Water Flowing Underground
Didn't Talking Heads say that? And "There is water under the ocean"? Same as it ever was, same as it ever was....

Forgive me for being a writing teacher for a minute. I can't resist telling you this small tale. You see, when you accept the writing-way (wen-fu, if you have looked at these postings for a year or so), then writing is the way the world relates to you. Not: the way you relate to the world. The other way around. The world knows who you are and what you are and it is always trying to open a door to the spirit between the two of you. Oh! The nouveau-atheist movement would slap me silly for such talk. Come to think of it, so would my Baptist missionary pals. But it's true. Ask any medicine woman.

This is a story about a plumber. What does a plumber have to do with spirits and poetry? Plumbers make sure the crap flows out of the house and not into the basement. Where is God in that?


In the world of wen-fu (literally, if you haven't caught a lot of these postings--and why should you--there are way too many--could be translated as writing-kung-fu--you can find the tenets of this Way in LuChi's ancient Chinese book...but I digress), the world speaks to me in image, metaphor, simile, suprise endings, haiku, narrative voices. No kidding. People have said very kind things to me lately about my writing, but the writing writes me. That's what happens. Zen archery? I don't know. Is there such a thing as Zen typing? For a follower of Christ? With heathen interests. And goth/pagan urges? jeez. Thank goodness for writing's ecumenical spirit.

Writing: not a religion, but a Way.

So our basement flooded on Mother's Day. Big-time. We were up to our ankles in water for hours. The plumber came and it cost a fortune (emergency call on a holiday--$950 right off the bat). The sump pump was wasted, as you have read elsewhere. But also revealed was that the former owner had slyly and against code run an auxiliary line from the sump to the sewer to shunt water that way along with the external pipe. All that line vanished as the plumber cut pipes and positioned a new sump in the pit and ran new lines outside. It sucked the basement dry.

Days of shop-vac and fans and stench.

Now, here's the interesting part for me. And if you have taken writing workshops with me, or gone to writers' retreats like Fishtrap, you know I always say the real power, the real stuff of a piece of writing is not on the surface. It's in the basement. Students have herad this over and over. I am my own cliche. In the basement, y'all. Down with the water heaters and the furnace and the old moldy boxes of magazineas and Stephen King books. Down with the sump-pump: that's where the real soul and troubling haunting secret power of the story or poem or song or essay lies. It can be a demon, or it can be a friendly ghost.

Now, the ol' sump pump would not stop pumping. Water gushed out beside our house. I dug trenches to run this effluent down to the street. I thought: Dang, that basement must really be soaked. And more water. And more. The whole side yard turned to a swamp. The sidewalk flooded and never drained. I called the plumbers back and they sent another guy to work it and raise the pump a few inches and it cost me a couple of hundred more.

Still flooding.

Our first plumber, my hero, came back and put in an underground pipe to shunt the water away from the house. Mo' money! But the flood did not abate.

The basement might have been housing a demon after all.

In utter hopelessness--the neighbors had started to complain about my destruction of all that is lawn-holy--I called my original plumber hero on his cell phone. He said he'd come on his own time, but not to tell anybody. So I'm not naming names.

It's Saturday morning. He came. He cut pipe again, and raised the pump again. And he made an amazing dicovery.

Water flowing underground.

Our house is built upon an artesian spring. That's right--there is an endless supply of sweet underground spring water bouncing off the bottom of our basement slab. He joked that Cinderella and I could tap it and sell bottles of Cinderella's Pure Spring Water and get rich. Or we could put a drinking fountain into our own basement and get endless gallons of free pure spring water. Possibly forever.

Grace and miracles in the basement. Clear cool water flowing in the shadows. A plumber opening the door to joy and revelations. The demon becomes and angel in one minute.

It's holy! It's wen-fu! Writing didn't make it happen, but writing opens my eyes to what magic rushes under my own feet when I don't even know it. I'm just far along enough in my training to see it immediately. When I get my black-belt, I will be as one with the wen.

Psst! I got cold pure water. It's free.

Come here with me--let's drink.

Same as it ever was,

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