Posted by: syncopated1 | July 10, 2011

Water People

I thought long and hard about writing this one allegorically like I have been working on lately, but, as it is a personal observation on my part, I felt that a personal testimony of this observation would serve best and leave it entirely open for discussion. A discussion that I would dearly love to have.

It should first be mentioned that I never would have drawn this parallel if I hadn’t read the Redwall series by Brian Jacques as a kid. Which perhaps means the parallel doesn’t exist at all, but maybe Jacques also observed this.

I consider myself to be a water person. I’m drawn to it, places with very little water make me antsy and I don’t spend very much time there. Having water near me almost all the time is comforting. I feel most connected to the ocean. It’s vastness seems nearly endless and provides a delightful contrast to my grounded and finite nature. I live near the ocean and work with people who are also intimately connected to the sea. The last few years of my life have been a kaleidoscope of such people. In being around these people I have noticed that the backdrop of our lives, the ocean, has affected and formed us profoundly. The people I classify as ocean people tend to be very direct people expressing emotions quickly, forcefully and returning to calm. We tend to ebb and flow in almost predictable cycles like the tides; over a certain period we can be very high functioning, stretching the limits of ourselves or shores, and then receding deeply into ourselves, pulling back from those around us, but strangely leaving lots of ourselves revealed, or vulnerable in our lowtide phase. We ebb and flow but at all times are present and forceful.

Last week I had what was my second look (the first being in my travels with my sister in Suriname) at river people. My buddy Bill took me rafting deep into western Maine at the Forks of the Kennebec. We had an incredible time, but I got to really see and understand people like Bill and his friends who have tied themselves to these rivers as photographers, rafting guides, and what have you. What I have noticed is that river people seem to always flow forward. The few I know don’t seem to be people who spend much time stagnant in anyway, quickly or not they always seem to flow. But after spending three days with Bill and a whole day with people very similar to him, I also observed that they cycle in energy as well. But not predictably. Like a river there are rapids and calm spaces. Bill and his friends, especially his close friends Chris, Karis and Ilea, have burst of quick energy in which they are fueled mostly by momentum but are somewhat unpredictable in what may happen when faced with difficulties while riding that momentum. They can veer off in another direction entirely or smash right through the obstacle and carry pieces of with them forever. But eventually they reach that “wider” space and become very calm, accepting, almost lethargic in mind and spirit. But not lethargic because they still deliberately flow onward.

And most fascinating of all is that I was easily melded into this group of river people, comprised of young and old alike, because what I feel is accepted that we were all water people. Everyone of us needs to be associated with water in someway, we love it and we live it. But it is also understood that none of us fear water, but we definitely respect it. Both the rivers and the ocean are powerful, powerful forces. They provide us with some of the most rewarding recreational activities, some of the deepest and oldest livelihoods, but without respect for the water and how she moves, she will crush you without hesitation. And now that I have spent much time around water people, it’s very easy for me to recognize in others who have that respect and those who don’t.

Water people are water people, no matter where they are. It is the difference in how our chosen waters have shaped us that I am now aware of too. And pleasantly reminded of all of the works of fiction I read that touched upon these themes as well. River people and ocean people in the Redwall series, sailors in any number of works of fiction, and the Lake People from the Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien of course. And I haven’t even really begun to considered how the land affects our formation as well; coastal people versus islanders, versus those that live on lakes or had the heads of river or tidal spillways. In reality I suppose that the differences are only exhibited on the surfaces, like the different traits of different waters; underneath the surface in the depths of our souls lies more of the underflow that all bodies of water possess.



  1. Good read. Thanks.

  2. I LOVE this post, Skylar. Excellent writing. And the concept of river people/ocean people is intriguing and fantastic!

  3. Thanks, Tzeitel. And as I said, I’m not certain if this is actually true or if I am merely projecting my own childhood literary adventures on my current life and adventures.

  4. What a wonderful development of these thoughts. And thanks for reminding me about Redwall! There’s a blast from the past.

    • I am most grateful for the chance to see this, and for having you in the car to bounce these thoughts off initially as we headed home!

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