The Colors of Water

In the spring and fall, as a child, I played along Bear Creek, while my mother stayed at the nearby ball fields watching my brothers. I loved that place. It was green and damp, not dry and dusty like so much of the front range of the Rockies. There I could imagine leafy pockets for hiding and chambers possessing magical qualities.

The moderate stream housed resident guppies, sleepy turtles and water spiders sporting bubble skates for water skimming. There was a place where the current eddied and slowed into a viridian pool surrounded on one side with smooth flat moss carpeted stone. A quiet sitting spot. At the great bend, the water was deep ultramarine blue, absent of boulders and uncross able in lace-up Keds. But at the falls, there was a way to navigate among large sharp chunks of granite, even though water crashed down in a rainbow of splashes. If you knew the right steps, the cascades could be conquered with skillful well placed leaps.

Even the main pathway, used by unremarkable folk, had rustic twin logs for making the crossing. The giant cottonwoods scattered along the banks grew round and lanky, tilting and leaning in their casual way. Low coyote willow created occasional detours, thick and impassible. We lived just far enough away from my creek to make it a very exciting destination.

Later we moved further and traded the wilds of Bear Creek for a modest lake behind our backyard that reflected the cerulean sky. Here my brothers and I swam and sailed a small boat that embarked from our own tiny dock. When storms blew in during the late summer afternoons, my older brother would treat we lesser siblings with distain if we dared to hint about heading into shore. He loved the way the winds would overwhelm the sail, pull the boat deck toward vertical as we flew across the navy blue chop. It was thrilling to see how long we could lean back hanging above the centerboard before it broke through the water tossing us all into the icy drink. We raced the neighbor boys in their boats, no other girls but me. I was barely tolerated, and only because I did not act girly.

I am certain my view of things then was as a shallow as our pond and narrow as my creek. It was a small world without any grownup historian or narrator. When left unattended as a child, with no help to identify the bird songs, or instruction about the trees and clouds and no one to reveal the colors of the water, I guess I just made up my own version of the world.

I like to imagine that now, if I am quiet enough, I will still hear Nature speak, as it did when I was young. And the language I hear spoken is my own inside conversation with Creation. Perhaps it is enough to find a way to express the world as it expands before our gaze. Looking slowly and with care maybe we will find some colors we can claim in the clear cool water.


“Fresh Air Painting on the Mountain”

July 08 - July 12, 2024
Monteagle, Tennessee

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