Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reflections on A Pool of Still Water

I doubt that there is anything in the environment that attracts me more quickly or engages my attention and fixes me so raptly, than a pool of still water. The context doesn’t even seem to matter much. A pool alongside a path through the woods or bubbling from sandy desert soil in the natural environment or a decorative water feature in the built environment, are like magnets pulling me to them and through them and into them.

I never even feel the water close over my head as my mind and spirit slip beneath the glassy, still surface. I never feel my mental gills begin to function as I slip deeper and deeper into the water. The objective pool may only be inches deep but subjectively I am rapidly and fully submerged and enveloped.  My eyes never blur or burn as my spirit opens to the shoals of tiny, darting silvery fish, the vegetation reaching for the surface and the sun, or the quietly resting frog.

It has been this way since I was a child, since my Grandmother took me to a ‘pet shop’ where I peered into my first aquarium or sat by the side of the first fish pond I had ever seen with orange-gold fish, their tails and fins moving in wavy streamers in the green algae stained water.

Over the decades I’ve looked into hundreds of aquariums and many fish ponds and my response never varies. Mind and spirit gently slip beneath the surface.

There is a debate in Environmental Aesthetics between cognitive and noncognitive theories…objective information based on science and more subjective, less fact-based approaches.  I have to wonder who I am. Where am I in this debate? It has been several undergraduate and graduate degrees since those early pet shop visits and I can explain in the most intimate detail what is happening chemically, physically and ecologically in this special wet world of mine...I know its secrets. I have physically slipped beneath the surface, breathing from a cylinder on my back, and hung mesmerized over the void 120 feet down on a Caribbean reef. I have snorkeled among an incredible plethora of life in shallow lagoons, and have dived deep into flooded desert caves and I have substantial scientific knowledge of those habitats and ecosystems. But those shallow pools, of which I also have great scientific knowledge, continue to call me, not so much as a scientist but in a spiritual sense. I’m not a religious person so perhaps all of this is what  E.O. Wilson refers to as ‘Bioiphilia,’ the human bond with other species. Perhaps I’ll never know the answer but I’m very comfortable with the question.

Several of us have formed a study group to address Environmental Aesthetics. For those who are interested, please  contact me at springmountain1@att.net.