In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time. – Leonardo da Vinci
The ancients in many traditions built philosophies and sciences based around the concept of primordial elements – in the West, these are common denominators such as water, earth, air and fire (other traditions differed and sometimes added a fifth: aether, akasha, life, spirit, chaos, nothingness).
For today’s exercise, explore the flow of your life and make a poem from the element of water. Warm up if you like by writing out a quick list of water associations. Here’s mine:
flow, transition, vapor, liquid, solid, purification, frogs, intuition, renewal, motion, clarity, muddiness, refreshment, fishbowl, mystery, stillness, reflection, depth, bath, rot, immersion, amniotic, baptism, primordial source, sensitivity, poison, solvent, womb, moon, tides, naiad, siren, mermaid, rain, spring, lake, pond, river, swamp, formlessness, fish, the Russian River, the Nile, Lethe, lotus, subconscious, the unspoken, aquarium, feeling, emotion, flood, tsunami, waterfall, rebirth, tears, blue, green, eye, brain, blood, bottom-feeders, wave, ripple, droplet, Mason jar
All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. – Toni Morrison
Here are some questions you might ask yourself as you think about the associations, behavior and properties of water:
* what significant events have happened to you near or around water?
* what moves you emotionally?
* where are you contained, and where do you overflow?
* what transitions from one state to another can you speak of?
* where are things stagnant?
* where do you feel tugged, and how? like the tide? or downstream?
* where are you forever trying to get back to?
Consider this excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” where a metaphor of water explores the question of faith:
If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
We all know that we’re mostly made of water. Tell the story of yours.