The Gift of Water
as seen in the Marquette Monthly January, 2018
By Heidi Stevenson
“Water records information, and while circulating throughout the earth distributes information. This water sent from the universe is full of the information of life.”
Swimming in Lake Superior, I imagine all of the seagulls, sturgeon, people, and plovers also touching the water. I remember reading long ago that all of Earth’s water is continuously recycled. I imagine swimming in water that was once dinosaur urine. Genghis Khan’s sneeze. Marilyn Monroe’s soup. Water, in both metaphor and substance, is the real Internet.
“The wave lives the life of a wave and at the same time, the life of water. When you breathe, you breathe for all of us.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
And then I think about the water I carry within me, the body of water I am. What was my body’s 55% water before it was me, today? The river water that finished off Rasputin? Prince’s tears? I daydream in interconnection.
“And when they burn your body
All that’s left is sand crystals
Two tiny handfuls
All the rest is water, water, water, water
All you need to know
Is you were born of water
You are made of water
You are living water, water, water, water.”
My mother died the night before her 45th birthday. She had made her wishes clear and 20-year-old me felt calm. Cremation. No obit. No service. Ashes sprinkled in Lake Superior. Simple.
Mey father and I, one of her sisters, and our poodle Nicky descended on the beach. I worried, suddenly, that I was doing this wrong. Feeling the wrong feelings. Not supporting the other mourners. We sprinkled the ashes. Was I supposed to wail? Fall to my knees? What would she have wanted?
I did not make it far through this self interrogation before Nicky rushed to the water’s edge for a drink, lapping up a little of my mother’s remains with the lake. I laughed. And if the rest of those ashes could have re-infused themselves with enough Lake Superior water to walk and talk again, my mother would have laughed, too.
“for whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
it’s always our self we find in the sea.”
My friend’s husband and I are no longer Facebook friends. Lake Superior doomed us. To him, such power made Lake Superior masculine. To me, Lake Superior is feminine. Mother Superior. Maybe I saw my own mother’s sudden shifts from placid to ferocious in her.
And now, maybe at a time when I see women having to go to extraordinary lengths to take their power back from those who hurt them, I see yet another female who has been exploited and hurt going to extraordinary lengths to take her power back, too.
“Inside my wine bottle
I was constructing a lighthouse
While all the others
Were making sailing ships.”
An energy worker once told me I was carrying around little pieces of the people with whom I interacted in my body. I was an assistant professor of composition at the time, so I interacted with a lot of people individually, daily. I giggled. “Like Freddy at the end of Nightmare on Elm Street 4? When all those faces popped out of his burnt skin, screaming to be set free?”
In more serious contemplation, I later realized that when witnessing the suffering of others, my knee jerk reaction has always been “Give me that suffering. I can take it.”
Nowadays, sidelined from much by chronic illness, including pain that comes, meanders, and goes for little apparent reason, I wonder if I’ve been granted my wish. I wonder how I’m supposed to shed all that suffering, and I wonder if I should, because where would it go?
“I went out in the storm, and I’m never returning.”
This past October brought an intense gale to the south shore of Lake Superior. We lost a large chunk of the lakefront sand dune on which the foreclosure we’ve been fixing up since 2012 sits. The lake gouged the shoreline, already vulnerable after years of high water and increasingly intense storms. I felt trauma, loss. My initial thoughts were, “We love you, lake. Why have you hurt us?”
“Water we are sorry,
Water please forgive us,
Water we thank you,
Water we love you.”
But forgiveness only goes so far when you are still under assault: Line 5. Tourism. Asian Carp.
She is bucking us. All that emotion, information she holds for us is too much. She has taken on the pain of others. And now she is fighting to save herself. I don’t blame her. I understand. Maybe she is showing me how to do the same.
WATER SAVER TIPS
Use leftover water from cooking or steaming food to make soup stock with a nutritional boost.
Minimize landscaping that depends on short grass (which increases evaporation) and plants that are not able to survive in our climate without additional watering.