Saturday, June 21, 2008

Water Diviner

We'll Drink To That

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


We are all water diviners, in one way or another. We seek it, we need it, we depend on it. When we camp, we seek some form of running water to sustain us. When our ancestors built villages that grew into modern cities, they did so on the banks of mighty rivers.

I live in a country where drought has prevailed for many years. I have seen hundreds of great pictures that illustrate the cruel grip of Australia’s drought. I have read many news reports that evocatively captured the trauma of a dry red land. But then I read the story of a toddler on a New South Wales farming property.

At the time the story appeared in print, he was coming up to his second birthday – and he had never seen rain.

I learnt very early in life to appreciate the value of water. When I was about eight or nine years old, I had my tonsils removed and I can vividly remember coming to in a hospital bed. My throat was severely constricted and I asked for a sip of water.

The doctor nixed my request because he was scared I would throw up. I endured the grip of choking thirst for as long as I could, but I remember asking again and again, through the fog of anaesthetic and discomfort, for a sip of water to slake my burning thirst.

I did not cry. Much later that afternoon, I was given the medical thumbs-up. I could have a sip of water, but no more than a sip. I am a father of three now, but I have often told my children the story of how I raised my head and treasured the feel of the white china feeding cup (as they were called then) against my lips.

Eyes half-closed, I can still remember how I sought the spout and how, swallowing carefully because of the operation, I savoured each drop that passed down my sandpaper-like throat.


Now I live in a land famous for its wine and beer, but I still drink water. Some years ago, I drank nothing but water – or Adam’s ale, as it is known – all the way from Melbourne to Vancouver, flying business class on Cathay Pacific. With each meal the flight attendant, wearing a broad smile, tried to get me to agree to a glass of fine Australian riesling or chardonnay, but each time I grinned back and asked for a refill of my water glass.

About ten days later, with a particularly spirited (in every sense of the word) group of journalists, I was the only sober one each night, ensuring that they all got back to the cruise ship during a memorable trip to the Alaskan ports. My colleagues all made sure I had a full glass of ice water, and told everyone how I had christened the drink an ``Alaskan cocktail’’.

On the last night, a wonderful American couple asked me to join them for a drink. ``I’m a cheap date,’’ I said, ``I only drink water.’’

They sat there, gobsmacked. ``You’ve led the singing in every Alaskan pub, every night of the cruise – and you were SOBER?’’

Yup. That’s what these Alaskan cocktails do to me.

43 comments:

Brenda said...

Really great drinking water pictures.

Who says you have to be drunk to have fun? I only drink water. It IS cheap! And once one has done that for a long time, nothing else satisfies the same way.

Meg Wolff said...

I got thirsty as I read your story.

From one water drinker to another ... I'll take an "Alaskan cocktail" too, please.

willow said...

Adam's Ale, now that's a new one for me. This made me thirsty, too, David. You need free samples of clear cool water for us now! :)

BeachysCapeCodCupboard said...

Good on you! It's so refreshing to hear a story like this, as hubby and I are non-drinkers (I often feel like an oddity when we go out). I, too, had mouth surgery as a kid and vividly remember my dry-as-a-bone tongue when I came to... I just wanted one teensy tiny sip of water soooo badly! =)

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Wonderful post. Water is indeed liquid gold, and we take it for granted at our own peril...

andrée said...

I can't imagine living without knowing rain. Or snow. Beautiful photos, David.

San said...

Simply divine images of the water of life, David. And your story of your post-tonsilectomy drought is beautiful too.

We live in a land of drought too, but we have the most delicious well water on our property. So sweet and pure tasting.

hotmamabeads said...

Love it! I'll go drinking with you any time!

Momma said...

Yes, I'm an aquaphile, too. I grew up drinking lots of it, much to the disgust of my friends. I have always thought water tasted sweet.

But I love a good Australian Riesling, too!

Peace - D

polona said...

we are lucky to still be able to drink water from the taps.
water is actually my favourite drink although i don't mind having a beer or two on occasion

lime said...

oh i can feel that parched throat post surgical pain. i remember so well when my own wee one went through it. and i like you am a cheap date as a big fan of adam's ale. though i do like a splash of lemon in it too.

Baino said...

I never understand why people pay for bottled water when we are fortunate enough to have clean, fresh water from the tap? I'm also rather stunned that after 4 years of high level water restrictions, NSW has just eased restrictions and allows us to use a hose with a nozzle . . the dams aren't even full yet and we've all become used to meagre rations. A 'sweetener' perhaps from the going's on in NSW politics.

Golightly said...

I like that term, "Adam's ale". When I was in college, I didn't drink much, but I LOVED to go out and party with my friends - dancing and such. I went to school in a small town. All the bartenders knew by name and always had my "regular" for me. A tall mug of ice water (because I loved the "beer mugs") I was often the designated drive...

Colin Campbell said...

The way the Rudd Government is going, you will be classed as a binge drinker.

Betsy said...

Having a big glass right now....

Tammy said...

Drinking water and wondering when you're coming back to Muskoka to drink water with us (or tea?).

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

A thought-provoking post and (as usual) superb photos. Since I arrived in my dotage, I've been known to have a couple of glasses of a nice red wine occasionally, but otherwise I'm a water-drinker, also. Of late, I have become addicted to consuming crushed ice, which feels so soothing as it melts and trickles down my throat.

Celebration of Life said...

While I was reading your post, a verse of a song came to me:

All day I face
the barren waste
without the taste
of water...
Cool, clear, water...

Have you heard this song before?
(I know I am aging myself)

Indrani said...

Beautiful post, David. You have written it so well.

Famines in some parts of the world and floods in others, Nature is so unpredictable.

marcia said...

me too I am a wateraholic

Barbara H. said...

What an intriguing story. We're in near drought conditions here -- unfortunately water is one of those things we tend to take for granted until it's scarce.

katherine. said...

made me thirsty like everyone else....

sometimes I wonder if the world will go to war over water...

eastcoastlife said...

Lovely stories of you and your Alaskan Cocktail.

I'm a cheap date too. I don't drink beer or wine or any liquor. Water is perfectly fine with me. :)

leslie said...

Great story about how wonderful water is for the body and soul. I, too, am a water drinker and usually tell the waiter/ress that I'm the DD. It's much easier than going through a more detailed explanation. It's amazing, isn't it, how much fun one can have while stone sober and then we can still remember the good time the next day - without a headache! LOL

Maggie May said...

I also lost my tonsils at around that age! Must have been a regular op!
Its chucking down here. No shortage of water.

archiearchive said...

A nice take on the theme. Without drinking water, we are not long for this world. It is good to be reminded of that every now and then.

genny said...

Thats a nice story about water. Happy hunting!

Mima said...

I think that we are getting all your rain, it is supposed to be mid-summer here, but yet again it is chucking it down, on another grey day. Along with your drought, global warming taking effect I suspect.

philos said...

lol! Alaskan cocktail, I'll have to try that one day myself . Nice photos! :)

Sandy M said...

OK, I'm thirsty now. Great photos. Have an awesome weekend!

Akelamalu said...

You can't beat Adam's Ale or Corporation Pop as it's known here. I drink at least 1L a day.

Talking of drought - I've never been able to understand how we get droughts here in England when we're surrounded by water! :(

PS I did your weekend wandering questions last week and this week.

Hootin' Anni said...

Gobsmacked? New word/term for me. Oh my........help this blond out, what is gobsmacked? [kidding!]

Now where's the drinks? Drinks around...I'm buying. [afterall, it's Adams' Ale...I can afford it.]


My 'water' theme this week is a road trip along the coastline of South Texas...ending at an historical mansion. Come by for a visit if you can!! Lots of pictures this time...hope you'll enjoy the history.

Cindy said...

An "Alaskan Cocktail"- I love it!
As to that little boy who had never seen rain in his two years of life, I cannot imagine. We are fortunate to have great water from our own well here. Dysani, and all those don't hold a candle to it.

My photo is
Here

Jenty said...

I love the angle of the first shot!

ancient one said...

Water is so necessary!! Loved the story of finally getting the sip in the hospital!

Bradley's Mom said...

I am a water lover too!!!

And I loved your vivid description of your water drinking after your surgery. You have such a amazing way with words David. You bring it to life so beautifully. I could just picture the whole scenario!

Hope all is well.
Linda

i beati said...

all in the presentation..sk

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Cool story and great shots, as usual. As for your taste in drinks... OK, some people here will take on your share of alcohol ;-)

Have a great weekend!

RuneE said...

Then you would enjoy life around here - we get more than 2m per year...

Katney said...

Well, I fear I am addicted to Diet Pepsi. But I try to get a few glasses of water in between.

jmb said...

What a lovely post David. So many facets to it. My daughter went to Stanford university in 1990, during the long California drought and she did not see green grass for two years. Adam's ale and Alaskan cocktail. I'll have to remember those.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for the fun story. I'm an Alaska Cocktail kind of girl myself. Especially on the cruise ships, where the booze flows so freely. People are always surprised by me as well when I sing and dance and have a grand time, but I’m usually sober.

The bit about the two-year-old who had never seen rain made me laugh. It reminds me of a classic Vancouver joke where a tourist, who has endured rain for the entirely of his two-week vacation, taps the shoulder of a young three-year-old Vancouverite and asks, exasperated, "Hey kid! Does it ever stop raining here?!" And the kid replies, "How should I know?? I'm only 3. It hasn't happened yet!"

Sandy's Notes said...

I love this post. Are you sure you're not a fish?

Seriously, the value of water is priceless when we don't have it. I remember having our water turned off for days because we lost electricity. I just had to have water, I didn't care about anything else, just water.