Friday, August 31, 2012

Outside: Water

Running Monday morning, before sunrise, after a day of much-needed rain, the fog was so thick I could feel individual droplets hitting my face. Two hours later, biking behind my kids on their way to school, it was still there—heavy all around us, changing everything we saw and didn’t see, cool flecks of it wetting our skin. I don’t know why I like that feeling so much, but I do. And I like when the clouds descend to earth and the light changes and the world looks completely different.

There is nothing like the feeling of water—the coolest good thing sliding down your throat when you are thirsty; the blessing you get when you decide wet is wet and stop running to get out of the rain and let it soak you instead, turning your face upward for more; the way a lake wraps around you when you finally relax and let yourself float in it.

It is almost too big a word to write about, water. It conjures up so many other words: washing, cleansing, thirst, deluge, baptism, holy, pure, flood, waves, ocean, lake, river, stream, rivulet, drink, pour, fill, flow, float, bathe, drown, sprinkle. I’ve approached many times and quit, because there seemed no way to encompass it all.

But I can try to get at it in tiny droplets. Or maybe even a lake at a time. Maybe it’s possible to approach the meaning of water like a poem—let it wash over you, let the parts you understand soak in, and hope that next time you come to it more will make its way in. Because you certainly can’t carry it away in your hands.


I love what a lake does with light. Regardless of the circumstances, it always reflects. Calm, choppy, undulating—whatever state the water is in, it reflects what is above. Always, it shines back the light and color it receives, sometimes solid and clear, sometimes broken into a million diamonds so bright they hurt your eyes. But always, the water is giving back some form of what it is shown.

All the time, though, that it is reflecting, a lake is hiding something else. And how can you not love knowing there’s a secret world underneath? You can get glimpses of it from above, depending on how far the light penetrates. You can visit for a while, depending on how long you can hold your breath or what tools you have to mimic a creature that doesn’t need oxygen the way you do. But that world is not yours, and I don’t believe that all the study in the world would allow a person to know it, entirely. The fact that it is there, regardless of whether or not human eyes ever see it—does it make you wonder?

And what the lake is hiding, it nourishes. Light soaks through that surface reflection, or cuts through it in shafts, and there is life there: swimming, waving, floating, teeming.

Do you ever wish you could work that seamlessly—reflecting and harboring and nourishing what was given to you? It would not matter if you were perfectly still or violently wind-whipped. You would inhabit your space, live out your purpose without faltering. Somehow always at rest.

More in this series:    Fern, Moth, Birch, Turtle Hunting

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  1. Oh, I desperately wish I could work that seamlessly. Wouldn't that be marvelous to be so...healthy? If only I could keep the deep things calm and nourished and allow the surface to play or rest or reflect whatever was right for that moment.

    What a beautiful post.

    And the science geek that is trapped in me loves water because of it's uniqueness. For all sorts of nerdy things like density while freezing and surface tension and solubility it is just the most amazing thing. The fact that God created something so life giving and then poured into it beauty and pleasure makes me see not only his creativity but his love for us. There is a reflection of his adoration of us in the way that he takes something so necessary and clothes it in a way we so can revel in it.

    1. "If only I could keep the deep things calm and nourished and allow the surface to play or rest or reflect whatever was right for that moment." Yes. That is beautifully said.

      Oh, and I totally love your inner science geek, Janice! You can see metaphors I only suspect are there.


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