The Lessons of Water

If you try to walk up this gully, you will get less than a metre. Then you’ll be done. Simply put, it is not for humans. It is for water, and water blocks us from it. For one, where it is clear, we slog up through wet, with nowhere to put our legs, as they’re too far apart. For another, water gives it to plants and their communities: birds, porcupines, snakes, and in wider gullies deer and bears.

That’s the order of things: first the oldest one, land, then the next oldest, water, and then their closest relatives, trees, bushes, grass and water-loving plants, and then the small ones who can pass through them, as water does. Humans and deer can pass through things, too, although differently. Deer can get through some bushes like this. Humans only with great hardship. Water is pushing us up onto the sides of the slopes, and because even that is fairly steep, pushes us up higher and higher, always at an angle to the stream. That there is a view there is not incidental. It is there, in light, we can see: in fog, wet grass, and patches of melting snow. Water is teaching us our place in the order of things. Here, too:

This desert is what Canadian culture has trained us do to with water’s lesson. And, still, just look a bit to the right, still water teaches.

Canadian culture teaches us that this is just a random effect, of water settling in a depression a man made with a truck on his private property, water that makes the mud the truck was built to rise above. Our bodies know better. We walk around. We don’t think about it. We just obey. And yet, wet grass that soaks us even more, we walk through without a thought.

We feel the cold water soak into your clothes, as sharp little pricks of memory, and find joy in it, while our hands brush through the wet pasture sage. That’s because we belong here. And here:

A few bushes here and there are fine. They give us direction and memory. Water has determined all this for us. And should we ever complain about the fog, we should remember …

… we can see just fine in it, because it shows us the water, and wraps us in it. It would be foolish to ignore such lessons. It would be a denial of our selves.

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