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Friday, August 17, 2012

The lure of moving water

Anyone who has watched small children near a creek knows about the lure of moving water.  The very sounds it makes as it trickles over rocks are mesmerizing and seem to induce a more peaceful state in those who hear them.  That is the reason that there are so many desktop fountains and water gardens to be found in nearly any store.  But are we replacing the natural with the artificial, are we really gaining what we seek to gain.
One of the most captivating things about a creek is life.  You can watch a school of minnows dance in the shadows for hours.  Or watch a crawdad slowly come from beneath a rock to scrounge a bit of food from the bottom.  If you are quiet and patient, you will see and hear birds and other wildlife that use the creek.  A kingfisher diving into the water and exiting almost immediately.  A green heron slowly stalking the shallows, blending with cattails and reeds.  The plop as a turtle dives from a log into the water.  These are the things that enchant children.  And sure they may be loud and boisterous, but they also can be quiet and patient, much more patient than their adult counterparts.
One of the things that makes a creek different than a simple pond is connectedness.  It is impossible to have one to yourself.  All creeks will meander through a variety of places, and come into contact with a variety of people and the creek seems to bear the mark of all of them.  Here in Kansas you will find creeks littered with old car bodies, and other trash.  Not to make light of this pollution, but the creek seems to claim them over time.  The rust changes from a blight to a different habitat.  There are raccoons that make their next in one of the cars.  A gar hides in the shadow of another, waiting for its next meal.  The more people who care about the creek, the better off it will be, but the creek takes both good and bad.
You cannot control a creek.  You can do what you can with your little piece, but the majority of it will always be in the control of others.  This is a lesson in humility.  We can control some aspects of our life, but others will always be controlled by those around us.  We can only do what we can with what we have.  Oh, but the things that we can do.  Creeks can be some of the most beautiful of all landscapes, with a beauty that is largely unrivalled.  And they can be functional as well.  Who hasn't seen a picturesque water wheel on a small creek, enmeshed by its surroundings, as though it has always existed, or as though the creek would want it and is embracing it.  In contrast, a modern hydroelectric plant almost always looks out of place and imposing, even if it is on a small creek.
And this is one thing about creeks is that they cannot be modernized.  Sure cities have paved the paths, and have diverted creeks through storm sewers to make the city less prone to flooding.  The creeks have become channels in concrete.  But they have ceased to be creeks.  We displace nature, and then attempt to mimic it.  We bury the creeks, or divert them, and then make faux creeks and fountains in our yards.  We make small fountains to put on our desks, which give a partial aspect of what we desire, but do not give the fullness of the experience.
Am I against water gardening, or fountains.  No, I love them both, but I realize their limitations.  None will replace the life, the majesty, the constant change and the unchangingness of the little creeks that I grew up around.  I see a well developed creek, with swimming holes and riffles, with shallow and deep, with short rapids and long lazy stretches to be one of the pinnacles of nature, and its lure is nearly irresistible.  Now the question is, can we enhance it, and not simply replace it.

Live a hands on life

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