I have always had a love affair with water. As a kid, I would spend hours at our town beach and come home so hungry I would eat half a box of oreos. Once on vacation I clocked twelve solid hours in a swimming pool. Needless to say my hands were wrinkled but I could care less.
While I don’t put much stock in astrology, I can’t help but think being born a Pisces can’t hurt.
As an adult, water began to take on a spiritual dimension. When my kids were small, the only place where I could go and pray without (much) interruption was the bathroom. Drawing a hot bath, I would sink into the soothing hot water and pray my rosary. On more than one occasion I thought of myself as an unborn babe, floating in the water of the womb of my mother. It made me feel vulnerable, naked, and close to God.
We lived in a condominium complex which had a very nice pool. It was, however, always crowded with kids jumping and splashing around. It was a fun place to play and swim with the family, but for times with God, I’d retreat to the tub.
Several years ago we bought our first house. It came with a lovely above-ground oval pool. We had not searched for a pool and weren’t even sure we wanted one. We did, however, want the house so we accepted the fact that we’d have a pool.
Figuring out how to maintain a pool was like trying to learn Greek. We knew so little that we didn’t even know the right questions to ask. When the tarp was removed that first Memorial Day weekend, the water was pitch black. We had no idea what to do about it. Probably the best advice we ever received was from a former boss of mine who said simply, “Shock the hell out of it.” That means pour bottle after bottle of chlorine into the pool until all the bad things are killed off and the water is clear. We were surprised to see that it actually worked.
We live in a wooded yard and even though the previous owners cut down several trees around the pool, it still filled up with leaves. One year I had to literally climb in with my tall rubber boots with a shovel so that I could literally shovel the leaves out of the pool. That turned out to be one of the most powerful prayer times I have ever had.
You might be saying to yourself, “You’re shoveling yucky, slimy leaves out of a pool and you were able to pray?” Yes. Armed with my iPod filled with my favorite Christian music, I listened to song after song, softly singing along, drinking in the words, so to speak. God and I worked in total partnership, cleaning out the pool and enjoying our time together.
Many times I have gone swimming on a hot day and have been filled to the brim with gratitude. “Lord, how is it possible I have use of this wonderful pool? All mine and totally private; nobody has to see my ugly bathing suit.” I would swim lap after lap, enjoying the rippling, cool water against my skin, I’d float on my back contemplating the sun, trees and brilliant blue sky, and be flooded with thanks for such a wonderful gift.
One of my favorite pool activities is the vacuuming. Oh sure, before I mastered the task I had epic battles with the very long hose making sure it wasn’t tangled, and making certain that only water was flowing through it and not air bubbles (or else it wouldn’t suck up the debris on the floor of the pool). It took years before I figured out the best way to deal with it. Now I love the job as I slowly walk through the water, pushing and pulling the vacuum and watching the dirt being sucked up. All the while the water laps against my body and soon I forget what I’m doing. A strong sense of the presence of God becomes clear to me. I imagine nothing: no shape, no form, no words. Only a sensation deep within of His presence, moving, swishing with me as I clean the pool.
The water experience doesn’t end with the pool. My husband and I both enjoy the sounds of the water and decided to install two portable fountains on our deck. We love listening as it rushes over the rocks, bubbling, trickling, brimming with life. Seedlings from one of the many oak trees fell into one of the fountains and now little green roots have sprung; tiny seedlings are floating on the water. Birds land on the edge, dipping their beaks to draw in the water and then lifting their heads back, allowing their thirst to be quenched. Chipmunks scurry by, grabbing a taste of water as they keep up their endless search for bird seed.
God created the water, baptizes us with water, cleanses us with it, soothes our thirst and cools our bodies. His Word and His Love well up inside of us as eternal fountains so that we will never be thirsty again. It is truly one of His greatest creations.
I will never go into my pool without being mindful of His presence and grateful for the gift He gave me. It was totally unexpected and unsolicited, and each time I partake of it, it is happily accepted.
Copyright 2013 Susan Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.