In case you haven’t noticed, it’s spring runoff time. Of course, you can’t help but notice — the rivers are raging, stained a distinct chocolate brown by the mud and sand being carried down at ridiculously fast speeds.
The radio and the paper are full of reports related to whether you can fish or raft and where you should go. And, of course, the rivers are an amazing resource in our valley, bringing fishermen of all shapes and sizes, along with adventure-seekers who raft, kayak and paddleboard down the rushing torrents. And while we are all familiar with how this cycle of snow to runoff to low water fuels our economy and our ecology, we don’t think as often about how it impacts our spirits.
Water for water’s sake is a little impractical for some. But bound into our evolutionary roots are close ties to water, both as a civilization that developed in river valleys and as beings who grew in aquatic wombs. At the very core, water means survival in more ways than we can count. Aside from its life giving force to fill and fuel our bodies, water makes land habitable.
Just imagine for a moment if one single piece of the massive Rube Goldberg machine of a water cycle were to malfunction. What if water didn’t run downhill? Or what if the cloud-making process were suddenly congested, inhibited by some mysterious chemical floating through our atmosphere? If you really think about all of the conditions that need to be in place for water to cycle through every part of our planet, it’s slightly mindboggling.
NOURISH THE SOUL
But water nourishes more than just the mind and body, it nourishes the soul. Stand by the river for just a few minutes. The hum of the gushing waters drowns out all but the loudest of sounds, clearing your mind in a ritual as ancient as the human race itself. Indeed, humanity is rich with tributes and shrines to water. We hike to waterfalls and lakes, and we photograph still pools along with cascading droplets. There are poems and songs devoted to water in its many forms, from raging rivers to drifting clouds and even tears. Whether it’s a “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “Smoke on the Water” that makes us turn the dial up, images and ideas related to water have tremendous power to inspire us.
We also use water as a metaphor in our everyday speech, as we struggle to stay afloat or simply tread water. We don’t want to be caught paddling upstream or go down the river without a paddle. Instead, we want to let our problems to become water under the bridge as they slide off of us like water off a duck’s back.
Water permeates our lives, our thoughts and our very beings. Water carves a path through our world, connecting us to the Earth and to one and other as it flows across the land, past our homes, workplaces, play places and on to the next journey.
Water demands little of us as it winds its way through our lives, but its awesome power does demand respect. Show respect and honor our local waterways this spring by keeping yourself and those close to you safe. Use caution in and around the rivers right now and always, but of course, find peace and beauty in the precious waters that ripple through our valley.
Jaymee Squires is the director of graduate programs at Walking Mountains Science Center. She is very busy these days trying to make the most out of every moment in our short mountain springtime.
If you really think about all of the conditions that need to be in place for water to cycle through every part of our planet, it’s slightly mindboggling.