Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Reading about Water

I've successfully made another trip around the sun--and am another year older.
This past year has been one of change. I left the desert last January and now reside in a land dissected by lakes and streams and marsh. Water has always played a role in my life, whether the abundance of it when I lived near the coast or the lack of it in the desert. In the desert, I’d hike miles to find water in a rocky crag. Here, in the summer, my canoe freely navigates streams, taking me away from civilization. Water defines me. One day I will write my book on water, but this year I invested considerable time reading about it.

My reading included Craig Childs poetic book, The Secret of Water. Set in the deserts of the Southwest, Childs reminded me that too much water is as threatening as too little. The secret knowledge of water is desire, he finally admits on page 270. Next to be read was Richard Francaviglia’s, Believing in Place: A Spiritual Geography of the Great Basin. Reading it right after leaving the Great Basin, a place I’ve spent a over a decade of my life exploring, the book served as a funeral, allowing me to grieve even as I looked forward to new explorations. Francaviglia does a great job integrating Native America, Judeo-Christian and Mormon spiritual beliefs about the desert (which is defined by the lack of water). Then, as summer approached, I read David James Duncan’s The River Why?. This wonderful novel reminded me of my lost love for fishing and inspired me to frequently get our my fly rod and torment the fish during the summer (In Utah, I’d have to drive 30 miles to the nearest trout stream. Here, I can walk out into a neighbor’s pasture and catch bluegills out of a farm pond, just a few hundred yards from my backdoor. Bluegills may not be trout, but they are fun to catch on a fly rod). Another book, that was kind of about fishing and water, was Daniel Wallace’s surrealistic portrayal of his father in Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions. Toward the end of the year I read Mark Spragg’s, Where Rivers Change Direction. The last chapter of this memoir of growing up in Wyoming starts out with a focus on water:

“I am related to water. I am a descendant of its sound and movement. Part of a roiling lineage. If I bend an ear to either shoulder I hear the suck and swell and hiss of a mountain stream. My soul has nursed at liquid teats. As colostrums is passed from mother to child, so the vital history of water has entered me. Water brings me joy. I fear that water will someday murder me. My life is balanced between its threat and grace.” (page 254).
Although Spragg’s memoir wouldn’t be considered religious in a traditional sense, he understands the essence of water in Jewish and Christian faiths. Water destroys as in the great flood. Water gives new life as in the Israelites crossing the sea or John baptizing in the Jordan. Water allows us to experience life more fully and comfortably as Moses striking the rock in the desert or Jesus telling the woman at the well about living water. Norman Maclean at the end of in his novella A River Runs Through It (you may have seen the movie) confesses that he’s haunted by water. I agree.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for visiting my site the other day, Sage! I'll be sure to stop by yours again. The snow sounds beautiful.