Once we’re out, our relationship with water broadens. We soon become aware that it has to go into our bodies—and come out again. We're bathed in it. We play with it; we splash it, squirt it, slide on it and jump into it, among other amusements.
Eventually we’re taught how water’s a vital part of every living thing. We study how it seeps, drips, pours, wicks and transforms to vapor and ice. We discover that it dissolves and brews. We find, often the hard way, that it can also hurt us—burning, freezing, choking, knocking the wind out of us.
What other substance can bathe an infant’s
head…and carve the Grand Canyon?
THE RIGHT STUFF
Even as we learn of its properties, water, like the air we breathe, is so ubiquitous that it’s difficult to pull back and truly see it. But if we can pretend we’re observing it for the very first time, we begin to appreciate what an utter miracle this clear, quicksilver fluid really is.
When’s the last time you put your busy-ness on hold and took a moment to think about this substance that gives us such utility, such fun, such beauty, such…well…life? Do you appreciate it not just for what it does for us, but for its sheer beauty: its transparency; the way it coats and shines some surfaces, and beads up on others; how surface tension’s invisible skin stretches over it; its lyrical fall and flow?
Water has a capricious relationship with other elements. With light, it can bend like a prism, absorb like a sponge or reflect like a mirror. With air, it respirates aquatic plants and fish, yet suffocates terrestrial organisms. With earth, it provides the nectar of life for nearly 300,000 species of plants. As a mist, it cools, while as humidity it turns up the heat index. Yes, the stuff can even vanish into thin air!
What other substance can both render a Winslow Homer masterpiece and torture a suspected terrorist? Transform itself into the exquisite intricacy of a snowflake and the Titanic mass of an iceberg? Bathe an infant’s head…and carve the Grand Canyon?
I wonder if and how our attitudes toward
water will change in the coming years.
RIVERS WITH NO MOUTHS
I could go on extolling water’s virtues and the wonder of seeing it anew, but I want to know how and where you most appreciate it. How do you value it—that is to say, how do you act on the knowledge that water—at least clean water—is proving an ever-scarcer and more coveted resource?
As rivers get sucked dry before they can even reach their mouths, and as the largest sources of the world’s fresh water continue melting into the sea, I can’t help but wonder if and how our attitudes toward it will change in the coming years.
I leave you with a visual appreciation of this magnificent, life-giving, ever-present yet ever-abused liquid. These images only begin to demonstrate how much more there is to ponder, but I must stop here. I’m thirsty.