Thursday, September 12, 2013

Water in Dry Places

Decades ago, along with a friend and colleague, I drove across the high desert of northeastern Nevada to collect a small fish found in only one stream. After miles and miles of sagebrush desert, dry washes, and arid mountains, we overshot our target. We didn’t miss it we were just traveling too fast through that great lonely land to know when we’d arrived.  Stopping and turning around we parked on the sandy berm almost on top of where the stream flowed through a culvert under the road. There is something almost startling about water, of any sort, in such an arid place. In the years that followed, I encountered water in similar places from the springs that fed into the Salton Sea to the springs of Ash Meadows in the Death Valley Region of Nevada/California to floor of Death Valley itself.
There is something almost taunting about water in these environments. There is so little of it amid so much aridity.  In its aloneness, it is startling and often beautiful.  The waters of some of these springs appear to be turquoise while others are more clear than the finest crystal.  I will never forget being deeply submerged in the waters of Devils Hole and watching the bubbles on my SCUBA gear rise toward the distant surface, a small rectangle of turquoise far above me. Water in dry places, in desert lands also has a unique spiritual quality reflecting the both life’s tenacity and its impermanence.