It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Our cat Lucy, who I adopted as a kitten when I was in college 16 years ago, died the morning before Halloween. A good friend’s father lost his battle with lung cancer, and then last week, we said goodbye to our dog Macy, affectionately referred to as our “crabby old lady.” The winter cold and snow has set in about a month earlier than expected and it’s hard not to see it as a symbolic reflection of life loved and lost.
Just before the weather turned this fall, I took Macy and my son Charlie hiking at Pine Point Park. The two of them tromped along happily in the woods, though never in the same direction or at the same pace. I was worried we’d walk too far for Macy that day – by then her legs wobbled after only a few blocks – but the woods had restorative power it seemed. She strode on without faltering, her hazy eyes and deafened ears attuned to the flutter of a bird’s wings, the snap of a twig underfoot.
A ways down the trail, we found a small path leading to the edge of Loon Lake and the water called to us alluringly. Tripping over one another, Charlie and Macy raced to the edge of the lake, pulling me with them in their haste. Then, it was not enough to look at the water or be near the water; we had to touch the water. Macy tromped in first, lifting her paws high and tossing water off her nose like a puppy. Charlie would have followed in her footsteps if I’d let him, but instead reluctantly agreed to entertain himself by dangling leaves and sticks in the water to watch the ripples they made. Even I reached out to touch the water, despite the chill in the air. If I had let them, we might have spent the rest of the day in that spot, paying no heed to the setting sun or the tendrils of cold spreading round us.
Water gives life, both literally and figuratively. When we are born, as much as 73% of our body weight is water – 65% once we’re adults. Most people can survive several weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Though less tangible, water is also important for our mental health and spiritual wellbeing. Water is prominent in myths and folklore across many cultures and plays a central role in the world’s major religions as well. We are drawn to water, whether it’s a lowly pond or the endless sea. Like Charlie and Macy, we long to see, touch and immerse ourselves in the water.
Sometimes when troubled, we find peace by the water’s edge. The surface ripples, the current flows, and the waves continue to crash day after day in the lake, the river, the ocean that is older than any of us are or ever will be. Other times, water brings us joy. Many a happy memory is created fishing in the early morning, splashing around at a water park, lying on the beach, or paddling down a river. The lure of a lake calls the child in us all to roll up our pant legs and wade in the water, enjoying the precious gift of life while we’re here.