There’s something in the water

Today's Photo of the Day. Waterfall plunge at Split Rock Falls, Elizabethtown, NY. Photo: Norman Taber

Today’s Photo of the Day. Waterfall plunge at Split Rock Falls, Elizabethtown, NY. Photo: Norman Taber

As a kid I used to spend as much time in the water as possible during the summer. When air-conditioning was found only in the movie theater or in an upscale restaurant the local beach or swimming hole provided the cheapest way to beat the heat. These days I’m much more likely to spend my time on the sand getting in touch with my inner iguana rather than indulging my inner Labrador pup, but I still feel the pull, particularly when I see something like today’s Photo of the Day.

Joy is an uncommon commodity; it comes as a sudden reversal of the ways of the everyday–a shock, a surprise–and there’s something in the water that calls it forth.

Going into the water turns the world upside-down and inside-out. In the everyday world we bundle up for the outdoors, for the water we strip down. Our work-a-day feet are held captive by shoes and socks. We release them into water. In the everyday world the down arrow of gravity is a constant companion, but the body floats in water as if it were in space. In the everyday world jumping from high places occasions injury, but into water, it brings joy.

Being in the water touches something deep in the brain where we keep strong emotions. In the everyday world, we keep them under control, just as we keep water confined. We turn the tap on and off, raise and lower lakes, channel the water toward powerhouses and farm fields. But when we put our bodies into the water we give over all that–to the push and the pull, the up and the down of ocean waves, to the heavy drag of current below a falls, to water’s resistance to all sudden motion.

There is something in the water that wants to be free of all constraint, and there is something in us that wants the same.


7 Comments on “There’s something in the water”

  1. So elegantly stated!

  2. michael owen says:

    Thanks for the reminder Dale. We should mention that every electrical dam site swimming hole has been closed down by Homeland Security, without a single reported incident or threat. Gee what a surprise.

  3. Mark Fuerst says:

    Great post.

  4. jeff says:

    Well said. For us it was a polluted river (mine acid) that had no fish where we used it but despite that we could swim, throw rocks, bring rocks home and canoe. Now we have a family camp on that polluted river but it is a little better as far as water quality since a number of mines have been re-mined and the water flow better controlled. Some vegetation now grows in the water. We did a float trip on that river many years ago and I’ve built several boats because I enjoy being on the water.

    Still, water has to be respected because we can live above its surface not below.

  5. Mr. Wakiki says:

    “Joy is an uncommon commodity”

    As always your essays and poetry are the essence


  6. Jim Benvenuto says:

    Nice one, Dale!

  7. James says:

    I am not an avid swimmer, but I love the simple eloquence of this piece about swimming. Now I have “The Swimming Song,” written by Loudon Wainwright III and performed beautifully by Kate and Anna McGarrigle in my head.

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