I have been trying to remember that water is conscious, and every once in a while I notice it looking at me. I get embarrassed by how I am treating it – which is usually not very nicely – and that makes me notice more things. I notice its willingness to be mixed with the dishwashing suds and the grease from the frying pan, and get tossed and beaten around with my scrub brush before rushing down the drain and off through the dark tunnels that must stink like hell, and into the sewage tank and finally, I imagine, back into the sea. I wonder if that feels like a story to the water. And when it evaporates up into a new cloud is like the opening page of a new one.
Or maybe it feels like a life, and the cloud is the resting place when it doesn't have a body, doesn't run through faucets or pipes, or get drunk by horses or humans or everyone else, doesn't do dishes, or wash floors or hair, or cool nuclear plants, or even make coffee. It just floats for a while, resting, enjoying, I'm sure, the mingling with other disembodied particles, the oneness of it all.
And then it falls somewhere, maybe in a storm with thunder and lightning like contractions and labor pains, getting born into a new life, maybe into a mountain stream, so it hits the ground running, as they say, right away like some animals the minute they are born, being able to stand and by the end of the very first day even run. Funny, because humans need almost a whole year to walk, and at least another half year to run. And who knows what might happen on your way down that stream, what deer or moose or grizzly bear might drink you, what salmon might lay her eggs in you, what dam might have been built downstream. I wonder if that's where we got the idea of clouds being where we go when our life ends.
It's the willingness that moves me. The way it looks up at me like a dog that only has one setting: love. It does not come equipped with resentment. Not a setting on its dial. No off-switch on the unconditional love current. When I see its willingness to do whatever I ask of it, looking up at me, or down at me from the shower or the sky when it rains, it always seems to be smiling. Which gives me a jolt. A jolt of what, I still wonder. Something akin to shame, which I know has no value to anybody, so I'm going try to change that to simple gratitude from now on.
I really don't want to say this, but the truth shall set us free, right? And I do want to be free. Free of what, I ask myself. Shame is my shackle, and guilt is my chain. So here goes: In the moment I see the water smiling at me, as I am using it – without any thought of how it feels about it – our relationship feels so unbalanced, so one-sidedly unconscious, so selfish and uncaring about the other, that it would have to be called abusive. Crossing that line from use to abuse. It does not prefer to be treated this way. What makes it seem in that moment so wrong, so ugly, so much like rape? I'm thinking, wondering, suddenly remembering a book by Shel Silverstein called The Giving Tree.
The water, like the tree in the book, always answers Yes. In the book, a little boy keeps asking things of her as he grows into a man. Everything he wanted from her or to do to her, she said Yes: nailing boards into her for a treehouse, cutting off her branches, and finally her trunk, to build things, leaving only her stump to sit on, and no matter what, she gave whatever he wanted. In the end he was very sad, because he had killed the one who loved him unconditionally.
I would prefer if Nature would sometimes say No. Then I could rely on Her to hold the line. To be the grownup in the room, as we say. I have poured death-dealing chemicals down clogged sinks to unclog them, knowing that I am, at that moment, working for the Dark Side. I only realize now that in those moments, my child-self kept expecting a little voice to stop me, coming up out of the drain, or from the faucet, perhaps. But of course, you just noticed, quicker than I did, where the voice should be coming from.
I saw a video recently of a Black Labrador dog, who sat at the side of the highway for a year, knowing his family would be expecting him to be there, right where they had told him, 'Stay' and driven away. Love can be so blinding with its light, like the sun. It's hard to look right straight at it. I often feel this way in spring, when the crocuses come back, and all the trees who produce flowers do it all over again. I know they must share the news of how many trees were cut down since last they bloomed, how many millions of acres of virgin forest were brutally burned or bulldozed across the Earth. And it would seem only logical they might one year decide to go on strike. No blooming this year, you guys. No blooming until you humans stop the massacre of my kind.
But they just don't have No on their dial. Nature seems to have planned it this way, and I feel Her patience with me overwhelmingly sweet, like a real flesh and blood bosomy mother, holding me tight as I cry asking forgiveness, and she making soft clucking sounds that mean no. No, no no. There is nothing I need to forgive you for. You are just learning to run, and you break things, but that's what toddlers do. You don't listen to me when I say slow down. It's how babies grow up, by crashing around and learning the hard way what hurts. It's I who always wish I could apologize to you, that learning couldn't be a bit softer around the edges.
The thing about the willingness of water to go along with whatever I do to it, is that it isn't just the water. It feels like the water is one component, a tendril sticking out of something too big for me to see, and that huge thing is like a monster mother Yes, a giant flying dragon of a Yes, a million whales singing in chorus Yes, and I just can't quite believe it. But when I try to imagine any other way that it could be, I can see that it would not be life, it would not be anything like life. Because maybe it's all so connected in a great chain reaction that if there was even one No, it would break the chain, it would stop the flow, and everything would turn to No. And then, how could anything ever happen again?