Water Shows the Way


The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all of creation

without trying to compete with it.
It gathers in the low places unpopular with men.

Thus it shows the Way.

            ~Tao Te Ching, Verse 8


Water is one of the most miraculous substances on our Earth and a resource that is fairly abundant in our region. That’s something worth celebrating! Along with sunlight and clean air, it is one of the only resources necessary for all life on our planet—plants, animals and humans. In its quest to follow the pull of gravity downward, water has sculpted some of the most majestic scenery in Nature including our mountains and valleys here in Western North Carolina. Water is constantly in a state of graceful transition: from a frozen ice crystal on the peak of a distant mountain to sewage moving through rusty pipes, from a mighty flood that obliterates all obstacles in its path to the tiniest, glistening marvels of dew drops in the morning. It shows how persistence will make change, even in the hardest places, and inspires beauty and wonder in all its many forms. It does not compete, but seeks the path of least resistance, simply and humbly showing us the Way.

As I write this article, there is rain in the forecast all week long. For some this may be a downer, something that ruins outdoor adventure and weekend plans—I have been limited by rainy days too. I have followed the water table closely these past few years, first as a raft guide and now living on a spring-fed, gravity-powered system at home. Water that falls from the sky ensures a more comfortable daily existence for us. Last fall during the drought, we spent several months hauling & pumping water into our reservoir just so that we could flush toilets and brush our teeth. Showering was infrequent and often occurred at other locations. It was utterly exhausting to be constantly concerned about having enough water and gave me a profound understanding and gratitude that we live in an area that is usually so water-rich. Worldwide, 783 million people live without access to safe drinking water!  We live in a temperate rainforest with bubbling springs, flowing streams and mighty rushing rivers. How often do you acknowledge easy access to such a precious commodity?  Our sweet mountain water is worth a salute once in a while, step out and let it tickle your toes, observing the clarity, sound, patterns and feel of it in Nature.

Water that comes trickling out of a mountain spring or an underground well or a municipal reservoir is easy to take for granted and get used to having at your fingertips. Often we don’t drink enough of it to stay hydrated because there are more appealing options. If you take a moment to consider where your water comes from and how vital it is to sustaining life, you are likely to shift your relationship with it. “I need to drink more water” is such a common phrase to hear, but what will it take for you to actually want to drink more water? It is like having a glass of pure magic that nourishes your whole being. What could be better? If you replace one soda or sweet tea with a glass of water each day, your cells will thank you and you may start to feel better…saying a simple prayer of “thank you” will likely make it even more nourishing.

Protecting and preserving the quality of water in our area is of the utmost importance. According to an article in The Atlantic, many of our rivers are unable to support healthy aquatic life. Some of you may remember when the French Broad was known for being dirty—folks didn’t swim in the river or eat its fish. We have made tremendous progress over the years and now it is clean enough to support recreational water sports, musky or muskellunge (fish that need clean water) and even river otters! The most common contaminates today are fertilizers, especially phosphorous & nitrogen, as well as measureable amounts of sunscreens, pharmaceuticals and estrogens. Please do what you can to dispose of these materials appropriately or don’t use them at all. I know from personal experience that not having clean water instantly becomes distressing and a top priority for survival. As a community, I hope that we can all appreciate, enjoy and take care of our precious water. It “nourishes all of creation” and teaches us how to go with the flow.