pitter-patter. Purl, trill, drum, trickle, chatter. Drip. Drop. Rumble. Grumble. Splish, splash, swish, squish, slosh, wash, swash. Rush, flush, gush, hush. Hiss. Kiss.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

--Psalm 23.

"He had seen photographs of a city in Umbria that had been abandoned when the wells went dry. Cathedrals, palaces, farmhouses had all been evacuated by drought--a greater power than pestilence, famine, or war. Men sought water as water sought its level. The pursuit of water accounted for epochal migrations. Man was largely water. Water was man. Water was love. Water was water."

--John Cheever,

"Artemis, the Honest Well Digger"

When you go somewhere and there's water, you're someplace. When you go somewhere and there's no water, you're anyplace. I know a man who lived on an island in a lake on an island in a lake in Mexico. That was someplace, all right.

You've driven for hours. The lake appears through the pine trees with the soft suddenness of a cat leaping onto the dining room table. Everything is changed.

Wet T-shirt contests: You use water. An extra-light Bertolli olive oil might produce superior cling and transparency, but even a virgin olive oil lacks the clarity and indifference that define the purity of water. In this beer-crazed, music-maddened ritual, the water transforms women from wincing sex-objects into Nereids, water nymphs, ladies of the lake. Olive oil would be too sexy. Really sexy. Besides, it would be expensive and absolute hell to clean up.

You take a long swim in the lake before breakfast.

You butterfly-stroke the last 50 yards. You pull yourself up on the dock. Water pours off you. You didn't think about being wet in the water, but now that you're out of it, you do.

The dock seems somehow realer than it did when you left, the planks coarser, the grass beyond it greener. Your skin feels as if it's been buffed.

You pull off your suit. It hisses like rubber, and collapses around your ankles with a light warmth. You dry yourself with a towel from the laundry line. It's stiff and it smells clean, the smell of water and dryness at the same time.

Being dry is pleasant, especially where the suit was, but even more pleasant, you still feel buffed, as if you'd just learned you were in partnership with the lake, and impervious to water. You wrap the towel around you. You pull on a sweater you left on a rust-freckled lawn chair. You are impervious to its prickling, too.

Your old dog waits for you under the breakfast table on the porch. He bangs his tail. You edge your toes under the dog, whose warmth makes you realize your feet are cold.

"You're up," your mother says from the door.

"I went for a swim," you say.

You hope your mother is in the mood to make breakfast. You feel as if you should be rewarded for your swim, for your defiance of whatever wrathful and ensnaring water god lies at the dark and muddy bottom of lakes.

You figure you'll go swimming again tomorrow morning before you drive back to the city and your job, which are dry, weightless things, mere thoughts compared to the substance of water.

"I've got bacon and eggs," your mother says.

Hydrant open on a street in New York. Little kids run through the water with squinty eyes and saggy underpants.

A mother shouts from a fourth-floor window: "Joey ya stupid bastid ya gonna catch pneumonia and see who takes care a ya."

Water glitters, it wrinkles, it doubles sunsets, and turns pewter at dawn. It is as unforgiving as a mirror.

You can't think of water as a person, like a mountain, or a spirit like fire.

You talk about the milk of human kindness, but you'd never talk about the water of human kindness.

At its most loving, it is a puritan ecstasy--the sweetness of cold, the perfection of absence (taste, smell), so clean it makes the glass holding it look dirty, so pure that even ice seems like a corruption (though the cracking and hissing of the cubes has an arctic spareness).

You drive at night in the rain and if you're in a city, with lights, the drops on your windshield are like clear confetti.

Water is heavy. A pint's a pound, the world around.

When you wear waders into a stream the weight of the water crushes them around your legs until there are cold spots you think are leaks. You walk along the stream bottom. You feel gravel as if you're hearing it, not feeling it. Water is heavy enough that it transmits sound with a clarity that has a grinding edginess, if you're swimming underwater and you knock one rock against another. When you walk in water, the water is heavy enough that you have to let the water fill into the eddies behind your legs. You can run in crotch-deep water, but not for long.

In Vietnam in 1966, I saw a girl fill two five-gallon cans with water, hang each one from the end of a shoulder pole, lift them and settle into a steady trot down the road. She weighed maybe 75 pounds. The water weighed 80. I thought: "This is going to be a long war."

Water is best drunk: 1. from a gallon jar in the refrigerator, 2. with your hands, 3. in a cold-water shower at a beach house, 4. from a garden hose even if it puffs out your cheek and threatens to choke you.

After a thunderstorm you can open a window and put your face to the screen and breathe the rainy air, even inhale the water out of the tiny squares in the screen. The air tastes dark and new. The water tastes of the screen. The squares of the screen are shiny. They wink out, one by one.

Let it rain.