How to live with water and see the opportunity in just about everything

Water seemed to be the dominant theme and challenge recently at our beloved building site and soon-to-be country-side home. It all began with the need for rain run-offs, so pipes with which we thought we could guide the rain water off our roofs to a sewer somewhere. It turned out that although this sewer does exist, we’e not meant to and not able to put any rain water into it for reasons that I cannot elaborate on here (and you probably wouldn’t find it very interesting, either). Then the mayor stirred some hopes in us that there was another unofficial sewer in a neighbour’s garden we might use for this purpose but also this proved wrong.

Then there was the idea to just leave the water be and let it deal with itself the way it has been done for the last 100 years or so, wich is to just let it hit the ground next to the house and then let it find its way into the soil somewhere, somehow. This thought was, however, then cast aside when the team lead of the renovation/building company explained to us that they have reason to assume that the water has already done some damage to the structure of the building: A wet wall and a crack we uncovered behind the wall cladding in one of the offices may have resulted from a shifting of the house’s base plate due to water having lapped at it for a couple of decades.

This is how the house uses to deal with all the rain water it gets: Just let it find its way into the ground somehow. This has worked for some time but might damage the structure if we leave it like this.

So we decided to go for the expensive but safer option: digging a drain trench. This thing looks, when freshly dug, a bit like something from a World War I movie. This trench is so big because the amounts of rain up here are more than average of what you get in Germany. Yes, we know what we’re getting ourselves into and we knew that before making the decision to move here. 🙂 The incredibly friendly tax officer we talked to the other day explained to us that the “bad” weather is, according to his view, actually one of the reasons why people here are happier than in all other parts of this country (there is research to prove it). He explained to us that if people get long periods of rain between November and March they are so grateful and pleased when they see the sun coming out eventually that they express this kind of humble joy that you get when you recieve a welcome and surprising gift or you get something that you cannot take for granted.

Anyway, back to our unforeseen trench. This got then lined with fleece and filled with gravel and drainage pipes that are now being connected to the rain run-offs from the house. At the end they want to put earth over it and sew grass on top so this whole structure should not be visible in the garden any more. We also hope to be able to capture some water for watering our plants should we need it because the last two summers have been drier than usual. This whole side-project comes at approximately the price of a small car and seems like an investment that, necessary and sensible as it may be, does not really enhance our quality of life short- to mid-term. It just throws our budget off kilter a bit for now and prevents the house from being damaged in the long-term. So not really a welcome surprise.

If you know me a bit you will know that I usually see the opportunity and the positive aspects in most of the things that I encounter (some call it naive, some call it wise… – I just can’t help it). On this occasion, it was no different but it took me a couple of hours to wrap my head and heart round it. How can this drain trench thing possibly be an opportunity?

Well, it means that we can have our sauna earlier than planned. While the digger and the other machinery are in the garden anyway, they can already prepare the base plate for the little sauna hut that I have been wanting to have for such a long time. The orignal plan was to get the sauna in September time but with this all happining, I ordered the hut just this week from a nearby company that specialises on wooden huts. The little hut shall also double as a miniature guest house for friends who come to visit us.

But hang on, the recent water-themed surpirses do not end there. Just before the Easter weekend, we discovered that there is water in our small cellar. Some 15 cm deep. It must have come from an old nicked pipe but when and how no-one knows because the cellar is very small and can be accessed only through a hatch in the floor of the hallway. Luckily, the pipe can be easily mended as it is one that runs outside of the wall so it’s accessible. The upside in this mess was that a friend gave me the tip to ring the local fire service and through that I learned that one of our neighbours is a volunteer. He popped over with a pump and a hose and was able to help us get rid of most of the unwanted water that way.

Just what you need on the Thursday before a long weekend: Water in the cellar – it came from a damaged pipe – luckily one that is easily accessible so we can get it mended quickly

Speaking of neighbours, we also got acquainted with the family that owns the garden to the rear of our house and they turned out not only to be very friendly and welcoming but also they offered to help us connect through leisure activities like table tennis and fishing in the village’s freshwater lake or the nearby fjord. They can also give us tips for nice walks and hikes in the area. We also met the neighbour across the road who is about half-way through a longer renovation project of his own house so will be able to share advice and tips on that end.

And then there was this very unusual Easter weekend that we just had. In a way, I found it felt more “eastery” than many others because it was so close to the spirit or the idea of Easter. By that I mean this sacred and mysterious space between what no longer is and what might be. I mean having deep-felt respect for all the things that we cannot control, recognizing that control in itself has been an illusion all along and instead embracing the opportunity to just be with what is and see the gift and the lesson in it.

For us as a couple, like for many couples and families out there, the situation also means getting closer to each other, appreciating what we have in each other including all the frictions and the rough edges. Having empathy for oneself and each other for the shortcomings and imperfections. In this sense it comes handy that I am practicing empathy also in three different ways at the moment:

What does empathy mean for you? Empathy for me means first of all being kind, understanding and gentle to yourself. How often do you talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend? How often do you instead internally beat yourself up for mistakes or things that just did not work? And if you’re being hard on yourself, chances are you’re also tough with others. Maybe others’ behaviour makes you feel impatient, disappointed, frustred or angry. You judge others like you judge yourself, labeling things as “bad” or “slow” or “stupid” or “annoying”. We’ve all been there and I’m no exception at all – it’s perfectly human. 🙂

From what I’ve understood so far, the key to empathy is threefold:

  1. Acknowledge that these judgy reactions are not particularly helpful when it comes to working with others, solving problems or living a fulfilled life
  2. See that you have a choice of how you behave and how long you rest in these judgy emotions before shifting to something more helpful
  3. Practice feeling and living empathy and see what happens to yourself and your environmnt – it can become kind of a self-replenishing water supply, to rest in the theme of this article

Of course, I miss my family and I would have loved to be with them and hug them all. Instead, we connected by phone and video calls and started to make plans and imagine what it will be like when we can be together again later in the year.

Phoebe is not really into Easter eggs that much, I reckon

Wherever this finds you, I wish you well and welcome your thoughts on the topics of empathy, seeing the opportunies in adversities and dealing with water. Stay well!


  1. …. jaja, Bauen ist immer ein Erlebnis 😉 Klasse wie Ihr das alles managed und sooo gut, dass Ihr schon vor Ort seid. Gutes Gelingen auch weiterhin und auf Bald. LGBEA

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