The Cure for Anything


Watching for Arthur, By Michael Edwards

Watching for Arthur, By Michael Edwards

“The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.”

-Isak Dinesen

Spending time at the shore did feel like a cure, and we would have liked to stay. Back in land-locked Denver, we have tears and sweat at our disposal. I have to believe that fresh water will cure us just as well; the inundation of late afternoon thunder storms, the rushing creeks and rivers, even the left-over mud puddles, open for one last splash.

I set my computer screen with a Hokusai wave painting and we pore over our shells that still carry Atlantic sand. Is this attraction to big water just the yearning for something different? At the shore we still fought and fussed, grew weary of the wind and the sand that infiltrated our lunch. Wherever we go, we’ll be tethered by our bodies and brains, but when I dive under a wave some knot inside begins to loosen. I see that in the kids too – the sand and the salt and the sky bring something new to the surface. Their shoulders are more relaxed, their faces calm, hands and feet more sure.

Save that Water!

Photo by Michael Edwards

Photo by Michael Edwards

This is the second summer that Sam has attended day camp at SPREE (South Platte River Environmental Education). I’ve been consistently impressed with their program, which involves lots of time playing in the river, as well as lessons in conservation, natural history, and environmental science. The campers are constantly learning, but without the constraints of traditional classroom structures and norms.

Today Sam came home with a ‘nature invention’ – a bug catcher made of two plastic bottles, connected by a cardboard tube, so that he could observe the bugs in action, but also give them a place to escape for shade and privacy. I love his invention because it’s an echo of his own personality. He loves action, but also needs quiet time for recharging his batteries.

Each day he’ll share some new bits of information about water conservation or animal behavior. And this afternoon, when his sister was repeatedly dumping her water bottle out on the sidewalk, he had no problem telling her that she was wasting water, and exactly why she should be more conservation minded (have I already mentioned how much I love eight-year-olds?). We also now know exactly how many gallons of water we go through with each load of laundry and running of the dishwasher, so all of us are working to make sure we run full loads.

The kids are all about the idea of wearing their clothes multiple times before washing them, but we’re treading a fine line between being environmentalists and being just plain stinky. At any rate, I appreciate Sam for reminding us to be more conscious of the resources and energy that we’re using each day, and I appreciate SPREE for helping him learn in a way that’s engaging and meaningful.

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

The poem and the photo sum up our trip to the ocean perfectly.  Ocean waves, sand, shells, clouds – every element reminds me of how small we are. Thank you to Michael for the photograph that captured it all.

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e. cummings




Why water? Why not? The study of water and all the implications for its use and conservation could last a lifetime, not just a month. Of course water effects our day to day lives, landing it in the important-to-know-about category, but it’s also simply an interesting substance. Quickly changing form, mysterious water combines gentleness with power, life sustaining abilities with destructiveness.

When I wrote this, we were flying through millions of water drops, 38,000 feet above the ground. Our trip to the North Carolina coast has the whole family giddy with anticipation. The kids joined me on a trip to Portland this spring, but this is their first time visiting the east coast.

Isabel is nervous that crabs will bite her toes off, and both kids are worried about shark attacks. I’m happy to report that I have no pressing concerns about the ocean, other than wondering if we’ve packed enough sunscreen. Oh, and minutes before we boarded the plane we heard that a tropical storm/hurricane is headed to exactly the place we’re visiting. Cool! Talk about studying the power of water first hand.

Not to worry, we’ll be watching the storm’s path closely, and if it rates at a high enough category on Thursday, we’ll leave a day early. The storm watch has brought up interesting conversations about rising sea levels, the changing coast line, and how humans could (or should) make long range plans that involve moving further inland.

So you may see some hurricane related project work here, in addition to study of the ocean, rivers, conservation, and just playing with water in our own back yard.

What are your big questions about water? If you were studying water, what would you focus on?