Rain Barrels

Rain Barrel with Dog Rain Barrel with Dog

I’ve been painting rain barrels.  Cynthia Raskin, a Chicago publicist and environmentally concerned citizen,  is organizing a water conservation awareness project in conjunction with the City of Chicago.  My rain barrel will be posted on a corner on Michigan Avenue (? exact location TBD) to promote awareness of water shortages and good usage.  (See:  recycletheraindrops.org).  You can see my rain barrel behind Mayor Daley at his recent press conference about creating green jobs for people re-entering society after prison, see:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBhXN_KOscE

Cynthia suggested that, as a calligrapher, I could use my lettering skills to get a message across about water conservation.  Here are the quotes I used:

We’re all downstream.” Jim and Margaret Drescher

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.” Native American saying

When the well is dry, we know the worth of water. Benjamin Franklin

All the water that will ever be is here right now. GWPC.org

When you drink the water, remember the spring. Chinese proverb

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one. Jacques Cousteau

As I worked on the rain barrel, I discovered that the Chicago Botanic Garden has a similar project going, involving teams of school kids.  They’re going to auction off painted water barrels at Navy Pier on Sept. 19.  So, being in rain barrel painting mode, I picked up one from them and embellished it with the same quotes, and also added glass jewels, which resemble water drops.

rain barrel for Chicago Botanic Garden rain barrel for Chicago Botanic Garden

I want to get a water barrel.  I read recently that chlorine (which is present in our tap water) will cause ultramarine blue to blacken over time.  What more motivation does an artist need to use rainwater?  That, and my neighborhood, like so many Chicago areas in the Des Plaines River watershed, tends to flood with heavy rains.  And, my husband’s vegetable garden is thirsty and why not use good, off-the-grid, natural water?

There’s something spiritual about rain water.  I guess it hearkens back to my inner mikvah.  The mikvah is the bath used by observant Jews for a ritual immersion for holiness at times of transition:  before conversion, before the Sabbath and, for women, after a menstrual period (before resuming marital relations).  Men and women also go to the mikvah right before their wedding.  It’s not about getting physically clean; one is supposed to scrub up before entering the mikvah.  It is a pool which contains a at least a minimum required percentage of rain-water, for purity.

There is a growing, modern mikvah movement afoot:  Mayyim Hayyim (tr.:  living waters) in Boston is a recently built, beautiful mikvah which resembles a spa, an art gallery and a temple all in one.  There’s something sweet and soft about natural rainwater, it feels different from treated water.

Miriam's cup, hand-painted glass, by Judith Joseph Miriam’s Cup for Passover, hand-painted glass, by Judith Joseph

Many, many times I have found myself in a fresh water lake, floating on my back, looking out over my toes at the shoreline of trees and blue sky.  I spin in a circle, becoming the compass of my life, finding my true north.  I remember other lakes, oceans, other views over my toes, and I take stock of the passage of time, the journey which brought me to this moment, this lake.  These moments of immersion in natural water give me a renewal, a rebirth; they orient me in time and space.

Rest Lake, Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin Rest Lake, Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, looking north

If you want to purchase a rain barrel, go to: mwrd.org (for residents of Cook County, Illinois)

See Miriam’s Cup

2 responses to “Rain Barrels

  1. Hi, I’m unsure of who wrote “Many many times I have found myself in a fresh water lake…..”.
    I own a rainbarrel company in Lake County and am wondering if I can quote your passage? We have a website and am currently setting up a Facebook page for “Rainy Day”. I thought what you wrote was beautiful and true. Let me know your thoughts. Thank you, Kathryn Montano


  2. Thank you, Kathryn. Those were my own thoughts.


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