Regular readers know that I celebrate milestones and keep track of anniversaries of various kinds. It’s one of the afflictions of clear long-term memory (though like lots of people north of 60, short-term recall occasionally wobbles). So it was that on Sunday, August 5, I noted the 40th anniversary of a moment seemingly commnplace, mundane. On August 5, 1972 — it was a Saturday, late afternoon — I walked into a small public bathroom in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and washed my face. The faucet issued little more than a trickle, but it was enough to clean, and I hadn’t washed my face for 60 hours, since leaving the YMCA in Nairobi. The joy of clean hands and face! And for 40 years, I have thought of that moment often, giving thanks for clean water, to wash, to drink. “Never take anything for granted” is a guiding principle.
And it’s good to think of water as precious. So it was on Monday, August 6, in the lovely apartment the university provided me in Santiago, Chile, when I used a glass mug to rinse my razor, because the sink had no stopper. I’m not trying to be pious, nor a scold, but another guiding idea is that we can use less and still live well.