Dull as Ditchwater

Have you ever looked at ditchwater, I mean really looked? In this part of Herefordshire it’s usually a lovely warm rust colour, tinged with streaks of blue, green and purple where tractor oil has seeped into it. When the sun is out (as happens occasionally) it shimmers, and a few late insects hop and glide across the surface. It is a whole world in a little, a miniature ocean with tiny currents and cross-currents, microscopic life-forms and and a green, green tangle of weeds and grasses along its banks. In short, it isn’t dull at all. I’m tempted to say that much of what we find dull in life isn’t really dull, it merely appears so because we don’t actually see what is before us, don’t want to give it time or attention.

For a Christian, prayer is a way of opening our eyes to God and so to all creation. It is a way of seeing, and seeing whole, but it takes time and energy — time and energy we are sometimes reluctant to give. If today you are tempted to neglect prayer on the grounds that you find it dull and unrewarding, go and look at some ditchwater.


9 thoughts on “Dull as Ditchwater”

  1. my problem is, usually, that nature distracts me from everything.
    I have made a dogmatic decision that as God created all things , it can’t be too bad to reflect on Him through His creation.
    I wonder if He would agree?

  2. Thank you for that wonderful and very helpful analogy.

    As an aside and I will now try to ‘view’ this more positively – I’m daily forced to look at ditch water , as Penny, our Golden Retriever takes great delight in lying in and dancing in ditch water on her walks….she has also just discovered puddles! Uhmmmm!

  3. I’ve never heard the phrase ‘dull as ditchwater’ before. When I was growing up it was always ‘dull as dishwater’. Googling reveals this is a phrase that’s apparently changed over time (from ditchwater to dishwater).

    Now dishwater really *is* dull 🙂

    • isn’t it just? The Oxford English Dictionary defines both ‘dishwater’ and ‘ditchwater’. It makes no mention of the phrase under ‘dishwater’ but under ‘ditchwater’ it says
      “The stagnant, stale, or foul water which collects in a ditch. Chiefly in the phrases… as dull as d.”
      examples given
      “1855 The people..are as ‘dull as ditch-water’. 1893 I find them dull as ditch-water.”
      “Hence … ditchwatery – of the quality of ditch-water, dull as ditch-water
      “How wofully tired, and ditchwaterly dull they look” (1859). I’m always a little behind the times. 🙂

      • I’m behind with you on ditchwater rather than dish water, however here in Norfolk all ditches are dykes or drains and I’ve yet to hear dull as dyke or drain water!

  4. I hope this passage from the French writer Christian Bobin is not going to be too long and clog up the system or hog the space. It just seemed so germane, even if the theology is under cover.

    “There is nothing but what is in front of our eyes and the light that falls on it. Only these water skaters that I watch skimming the silk of a pond, flimsy, proceeding by fits and starts, as though actuated by a thought process repeatedly broken off and picked up again, inventing the lightness of a way between the two massive eternities of air and water. I write with words as tenuous as their legs, I borrow their instinct to let my hand slide over the grain of the page, between ink and air. I lack their grace. I lack the delicacy of their lineaments and the simplicity of their hours. I watch them at length. The length of time it takes for that slow inner movement towards the unknown, the highest form of knowledge: dream, and the worship of silence.”

  5. I’m so pleased you like it, Margaret. It’s from ‘Le huitième jour de la semaine’, published by Gallimard in a collection entitled ‘L’enchantement simple’. It’s not yet in translation, but I’m working at that!

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