A fundamental rule is that life as we know it cannot exist where there is no water. Particularly human life. Perhaps as a result of having origins which lie in some primordial soup, as conventional science would have it, or the undeniable fact that the majority of our body is composed of water, there appears to be a natural craving for water which somehow transcends mere biological necessity and speaks to some impulse embedded in the human subconscious.
As important as fresh, potable water is to survival, even the presence of seas, oceans and other saline bodies of water invariably draw human settlement and exploration. We understand instinctively that water is a life-giving force, yet also has the potential to unleash terrible destruction, to inflict suffering, and to transform geography and topography given sufficient time and/or force.
And still we are drawn to water, and the very things at once concealed and revealed where it flows in abundance.
THE NATURE OF WATER
Water is famously comprised of two hydrogen molecules bonded to an oxygen molecule. At a chemical composition level, a deceptively simple concept. Of course, water may contain far more particulate matter; depending on locale, various minerals, salt and sad to say, contamination in the form of man-made pollutants are all possible. When water is heated sufficiently, it transforms from a liquid to a gas, vaporizing as steam which can produce electrical power, be used for cleaning and sterilization, or even to remove wrinkles from clothing. If captured and cooled, the gas condenses once again and returns to the liquid state.
When chilled to the point of freezing, water transmutes to a solid that we know as ice, useful for refrigeration, or to reduce swelling, or to chill drinks on a hot day. The very versatility and adaptability of water is spoken of by sages, as is the flowing nature evidenced in its liquid and even gaseous form.
There’s much to be admired about water, and at times, some to be feared. Such is the nature of water.
Rivers often provide means of navigation and transit for animals of all kinds, humans included. They often provide sources of irrigation for agriculture, allowing not only human habitation but the development of cultures and civilization. The biblical Garden of Eden, whether a fanciful story, amalgamation of ancient memories, or very real place was said to lie at the confluence of four rivers. Many great civilizations and cultures have been able to materialize, at least in part, due to the presence of a significant river, particularly those of freshwater nature.
I often view rivers as being in partnership with the mountains, since so many carry rainfall and even snow melt from these lofty elevations which reach towards the infinite vault above us, and even connect these timeless titans of the land form to the mysterious seas and oceans. To travel a river is to be enmeshed in a rhythm which exists of its own accord, even if shaped or altered by deliberate or inadvertent human intercession. Ask any who have heard the siren’s call of a river, much less its cousin the sea, and you will come to better understand. Over time, rivers invariably alter the landscape, particularly the terrain upon which they flow, carving away features and smoothing and polishing the rock and banks which contain it. There’s a magic to rivers, if one is only willing to accept this, perhaps not in some metaphysical sense but at the very least in the sense of the wonder and even awe which may be invoked in those sensitive to such things.
Rivers provide a sense of direction, and even a sense of purpose to everyday life. A river has purpose, and that purpose is to flow, whether using brute force to overcome obstacles and obstructions through sheer volume, or more often than not, finding another path offering less resistance to bypass that which stands in the way. This naturally does not suggest sentience in a manner in which the word is used with living things; the river simply is. And in being so, that is enough.
THE HIDDEN LIFE OF LAKES
If rivers are to be viewed as dynamic forces, lakes might be described as repositories of potential, as many feed mighty rivers, are fed by them, or provide the necessary resources to enable life in many forms to make its living above, around, on the surface of, or submerged beneath the captive waters. There are lakes so large and mysterious as to provide the same kinds of challenges to mariners as the largest and most treacherous of oceans. Some exist at high elevation, lending beauty as well as life nurturing sustenance to alpine redoubts. Others may be found far closer to sea level or more modest elevation, collecting and dispensing waters which may have traveled significant distances before arrival. Lakes have many facets, not all of which are immediately obvious, and this warrants active exploration and quiet contemplation for those so inclined.
In the stillness of waters, there is something quite profound.
In the gentle flow of waters, there are many voices which speak, not in any tongue spoken by man, yet in a voice which the human heart and soul can interpret if given the opportunity.
In the raging torrent of waters, energy is most clearly manifested, indifferent to that which seeks to impede its progress, yet neither deterred nor readily swayed. It acts as it must, not with malicious or malevolent intent, but because this is the order of things and that order is ultimately inviolate.
COMING FULL CIRCLE
True understanding may only come upon acknowledgement that there is much that we do not know, and our acceptance of this reality. As surely as we are shaped by past actions, we are influenced by environment and our response to outside agencies. What we cannot control, we may seek to redirect and even release. The currents upon which we travel, seen and unseen, give shape to our journey and our understanding thereof. Rivers provide passage both inward and outward, and the very pulse of life in the world around us is mirrored in the ebb and flow of life within us, vis-à-vis our circulatory system.
What one finds is often predicated upon what one is looking for. Nothing is perhaps as blind as the person entranced by what is being sought and consequently unable to see that which otherwise may be revealed in stark relief when viewed through a different prism or unclouded eyes.
Rivers and lakes are worthy in their own right of our time and attention, but it is what lies between in the hidden confluence which ought to demand one’s focus and consideration.