Living Waters

What it takes to immerse yourself in faith

| January-February 2010

When I first encountered Leslie What’s “Living Waters” in the Summer 2009 issue of  Calyx , the essay drew me in so completely—immersed, you could say—that I knew it would make for a wonderful excerpt in Utne Reader. We ran that excerpt in our Jan.-Feb. 2010 issue, but we also wanted our readers to be able to connect with Leslie’s vivid prose at its full length. We asked for her permission to reprint the entire piece online, and she graciously agreed. “Living Waters,” at any length, is a beautiful rumination faith and what sustains us. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did. — Julie Hanus

  

Buford Park , March 1991

 



Bekah and I hike the trail beside a river swollen from spring snowmelt. It’s that time of the month, which, in the Jewish tradition, occurs about seven days after that time of the month has ended. Bekah’s best friend is out of town so she’s asked me to accompany her to the ritual bath known as mikvah. As an observant Jew she must immerse herself in the mikvah mayim chayim—a gathering of living waters—after her cycle ends and before resuming conjugal relations with her husband. I harbor misgivings about the need for such a ceremony, but there is no indoor mikvah in Eugene, Oregon—the closest being in Portland, four hours of travel to and fro. A ritual bath in the Willamette River, despite a dangerous and raging current, is only ten minutes from Bekah’s house. It’s the age-old dilemma: which to choose—drowning or traffic?