An Ode to Water

Emerald Ring, Leah Wilson

This year, with its early heat waves and drought, is already illuminating current political issues and setting the stage for some to turn uglier than they already are. Have you read about the Klamath River? If you haven’t, do not worry. I will be writing about that over the next who-knows-how-many years. The Klamath River, as southern Oregon drops into a vicious drought cycle on the cusp of the U.S.’s largest dam removal to-date, will be the cornerstone of my next major project. This, however, is not the post to talk about that.

This is an ode to water, not as a resource, just as it is, with its own strange and beautiful qualities. It really is strange if you think about it. It is yielding, taking on the shape of whatever container it is in. It becomes a dynamic structure within a stream or river bed, interacting with objects in a dance with gravity, a dance I have loved participating in since I was 14. Water transforms. It is a patient sculptor carving canyons in the earth. And it can be a terrible destructive passive force like a slow rising flood, or as a frightening monstrous tidal wave.

Stalactite - Leah Wilson

Stalactite, Leah Wilson

Water conforms. It follows the path of least resistance. It fills empty spaces. It becomes solid, liquid, or a gas to match the ambient temperature.

Do you know that most of the water that you see in a rising river during a storm has been waiting underground for a year or more before it is pushed into the river bed? It’s true. Most of the water running downstream is not from a current rainstorm, at least not directly.

Settled - Leah Wilson

Settled, Leah Wilson

I understand the path of water to the extent that I can ‘read’ it. I have spent enough time with it to become literate in its language. It’s fascinating that we equate recognizing the patterns of water’s flow with literacy. But maybe it’s not such a stretch. What is reading other than recognizing patterns and symbols to create meaning?

Oh, those ever-changing patterns. Water is magic, hypnotic and in constant flux. A night spent next to a river, its voice intertwining with mine in dreams, usually provides the best sleep. Water creates patterns within patterns. No matter what scale I focus my attention, there is always another set of patterns emerging within.

Self - Leah Wilson

Self, Leah Wilson

Do you know each individual drop of water takes its sweet time to make its way down a rushing river? The water is in no hurry to complete its course. I have seen this with stream dyes. Water lingers in one place for a long time as the river appears to by rushing by in a torrent. 

When I am running downhill on a trail early in the morning I imagine I am water. I often tense up and brake running downhill in an attempt to be safe, yet I know paradoxically, if I hold back too much I will get hurt. I am counteracting the natural flow. Water does not hold back. It flows with the terrain. When I allow myself to do the same I am free, flying.

When I am in boat, I do not think of the boat. It becomes an extension of me, and I am an extension of the river. Literacy is no longer needed.

I am water.


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