Here is a moment of silence, a gift of tranquillity.
In the midst of all that goes on,
…and goes wrong,
Here is a still pool of perfection
Earlier this year, in the context of doing her Paper Therapy course, I shared a photograph with Jackee Holder. It was a failed photo - one that didn’t do what I had been trying to do - but the more often I stumbled across it, going through my archives, the more I have come to like it. It took Jackee to help me understand why. Her immediate response was "You've created a water altar."
I hadn't created anything, I'd merely captured it – but I loved that expression so much that I do now see this as a water altar.
I found myself spotting such altars on my wanderings… and now I go out seeking them.
I have always been a lover of water. From the babe who fell off the Lilo into the scary green depths and scrabbled her way to the surface, to the teenager who would stay in the North Sea until blue with cold and still resent being called out to get warm by tea heated on a paraffin stove, to the person I am now knowing I don’t swim nearly as much as I should, but will scarcely ever go to the beach without shaking hands with the sea at the very least…I love being on the water, in the water, beside the water.
My Dad once told me that the only religions that made any sense were the ones that worshipped the sun. Not quite what you expect from a confirmed Christian but that's another story. I felt differently. I felt – probably still feel – that the ones that make the most sense are those that worship the water gods. Without water we are nothing. We are largely water ourselves. I think that there is race memory in all of us, that we are drawn to the shores – the seas, the lakes, the streams, because in them there is safety, there is succour.
A babbling brook is one of the most calming sounds. Waves gently swoshing on the beach will sooth us to sleep. Summer rain makes us smile. Water gives us life; we are all children of the waves.
At the same time, we're not immune to its power, over eons it will erode mountains, but in a few hours it can change a landscape, or take a life. We know the harm that water in anger can do: the floods, the landslides, the waves over-crashing our defences – and yet, even there, there is the temptation to want to witness it: to feel the awe of this gentle force, when gentleness leaves it.
Water is part of who and what we are, and it defines how and where we live.
I don't literally worship the water gods…but I can see why the ancients would have done so. I can see how offerings to their gods in the sacred springs, became pennies in the wishing wells, became the magical three coins in the fountain. Any fountain. Anywhere.
We don't worship the water gods any more. Not really. But the memory survives.
And I am happy to honour a memory. I do so, not by making my offering to the water nymphs but by accepting their offerings to us. I go to the waters' edge and pause. Look at the light play on the surface…surreal patterns of broken reflection…or through still clear waters look below the surface to sand and pebbles and half-floating weed. It is something and nothing. It is just a moment. A pool of tranquillity.
An altar of water.
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