What is it about water?

I love water.

I grew up in the Seattle area, living near the water, and most days I saw this view from the house I grew up in.

Olympic Mountains Above the Sound

Blue water in the summer, steel grey water during the rest of the year, ferry boats and the sounds of fog horns most mornings.  You never know how wonderful something is until you don’t have it anymore.

Now I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically in the dry, hot (and very urban) East Bay.  Most days, my view looks like this.


OK, so this is a different kind of beautiful (the natives say), but there just isn’t enough green for me.  Definitely not enough water, EXTRA definitely not enough rain.

Yes, this is the Bay Area, so yeah there is a bay of water – and a pretty large one at that.  But, for me, it takes a Major Effort to get to the water, and the water that is closest to me is actually pretty undesirable.  (Do a Google image search for “the SF Bay Delta” and you’ll know what I mean.)  The ocean (yes, the Pacific Ocean!) is just on the other side of San Francisco, but it takes a Herculean Effort of Mass Transit Magnitude for me to get there.  Bottom line is, I was really spoiled to grow up with the Puget Sound in my backyard, and only now do I truly feel the impact of that fact.

At this point in the year, my husband and I make our annual pilgrimage to some water-place, somewhere that’s not too crowded, where the water is the dominant feature of the landscape, where the sound of ocean/river/etc fills your ears louder than the birds/wind/etc.  [Ideally, rain is also a part of this pilgrimage but that rarely happens (sigh).]  I start to go crazy in late August/early September.  At this point in the year, it has been so long since I’ve seen or heard real rain (calm.com app is great for fake rain), since I’ve felt that cool fresh breeze come up off the water, since there was just ONE stinking cloud in the sky…I feel wholly parched.  Total soul dehydration.  The pilgrimage helps restore me with views that usually look like this.


When I’m there (above, Pacific Grove CA), I am full of calm and creativity.  Food tastes better.  Breathing seems easier.  Impending deadlines and work stresses seem completely manageable.  Absolutely nothing my husband does is irritating.  So, what is it about water?

This article in today’s Huffington Post touches on some of the reasons.

Interestingly, sitting by a real, crackling fire can also induce a lot of the brain effects mentioned in the above article.  Water and Fire: two very raw pieces of earthly existence.

For me, I think, I love water (and fire) for the same reason I love knitting.  It’s repetitive simplicity *and* mind-blowing complexity all in one.  The waves hit the shore over and over, but consider what is within the wave: energy, microscopic life, a whole little world unto itself.  A fire’s flames leap and crackle somewhat predictably, but within each flame it’s a combustion chemistry field day.  Likewise, a simple stockinette hat is about as soothing as a knitting project can get, and yet consider the finished object: what makes the yarn (the material, the animal, the land), the needles, and the hands that made each stitch.  I do the same thing over and over and over to make this hat, but I can’t look at the hat without a flood of thoughts entering my mind about what went into dreaming of and making that hat.  (Which makes gift-giving a trifle hard for me.)

They are simple and not-simple; things in which anyone can participate, but no one can ever master.