The Persistence of Water


I meditate in the red chair on the river bank. I try to isolate the sounds, each molecule of H2O halting tumbling, turning, diving over stones. The rhythmic tune of the body, run-off, barely contained, freely flowing to where?

Last night, a tumultuous evening for many in our hometown as thunderstorms hovered over the county, a tornado touching down too close. Sirens wailing, Facebook posts of basement dwellers. Water everywhere, rain falling as it’s never fallen before. Post-traumatic fear, memories of historic flooding, just a year-and-a-half before. Damage still being recovered, homes in the process of rebuilding, some bridges never remade. Evidence still of devastation beyond our imaginings.

Water: essential, life giving, symbol of abundance. Water: the source of relief, recreation, quenching, cleansing, Baptism. Water: the tender balance, without it humans only able to survive three days. The lack of water, dehydration, waking me up in the middle of sleep, reminding me to drink after a busy day of activity. Unstoppable, capable of utter devastation, capable of remarkable beauty.

While the storm raged at home, we had the television on at our place in the mountains, watching, recognizing the landmarks from the news footage. Texts to parents and friends and neighbors. Concern for them, for our things, our animals. Everything fine.

The sheer terror water can bring. No power to prevent a torrent, only Mother Nature’s mercy. No power to prevent the devastation – to life, to property, to hopes. Land ripped open, torn, erosion from something so life-giving. It feels manipulative, wrong, like a practical joke gone bad. Sandbags disregarded, unnoticed.

Yet, the flow creates and re-creates, returns to ancient paths we tried to control. Water does what its going to do, without our intervention. We may think we can dam it up, tell it where to go, irrigate the convenient places we’ve decided we need. Yet, it will always recapture the path that we arrogantly assumed we could claim. We have a court for water rights, for who can perch in streams and fish, for who owns what. How can we own a molecule, a body that never sits still?

The flow will always find a way, regardless of our assumptions and beliefs and expectations. The flow will always result in new life, in shift and change – gradual or not. As canyons are formed by erosion through water, we get to be privy to change in the making, to history defined by lines. Striations marking time, carving human history. Lifespans determined by water.

It is a wonder we don’t see more events in the microscopic duration of our lives, as the space between us and these massive bodies is inches, feet. What maintains this defined homeostasis? One foot from moving through homes, six feet from obliterating towns. The perfect balance, essential blend of devastation and change, opportunity and growth. Redemption.

The thin line of human life, human existence determined by the tiniest of fractions. The miracle of the bluest egg, the most insignificant of flora, the beating of a heart, known, protected, loved…given life through seasons, through opportunity, through resurrection. Life always finds a way, life always given hope through assumed death. Life always marching forward, carving, creating, all things being made new.