A Grace of Water


I grew up in the desert. My concepts of water are shaped by this environment. I didn’t really know anything about rivers. I knew about riverbeds, about the smoothness of the rocks on the dry, sandy bottom. Rocks that might be hiding gila monsters. Or scorpions. But not water, or even moisture. Water was a distant memory, a tantalizing promise that might never be fulfilled. Those beds had not been made properly in a long, long time.

And so I stand slack-jawed and mouth agape when I visit the Pacific Northwest. Because here there are actual Rivers. With water. Huge, flowing, gurgling rivers that continue to flow and flow and flow as long as you stand there watching. Even longer, to hear people talk here. The simple sight of trees bending low over the banks to drape their leaves in the flowing stream evokes echoes of sounds and sights I never actually heard in my youth. Only in books and movies.

Yet the people here seem to pay no mind. Not to the rivers. Not to the clouds that seem continuously piled up upon themselves. Not to the spittings and spatterings, the mistings or downpours of rain. Not the lushness of vegetation springing from every conceivable surface. Not to moss and lichen, to mold. Many of them have apparently never known anything different. They are saturated to the core. A riverbed without water, or a sky without clouds and rain or the promise of rain tomorrow or the next day is inconceivable. It isn’t that they aren’t grateful. They simply can’t imagine of how else it could be. Of course it’s beautiful. Not that we couldn’t use with a little more sunshine, mind you. Or a little less rain. Or a tad less mold.

I could chide them for taking all of this for granted. The beauty. The richness. The lushness. The moisture. The water flowing from the sky and the ground and tasting too sweet from the tap to be even believable. I could criticize them for their unwillingness to remember and give thanks for these blessings every day. The simple grace of everlasting water that is so overwhelming to me that I can’t hardly stand up under it. The grace of water on a parched body. Of cool breezes tumbling off of mountains and volcanoes as casually as a dust devil might twist it’s way across an Arizona riverbed, carving it’s initials in the sand and overwriting the hieroglyphics left behind by the last dribbles of water however many eons ago.

But I’d be wrong to do so. Just as they would be wrong to make fun of me for breathing in deeply and commenting every three minutes or so on just how beautiful everything is. Just how green! Just how cool! Different eyes and ears and pores recognize grace in different ways, respond to grace in different ways. A creator with as much imagination as ours would be remiss to expect everyone to respond the same way to His good gifts. For some, to stay silent would be terrible – just as for others, feigning amazement would be insincere. Just to make others feel less conspicuous. Just to appeal to the other’s sense of propriety or decorum.

I may find folks’ nonchalance about their beautiful environs here to be bordering on criminal. But so long as we both enjoy it – in our distinct ways – isn’t God pleased?

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