The Sound of Soothing

We had a long drought over the three previous summers and by last summer most all of the fountains in parks and office complexes had been turned off. Dry fountains are to me the sign that says "life has been abandoned here." Fortunately, we have had plenty of rain in the last year and the drought was declared over this past spring, and now most of the fountains have been filled and are flowing again. (For the record, this fountain is on the campus of Georgetown University in the District of Columbia and I have no idea if they ever turned theirs off or not.)

I think the presence of working water features is of utmost importance everywhere there are people and animals. Little birds and animals bathe and drink in them, and people in schools or offices or those who live on the streets downtown can sit near them and be soothed and refreshed by the sound of falling water. Life is stressful and fountains provide some relief from that stress, and even if it's momentary relief, momentary relief is no small antidote to what would otherwose be nonstop grind.

When I spent a summer as a hospital chaplain, visiting people who were ill, sometimes dying, and their relatives who were trying to cope sometimes for weeks on end, I often retreated to the little pool and fountain on the hospital grounds with my lunch or for a beverage break. It's not as good as a trip to the beach, but it's something like a miniature version of it. A half- or quarter-hour sound of water respite. If I went on off-times, I might have the spot to myself for a half hour. But frequently others were sitting by the pool, too, looking at the water and listening to the spray. Other chaplains, hospital personnel, patients and family members. One man had been mostly living at the hospital for nearly twenty weeks while his wife was in various stages of treatment. The occasional bird would fly through the spray as well for a drink or refreshment to everyone's delight. Or maybe it was for fun.... even though I love birds, I don't really know what they do for fun.

Sometimes I'm tempted to ask, wouldn't it be nice if life were not so stressful and we didn't need things to soothe us? But then again, I suppose little things like a lovely fountain wouldn't be nearly as lovely if they didn't give us a sense of even temporary tranquility and respite. The sweet is not so sweet unless we know what's bitter.