Water Finds a Way

Let’s face it, most of us in the Pacific Northwest are pretty used to water. It’s all around us in the form of the ocean, the Puget Sound, many rivers and lakes. And of course, rain. Rain. More rain. Did I mention rain? It comes down from the sky with a regularity that either delights or dismays, depending on your personal weather preferences. I’m in the generally delighted category. 

I especially love that wonderful misty grey rain on a quiet morning with a cup of tea. The light has a particular quality at that time that a better writer than me is needed to capture. But I bet some of you know just what I mean and cherish it too.

Sometimes though, it goes badly. Floods, mudslides, roof leaks are all testaments to the power of water and its intractable force. Here in Washington we watched helplessly as the Oso mudslides destroyed a community. We also watched with swelling hearts as the community came together to respond (view this tribute to Oso heroes).

Water finds a way through just about everything eventually. Water moves. It’s flexible. It’s adaptable. It can make progress patiently, drop by drop over millennia carving exquisite pathways onto seemingly unchangeable rock.

Or – in an instant - it can change things, as with a tsunami or a flash flood.

Yet that same intractable power brings enormous benefits as an energy source through hydroelectricity, not to mention that water brings life. We need it to survive. We are largely made up of it. It nourishes our food and the plants that give us breathable air.

Water is a growing equity issue around the globe. Who has it, who controls it, these are major questions. If you don’t think this issue is ramping up quickly as the new frontier for resource power battles, consider that Saudi Arabia is currently exporting water from Arizona in the form of hay. We can also find hope in stories of people spontaneously responding to help others as news viewers in New Mexico recently did to fund a well for the Navajo Nation.

A close friend of mine’s son was asked as a kindergartener to name the major oceans and he said, “Pacific, Atlantic, Mother Mother.” Right on kid! He may have simply been repeating the oft heard Jimmy Buffett lyric, but I think he and Buffett are on to something.

Here in Washington State many advocates, including COPC, came together for a big water win for kids this year in the form of capital budget funds for water bottle filling stations. Get yer butt over to their wonderful annual Summit on Dec 7th!

I never learned to surf but have long used the sport as a metaphor in my own life, as so many do. Recently in conversation with a brilliant and funny colleague, Krista Goldstine-Cole, she shared her imagery for leaders of organizations who are out on the leading, learning edge like Healthy Gen works to be. She said it may sometimes feel like Wile E. Coyote running so far out on the ledge that it feels it’s going to crumble beneath him or he’s simply overshot it entirely. You and I never feel this way…right!!

We were discussing ways to bring leadership support to folks in that kind of situation and she suggested mentally flipping the picture - so that the crumbly rock ledge which was pointing upwards becomes a giant ocean wave which leaders can now surf.

I love that idea! Someday we need to turn it into an animation!

The quest to create enduring health equity is a long game. It requires a delicate mixture of patience and urgency. Some days I feel as though I’m surfing the wave like a pro, other days it feels like I’ve lost my balance and been crashed into a coral reef. Ouch! I bet you know what I mean. And yet, we all keep climbing back up on that board.

There’s an underlying faith and optimism we share in this work. A belief that things can be very different than they are now, that the unimaginable can become reality. If you’re feeling down about this, and who isn’t from time to time, we all get stuck down in the valley between the waves and can’t see the horizon for a spell. Remember how fast things can change. 15 years ago, the idea of water on other worlds was laughable. And now? Time to set up a surf outpost on Enceladus ! Water is everywhere in space and determined people who believed in that and were called crazy for looking are now enjoying deep satisfaction I imagine. One day this will be us too!

Keep dreaming, keep pushing, ride the wave, be water!