While going to get my Canadian residency papers at the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City in 1974, a woman, Dorothy Barkley told me, “I am from Vancouver. You will like it. It is all sea, water and bridges.” When we arrived at friend’s house in Seattle in our VW Beetle, we were told, “Vancouver? It rains 365 days of the year there!”
And so water has been part of our life since 1975. More so for our Lillooet, BC daughter Ale whose garden suffers under frequent droughts.
When my Buenos Aires family asks me about Vancouver I always tell them, “We have air, space and water, a premium anywhere else.”
In our Mexico City in the rainy season we always thought that the rain cleared the air. This was not so. The hydrogen sulphide in the air from diesel buses, cars and nearby refineries would mix with the water to form sulphurous acid. Some of it would finally fall as sulphuric acid. We had to wax our car twice a year to prevent the paint from being damaged. We imagined what all pollution did to our lungs.
In my Mexico City darkroom I had to mix a Kodak wetting agent so that film would dry without stains. In Vancouver, while I had my darkroom, negatives dried clean without any Kodak Photoflo.
Both my Rosemary and I treasure our tub baths no matter what squeaky clean Canadians tell us about it being a dirty habit. I point out that Argentine writer Jorge Luís Borges used his tub baths to think his poems and short stories through.
Holy water in Spanish is “agua bendita” — more so in our Vancouver.
Las Aguas — Mario Benedetti
Dicen que el agua será imprescindible
mucho más necesaria que el petróleo
los imperios de siempre por lo tanto
nos robarán el agua a borbotones
los regalos de boda serán grifos
agua darán los lauros de poesía
el nobel brindará una catarata
y en la bolsa cotizarán las lluvias
los jubilados cobrarán goteras
los millonarios dueños del diluvio
venderán lágrimas al por mayor
una capital se medirá por litros
cada empresa tendrá su remolino
su laguna prohibida a los foráneos
su museo de lodos prestigiosos
sus postales de nieve y de rocío
y nosotros los pálidos sedientos
con la lengua reseca brindaremos
con el agua on the rocks.
Waters — Mario Benedetti (my translation)
They say that water will be essential
much more than oil
the empires of always thus
stole water from us in gushes
wedding presents will be water taps
water will be celebrated in poetry
a nobel will toast to a rapid
and rain will be valued in stock exchanges
retirees will collect leaks
millionaires owners of the deluge
will sell tears wholesale
a capital will be measured by litres
every business will have its whirlpool
its lake prohibited to foreigners
a museum of prestigious mud
postcards of snow and dew
and we the pale thirsty
with our dry tongue will toast
with water “on the rocks”.
I si Dios fuera mujer — What if God were a woman — Mario Benedetti