Thursday, January 1, 2015

Holy Water

A couple of weeks ago I was in Nashville, Tennessee for a conference, and in the restroom of the Music City Center, there was a sign on the inside of each stall. These, I have learned in an unrelated matter, are officially called "potty papers." Yes, I shit you not, that is an actual marketing term, and it has everything to do with delivering information to a captive audience, and nothing to do with, erm, well, you know.

Anyway, these particular potty papers announced that the MCC uses recycled rainwater to flush their toilets. The first time I read this, my reaction was, "What the what? They have enough rain to do that?"

Ladies and gentlemen, if we all had to use rainwater to flush our toilets here in the Hub City, we'd be in big trouble. Let's just say that there would be a backlog of flush orders. It would be a sellers market for flushable opportunities.

And then once I got done marveling at rainwater that was so abundant it permitted people to flush the toilet, I thought, "What a terrible waste!" (The rainwater, not the other thing…)

It was interesting to me, as I thought more about my reaction, that I somehow felt like rainwater was a more precious resource than, you know, actual water--actual water being the stuff that comes out of the tap, rather than the sky. This is ridiculous, of course. Rainwater and actual water are one and the same, but my response is symptomatic of the "supermarket syndrome," wherein we think all resources come from a supermarket, rather than from the ground, or an animal, or the sea.

Even so, living in a place where rain does not fall often from the sky--a place where we have our water piped in to us so that we can, among other things, flush our toilets with regularity (I'm sorry, there are just too many opportunities for puns with this subject)--one does tend to think of it with more reverence than the stuff that comes out of the tap. Witness those of us who water our lawns with drinking water, as well as use it to carry our crap to…wherever it is that crap goes when we flush the toilet. Tap water is throw-away stuff. Rain, though, that's a different matter. Rain--as we all know here in Dryland--rain is precious. Rain is holy. You don't waste rain.

Well, I don't have to point out how specious this logic is. By this I mean, of course, how specious it is that rain is more holy than actual water. All water is holy. Period. I nod to the superior logic of that.

But still. Rain. In a toilet. It offends the sensibilities.

Which brings me to the rain chain. A few years ago, when I was trying to decide what to do about the rain that kept falling on our front door landing, I decided the best solution would be to install some gutters and a rain chain. Now, having just told you that I think rain is too holy and rare to use in toilets, you might think that I'd be capturing all of it that I could for use in my garden--and I do just that. However, this particular spot was going to be difficult to use for rainwater harvesting, and besides, I decided that because of the holiness of rain and all that, there ought to be at least one place in a semi-desert/prairie/desert/whatever-the-hell-kind-of-dry-climate-we-are-becoming garden that pays some homage to this holiness. And thus the rain chain, pictured here:

A full explanation of how I made sure none of the rain that flowed through this homagery went to waste is in this blog post. (And in case you are wondering, homagery is a made-up word.)

Then a fellow from Rain Chains Direct contacted me a few months ago and asked me if I'd review one of their products on this blog. I've pretty much given up on reviewing most things. The truth is, it's a hassle. Companies send you stuff, then you review it. Sometimes it's good stuff, sometimes it's less than good. Then I have to report it as income on my tax form (even if it is less than good). Almost always I have to find a home for it after I'm done doing the review, because I just don't need it myself, being already in possession of the product under review. The latter is true with the rain chain. But I said yes this time, mainly because of the holiness thing. I really do think that people should pay some sort of homage to water in their gardens, and a rain chain is a beautiful way to do it.

I warned the fellow that it didn't rain very often around these parts, but I'd review it when it did. To which he replied that I could use a garden hose to test the rain chain. Well, I wasn't going to do that. (See above, in re, "holiness." I mean, would you snack on communion crackers?)

As luck would have it, the very day he sent the rain chain, we got four inches of rain in one hour. It was a miracle! Unfortunately, I didn't have time to hang the chain before it rained. Just as unfortunately, the very next day I came down with the flu, which subsequently turned into pneumonia. I laid on my sick bed for three weeks, listening to it rain off and on, too ill to climb up on a ladder and hang that chain so I could take a picture for the review.

Nevertheless, one day, when it was not raining, I went outside, climbed up on a stool, removed my rain chain and installed the one to be reviewed. Then a couple of nights later, it began to rain again.  I got up off my sick bed, leaned out the front door in my bathrobe and took this picture. Look at that water flow! You don't see that with a garden hose, my friends!

A couple of days later, I took this one in the daytime, and it better shows the prettiness of the chain. (Really, it was a terrific month for rain.)

Brothers and sisters, I think rain chains are that important. I got up off my sickbed to take these photos.

Off. My. Sickbed.

And then, in a flash, I found a neighbor who desired a rain chain--I am assuming because she, too, believes that rain is holy--and I gave it to her.

Listen, you can see from the photo above that it works. It has a very nice gutter guide, too (not pictured), that helps to funnel the rain into the bells. If you don't have one, you should think about  ameliorating that pitiful condition. Otherwise, you run the risk of being someone who thinks that rain belongs in toilets.

And the nice, very patient fellow who sent me this one, would like you to order one from this place, which has a great selection:

I know that he is patient, because periodically, he would send me emails, very politely inquiring as to when I might be reviewing that rain chain he sent me. My responses varied from, "I'm sick, dammit!" to  "It's finals week, dammit!", and he never once wavered in his graciousness. He probably would have preferred that I do the review before Christmas, however, so that those of you who celebrate this festive holiday with the giving and receiving of gifts might get the idea that this would be a good stocking stuffer. Even now, I can imagine that some of you are saying, "Dammit! That was what I should have asked for!" or,  "I could have gotten this for Aunt Hannah, who, as we all know, is traditionally hard to buy for because she says she never wants anything but our love, which we all know is baloney!" or, "Aw geez! That would have been sooooo much better than a new vacuum cleaner!"

And yes, it would have. But the good news is that Valentine's Day is just around the corner….


  1. Susan, what a fun, punny post for the new year. Rain IS holy, and certainly we have been blessed by Mother Nature with more than the usual amount so far this winter. It's raining here in Austin as I write this. I love rain chains, and perhaps one day I'll have gutters so that I can hang one too.

    1. Glad to hear that you are getting some rain, Pam!

  2. Rain is holy and almost totally taken for granted here in Middle Tennessee where it is not unusual to have 45 or 50 inches of rain a year! I hope you visit Nashville again~it was a delight to see you. xo

  3. What an entertainingly written post. You might think given where I live (the PNW) that I take rain for granted, but I don't. I truly feel for those who lack it in abundance, and I share your reaction to finding rain in the toilet. It is a strange dichotomous way of thinking, that the water that comes from the tap doesn't come from the sky.

    1. I would think that in the PNW rain is such a *presence* that it would be hard to take it for granted. i imagine you think of it the way I think of sunshine--it *is* my landscape.

  4. What a fabulous post! I don't have gutters so I don't have a rain chain, but I hope to have both before the growing season is over in Massachusetts.

    1. CommonWeeder, I really like your name! Every time I see it, it reminds me a charming novella called _An Uncommon Reader_, by Alan Bennett. Have you read it?

  5. I love your punny post. While visiting our friends in Denver, another place that knows the value of rain, I asked our hosts why they don't use rain barrels. She said they are illegal, because the rain that falls belongs to Denver Water, which I thought was presumptuous, and would probably get me in trouble if I lived and gardened there.


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