Water — an essay published in The Countryman magazine (UK)

The only concession to dawn was a lightening of the grey lowering clouds hanging above the rolling white-capped waves in the east.
I pulled up the collar of my spray jacket and, head down, set off along the beach. Here, seagulls swooped over the breaking surf then climbed and hung almost motionless as they faced into the wind while there groups of their kin stood imperturbably, feathers ruffled, upon the wet sand.

Imperturbably that is until, with a joyous rush, Mac, my bit of this and a lot of that dog, raced among them.

This walk was my early morning ritual; a chance to get the cobwebs of the night out of my brain and, hopefully, some ideas into it. As a writer, I rely upon ideas and sometimes, like this morning, they are hard to find. Mostly, I was thinking of a nice hot cup of tea and a chance to warm myself and get dry.

I stopped and turned to face the sea, watching with fascination as the jumble of waves rose before tumbling with a crash and a cloud of spray onto the sand. Mac came running back and, with careless abandon, jumped into the spume that was piling up on the edge of the water.

I turned for home. There would be no ideas out here today.

That evening, settled comfortably before the fire in my old beachside cottage with Mac asleep on the rug, I idly gazed into the flames still seeking some ideas to add to my stock for future articles. The soporific effect of the flickering fire and the warmth after a good meal sent me into a doze which was abruptly curtailed as my sub-conscious suddenly seemed to yell, “water, that’s your idea”.

At first I was not that impressed but then I gave it some more thought.

We drink it, we wash in it, we play in it and on it, we extract food from it. Without it we will die although too much of it can kill us even though more than half of our bodies are made up of it. We curse it when there’s too much, we pray for it when there’s not enough.

It can ripple, it can crash; it can be gentle, it can be powerful; it can be placid, it can be frenzied; it can calm, it can terrify.

Civilisations have recognised the potential of water for centuries. It has been harnessed to provide power. It has been re-directed to irrigate deserts. It has provided routes for transport. It has been the means of powering engines. It has provided therapy for the injured and its ability to carry minerals has been used to cure the sick.

And, water also has a special place in most people’s hearts. We enjoy walking beside a river or along a beach, we revel in a cooling swim on a hot day, we quench our thirst with it and we are at peace as we sit beside a burbling stream with its soft, soothing lullaby.

Water is our servant — or so we like to think.

But, let’s not fool ourselves. Water holds immense power. Power that eats away land around coasts every year. Power that has enabled it to change its course far more often than we have re-directed it. Power that has sculpted the Grand Canyon. Power that has carried off tonnes of topsoil where farming methods have been poor. Power that can change a placid stream in little time into a raging torrent carrying all before it.

We only have to think back to a few years ago to appreciate just what a power water has, especially when driven by an earthquake.

We may harness water for our own purposes just as we do the wind and fire but there will always come the day when each of them reminds us who really is the boss.

1 thought on “Water — an essay published in The Countryman magazine (UK)

  1. […] Water — an essay published in The Countryman magazine (UK) […]

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