After over a decade of decline, a brutal winter has brought Great Lakes water levels back to their long-term average. But some scientists say climate change could eventually lead to permanently lower lake levels. WBEZ reached out to scientists, fishermen, shippers — anyone who could shed light on what’s happening. It turns out, some of the sharpest observers of the lake’s wild swings the last few years are artists. For Front and Center, Lewis Wallace reports. (Tim Schroeder/TWS Photography)

Holy Water

This comes from one of our listeners Mario Alberto Lucero Ruiz:

A raincloud from Chicago followed me all the way to a little ranch in Anthony, New Mexico. It attached like a kite to the spoiler of my car and decided to reveal itself at dusk on the 4th of July, 2014 as I arrived into town. I was amazed to see the raindrops on my windshield, as the smell of the wet, desert land overwhelmed my lungs with joy. I made my way to my Grandfather Simon’s garden, where he would patiently wait under the shade of his only tree, wishing for the rain to fall from the sky, but never did. As I looked into his garden, the prickly pears around the perimeter were gone. The rows of chili peppers and vegetables were no longer there. Not even his tree was there, just bare sand. Nonetheless, it was raining and that’s all that mattered because I knew my grandpa would be happy if he were there… sitting in the spot where his tree once was. So the rain continued, and I smiled as I looked up into the sky hoping he was somewhere up there. The fireworks confirmed he was there smiling back.

Moral of the story: We take water and rain for granted in the Midwest, while in the Southwest it is a luxury that many can only dream of.

After Water Fiction: Water Men by Tim Akimoff

You were born on August 4, 2114. You were 21 inches long, and you weighed seven pounds, six ounces.

We are water men.

I’ve been writing you letters every year on your birthday, because it’s important for you to know where you came from, so you might know where we are going.

Your great-great-grandfather Bryan Murrel wrote letters to me every year from the year I was born, until the year that he died in 2094. He worked in technology, the last of the family to do so.

That was before the water jobs.

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After Water Fiction: Straws by Rebecca Adams Wright



            Olivia stands with her back to the door and a spread of maps projected on the wall in front of her.  The maps are topographical and blotched with a pale blue that indicates water.  Sparrow, her contact, is tracing snakey lines around each of the blotches with a laser pen.  His down jacket rustles as he moves in the unheated room.  Olivia watches the red dot squiggle across the wall.  Where it hovers, she draws an X in erasable marker.  Later, after she and several others have memorized them, the maps will be deleted.  Olivia and Sparrow do not talk about the locations of the Xs.  It is possible that the room is bugged.

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After Water Fiction: The Last Cribkeeper by Peter Orner

(Flickr/josh s jackson)

        You may have seen Harry Osgood yourself. He’s that old man who walks the beaches, day and night, wobbling across the sand with his cane. From 63rd to Fargo Avenue, he covers the city. And when he’s not on a beach, he’s on a bus on the way to a beach. He stands, leans on his cane, and gazes at the water that used to be so blue. It’s strange, all those days, all those nights, the only thing he wanted was to be here on the shore and now what wouldn’t he give to be back out there on the lake, in that little kitchen boiling potatoes as the rain cries down the dirty windows?

        Because it’s not the job he dreams of; it’s the aloneness.

        He’s heard children on the beach asking their parents, pointing, what’s that? What’s a house doing floating on the lake? And he’d like to say: Kid, that’s not a house, that’s my crib…

        Your Crib?

        It’s where your water comes from, the cribs guard the intake –

        But he’s gone so long without speaking that he’s dropped the habit altogether.                                 

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After Water Fiction: The Floating City of New Chicago by Tricia Bobeda

(Photo by Tricia Bobeda) 

         Jon knew, but he couldn’t say.

         They were having the same argument they had just about every morning after enough drinks and enough time had passed.

         Was it there? Or wasn’t it?

         Tomas had burst into the bar saying he saw a delivery drone over the lake. Headed due east from downtown. That set Eddie off.

          “The island is there. The island is there and it’s time we did something about it. It’s not right. It’s not right for them to be out there while the rest of us sweat. Sweat and beg and steal to survive. It’s not right.”

          Eddie gestured wildly, talking to no one in particular but loud enough so everyone could hear.

          Some people laughed. Some shook their heads, never looking up from their spiked soylent smoothies.

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After Water Fiction: World After Water by Abby Geni

(Illustration by Abby Geni)

      The boys wake at dawn. They share a mattress on the floor, piled like puppies. There are four of them, stair-step in age, as similar as twins. They are sun-colored: copper-skinned, their hair bleached white. They are wishbone-thin.

       As the Midwestern sun rises, the boys step outside, blinking and yawning. The floodwater is high today. Their front porch is partially submerged. The usual smell hangs in the air—murky and sour. At this season of the year, what’s left of the streets— in what’s left of this town— are always brimming over. The houses stand like islands. The boys take a few minutes to play, hurling bits of trash and chips of plaster into the pool, watching the ripples expand in glittering rings.

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