Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Power of Water

I clawed along the bottom to pull my way upstream in 2 feet of smooth but quickly flowing water. When I let go of a stone or boulder, I was swept down river, until I was able to dig my toes into the cobbles. I drifted into an eddy slowed by the rooty shoreline and came nose to nose with a tessellated darter who excavated a home from the sand underneath a small cobble, well out of the flow. I swam back towards the middle of the river and allowed the current to carry me down stream. I peeked above the surface every few minutes to gauge how far I had before the river shallows. It will take some time and effort to stop short of the boulders that form a downstream set of rapids.
I cautiously entered the short rapid and held onto a boulder with one hand, which allowed my body to trail behind in the strong current. Ameletid mayfly nymphs clung to the lee side of rocks. Their black and white banded frilly tails waved in the turbulent water. The darter and mayflies have all devised graceful ways to sustain themselves against the flow that I clumsily struggled against. The bedrock below was scoured smooth, and a submerged whirlpool twirled a stone in a circle that wore a small cup in the rock. Water shaped the course of this river and set its depth. It placed, moved and restructured the rocks that form this rapid. Water is a dynamic force. It’s not done working and the river shifts and changes before my eyes. This will be a different place tomorrow, and almost unrecognizable next year. The holes I knew six months ago are either deeper or gone. One rapid is now a short falls. Nothing is static. Water is a powerful force on our planet. It shapes bedrock, landscapes, ecosystems and lives. It launches wars. Tessellated darters need clean water. Ameletid mayflies need clean water. We need clean water. Life is not possible without it and yet we treat water as if it held no authority. As if our lives didn’t depend on it. We treat water as some kind of throw away commodity rather than giving it the respect and honor it deserves. Many native peoples felt that water was spirit, and I can feel the spirit of this river while I watch the effect it has on the darters, mayflies, bedrock and me.

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