Bringing the Water Home

I bring home the name of water. It’s not that it reflects the sky, as the picture below from Hvalfjörður shows, so much as it brings the light from the sky inside it. So many substances reflect light from their surfaces. Their substance must be inferred from a superficial glance. Humans are pretty good at that. In fact, we’ve built a civilization around it. What we haven’t built in contemporary times is a civilization around the interiors of things, and around the way they hold light within before releasing it again. It seems a small thing, but look at it.

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Skorá.

This is, after all, the process of the sun. There, it takes every photon of light 100,000 years of bouncing around in the sun, of being reabsorbed and re-emitted, before it leaves the sun to travel to, well, this Icelandic river. It is also the process of photosynthesis, in which every photon of light bounces around in a tiny reflective chamber. One in 2000 or so gets eaten by the little blue-green algae kept hostage at the chamber’s core. That’s a lot. You can see that effect of light in the grass and the hayfield above, and even, in deeper tones, in the birch and poplar woods. If we want a new relationship with the earth, we would do well to start right here, not with water as a substance (vatn, in Icelandic), nor even with water as a flowing and a becoming (á, in Icelandic, from aqua, as in aquaduct, or, as we know it in English, river), but as a deepening and a holding, a way of stopping light for a moment, manipulating it for various mysterious processes and then letting it go.p1400402 Along the way, it concentrates attention, and life. We, you and I, have an ability to see that. That is an approach to the human visual impulse on which a new relationship to the earth can be built. To start with, human eyes are filled with water. We see through it. It’s hardly a wonder that we can see its depths. As for its name? Well, it embodies the eye, but its name comes from the open mouth and throat that receive it: water, aqua, á (ow)… they are all an opening and a receiving. An eye that is a mouth? A mouth that is an eye? Both and neither.

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But it’s a good start.

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