Monday, December 6, 2010

The Secret Knowledge of Water

No water around here...

... or is there?



The Secret Knowledge of Water; Discovering the Essence of the American Desert, by Craig Childs.

I have always loved to read. When I was a child I read anything and everything and carried home armloads of books from the library. When I finished with those, my mom would hand me some of the books she used in her classroom. The books I read in those days always stayed with me, unlike some of the books I read now, and then accidentally re-read, having forgotten them!

There was a book, Our California Home,* used back then in California fourth-grade classrooms, that absolutely enchanted me. It presented the history of the state through its use and control of water. I never forgot the opening chapter, where a thirsty child on a hot summer night went into a bathroom gleaming with chrome and porcelain to get a drink of cold, sparkling water. After slaking her thirst, she let the water run over her hands and arms. It turns out that my childhood imagination embellished the memory, as when I went back to read the book again (that good Beez found me a copy on Alibris) the hot summer night scene was much smaller and less significant than I remembered it.

I have just finished the book, The Secret Knowledge of Water, and it was another beautiful experience. Childs shows us how desert lands are defined by water, rather than by their lack of it. He introduces us to hidden desert waters, fearsome floods, and to tiny springs that disappear underground during the heat of the day, only to reappear at night, fish and all. I loved this book so much that, when it was over, I read every single item in the pages-long bibliography; marveling that I had learned a bit about desert hydrology, hyporheic invertebrate assemblage, and geomorphology.

And I had loved every bit of it. Read this book and you will never see deserts in quite the same way again. I know that sounds trite, but it's all I can tell you.

*Our California Home, by Irmagarde Richards. California State Series, Sacramento, 1933. 


Beth said...

Sounds fascinating, Clair. I really love the title "The Secret Knowledge of Water." It sounds like the title of a novel or poem.

I had certainly never thought of deserts being defined by water.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Definitely sounds like a good read.

"Deserts being defined by water..." Totally makes sense, but I had never thought of it that way!

becky said...

Another book to put on my list! ( At some point you had written "We Fed them Cactus," I got that for my mom for christmas... we love to read!) I thought that was funny about forgetting. It seems the older I get, the more often I am to read a book or see a movie & it is almost "new" to me, LOL :)
hope you are having a lovely, stressfree, peaceful, happy, smiling holiday season clair!

clairz said...

Beth, the book is such an exciting read that, at times, I found myself leaning forward in my chair with my mouth open. Honestly!

Morning, there are some sad stories in the book about people dying in the desert--dying of thirst--while actually being very close to a water source. A later edition of the book has a comment on the cover that goes something like this--"There are two ways to die in the desert: By thirst and by drowning." Makes you look at the place with new eyes.

Becky, thank you for your holiday wishes, and we wish the same for you all. We specialize in stress-free everything here. No expectations, but always looking for small joys in small places.

Diane AZ said...

That sounds like a fascinating book! I love the idea seeing desert lands as defined by water, rather than by their lack of it. I have a lot to learn about the desert I live in. :)

Mary Hulser said...

This post reminds me of a book I read with fascination as a child. It was about how children lived in Tahiti or Bora-Bora, or some other South Sea Island. The illustrations were just heavenly, and I remember my mind being opened to the big, beautiful world out there.
Or maybe I just remember my mother mimicking me, saying "I want, I want....a trip to Tahiti."
And thanks, thanks for the reminder to say NO to stress this holiday season! Small things in small places, indeed.

Linda said...

I'm avid for factual books, so I'll add this to my list. I know the situation about re-reading things you'd forgotten you'd already read. That happened to me recently, with quite a long fiction book, and it had left no tract on first reading.

I tried to post a comment on your post from today, with the biker Santas, but the comments link was nowhere to be seen. Very envious of your climate just now - seems as if you have the best of all worlds.

clairz said...

Diane and Mary, thank you for your comments and thoughts. Linda, thank you for the heads up about the missing comment link--it's fixed now!

Sandy ~~~ said...

Hmmmm...have added this one to my Christmas wish list! Thanks....need to know more about where I will be living some day!