Water…a Miracle

Writing Challenge Ice, Water, Steam For this week’s writing challenge, take on the theme of H2O. What does it mean to be the same thing, in different forms?

Water is a miraculous compound, but I doubt it indulges in self-reflection. Like all things in nature, it simply IS. At this moment, crystalline bits of it are drifting very slowly past my window. Behind them is a dormant alder tree with its pine-cone like seed pods. On the ground is more water, crunchy, cold, broken, melted and recrystallized.

Identity — for water and for the self — exists in response to conditions in the external world. In the last 30 years the “idea” of an “external” world has been pushed aside in favor of subjectivism, the “personal” vision of reality. What this implies is that there is NOTHING but the self. As a result of the prevailing idea in the world in which I reached maturity, I worried a lot about who I am. It wasn’t until 1998 when I “met” Goethe, and read Italian Journey, that I understood that the varied iterations of our sacred fucking selves are — like water — defined by the conditions of our being. We ARE in relation to the world, the universe, each other. Our intrinsic nature is what it is, but not as unique and unexpected as we may like to believe. At the same time, it’s impossible for us — or anything in nature — to behave in opposition to our nature.

I am a creative person and, measurably, intelligent. Not my fault. An accident or result of genetics. I am also short. I have a droopy left eye-lid. My mom said, “All Kennedys have that. Look at JFK.” Well, this past summer I saw a photo of my paternal great-grandmother (not a Kennedy, a Mackay) and low and behold, there was my left eye looking out of her face, once more illustrating the fact that the truth might not be what we think it is. It’s not a Kennedy trait at all…

The way others perceive me is often quite different from who I really am. Over and over I’ve found myself standing up for my being; yes, I’m creative, but I’m not messy or disorganized or irresponsible. I am neat, organized and I meet (met 😉 ) deadlines. After a while I learned that much of who we are to other people is not us at all; it’s a projection of THEM. My intelligence doesn’t mean anything other than that and it has limits. I don’t feel — as some people do — that I need to prove anything to anyone. I’d rather get to know people than intimidate them, but there are a lot of smart people in this world who really like the game of intellectual domination.

So, if a person keeps their eyes open they can see themselves in life’s moments, especially in new and unfamiliar ones, they will learn a lot about the substance they are. This past week I spent with very good friends and found myself in a couple of situations that were not “usual” for me. One was returning to an environment I escaped when my mom died, proximity to a very intelligent and competitively facetious woman whose notion of conversation was to “win.” I felt myself backing into a corner where once, long ago, in order to “protect” myself, I would have played. I don’t play that any more. I don’t want to do that, be that. Later, I had the chance to change the rules to rules I feel are more valid than “winning.” I was able to offer a sincere compliment on something I was sure this woman both cared about and was insecure about. I watched her melt, turn human and relax, seeing there was no need to “win,” she was liberated. I know myself well enough NOW that I can choose the “iteration” of self that will act in a given situation — but choice is limited by who I am, fundamentally. That would be integrity which is part of every natural thing.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote about this beautifully in “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” As a Jesuit, his perception of nature’s law is the word God. His point is that nothing in nature can act in opposition to itself and that is inexpressibly lovely.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844 – 1889

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:            
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;    
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,    
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.    
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.


Sometimes we have friends who see us as we are. I have several such friends (aren’t they the true friends?) One of them recently told me how he sees me. “…you are an artist, a mountain woman, an athlete, a friend.” Really that’s a perfect summary of who I hope I am, the person I want to be.



18 thoughts on “Water…a Miracle

  1. Good choice for a modern metaphysical poet. There is no one who could ever write “dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon” or “gash gold-vermilion.” Well done, drawing me back to my Hopkins. Now just “Stop all the clocks!”

  2. There’s so much stuff here, I don’t dare try to comment all of it. You covered a lot of territory, my friend.

    I never really thought of myself as defined by “the world.” I’m sure I am, but I never gave it any thought. I have, however, grappled with people in my life who persist in either seeing what they want to see, what they fear to see, or what I used to be. So many people are wed to an image of you at a particular point in time. They cannot let it go to see what you are, now. It has led to a lot of broken relationships.

    Mostly, I’m glad I’m alive. This has been the kind of year where coming out of it breathing has been a major achievement.

    • That’s what I mean by “defined by the world.” In another world — another time and place — you would be dead and I would be barely getting around on two canes and living in constant excruciating pain. In even another world I would have died in infancy. Not that long ago I would never have been able to sign for a home loan on my own. We wouldn’t be able to vote. That’s what I mean by conditions of the world and times in which we live.

      You’re right. Regardless of how old I got or what I managed to do well in my life, my mom persisted in seeing me as the terrified and rebellious 17 year old who fought with her all the time. It was a useful image for her to retain, so she did. It helped her control her world — I don’t know what she would have done if she’d realized I was in my 40s and eager for her friendship. I don’t think she could have managed it — but then that was a result of her world, of my dad dying at 45 and her heart being broken by that loss.

  3. Wow. I love the part about your turning the woman into her human-ness. I still struggle with people like that. I know what you did is the right action, for both people, but having been brought up by a narcissistic stepmother, I find it difficult to compliment people who seem to already think of highly of themselves. I understand that deep down, their arrogance is most likely hiding insecurity, but I cannot seem to put that understanding into real practice. Thank you for this. Absolutely beautiful.

    • You’re welcome! This woman REALLY wanted me to like her — we have a close mutual friend. She had no idea that she was alienating me. She may even have heard that I’m clever or witty or something. She may have been trying to make a good impression. For me now it’s just simply that I’m not going to be forced into being someone other than the person that I am. Now I just try to direct WHERE I put my attention since that’s all I can do. This woman has a beautiful voice. I told her. She was disarmed and suddenly authentic. Anyway, it was good for me since I got to see the woman for real and she’s OK. Narcissistic people, however, are more difficult since they try to control others. They can’t be real; everything is a stage set they’ve created and everyone around them has roles to play. My mom was one, too.

      • Thank you for clarifying. I interpreted the ‘competitiveness’ as her wanting to be better than you / everyone else. I am now remembering (vaguely) a few times when I have been able to disarm someone and have them become authentic with me, and what a gift it was. Thank you, too, for the difference about narcissism.

      • I was happy to learn she was real. My friend likes her very much and that was puzzling. Now I think she was just clueless that she was coming across as aggressive. That was a lesson to me, too. It’s easy to misread people and I’m sure plenty of people have similarly misread me.

  4. […] don’t know what I am PhoTrabloggerIce, water, steam I’m a Writer, Yes I AmWater…a Miracle Pocketful of JoyKnowing Who I Am Gives Me Joy BumblepuppiesIce Insults My Intelligence […]

    • Thank you! I had no idea where this was going when I started, so I learned something from it. 🙂

  5. You have an insightful way of looking at the world. (I almost wrote incite-ful, which would suggest you were advocating riots. Damned homonyms.) Although, one could argue that you challenge people to view the world differently from how they have filtered or perceived it to be. So perhaps you are both.

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