Our challenge this week is about five elements: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. These five elements are based on the Chinese theory of the composition of the world. The theory has influenced Chinese medicine, philosophy, etc. for more than two thousand years.
Liquid is a shapeshifter; it is diverse and can symbolize a million different things. It permeates all of life and flows in our own bodies. Here are just a few examples of how I imagine LIQUID.
Landscape is more than flat land covered by floodwater, the seeping of peat bogs, a river of liquid pewter viewed from a sentry tower. It’s an influence on what a person values, what she is willing to sacrifice or argue for. – Susan Vreeland
“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” – Lao Tzu
Wine comes in at the mouth And love comes in at the eye; That’s all we shall know for truth Before we grow old and die. I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and I sigh. – W.B. Yeats
“Death Valley is all about water.” So we were told by Jay Snow, the National Park Service ranger, an Okie character with an over-the-top presentation. It’s the lowest point in the country, parts of it falling below sea-level. It would make sense that gravity would bring a lot of water to that place. And it does. It’s just below the surface of the salt flat. Fascinating! Water does not behave in ways we often assume it will. It remains mysterious, a shape-shifter. It goes from warm color droplets…
…to sharp-angled crystals…
…it will eventually dissolve and transform even rock, paper, or scissors.
Water is life, practically the very definition of it. What would we “dew” without it?
It may threaten to destroy us; at the same time, we can’t live without it.
For all of these reasons, H2O commands awe, wonder, reverence. We ought to treat it with a great deal of respect and not tamper with it in its natural state unadvisedly or lightly.
Beneath all the superimposed hype of culture, politics, economics, religion and whatever else may be influencing your perception of reality, there is a simple place called Now. It is unique and bravely wild each time you visit. There may be familiar elements, but they are new every moment, like water that may be solid, liquid or gas and may change at any time. To enter fully into this Now, bring no expectations, no ‘shoulds’ or ‘ought to be’. Be open and aware of what is around you. Your attention, appreciation, and gratitude are welcome. You may notice a profound joy arising within you the more time you spend in this Now. This is the Present, a free gift.
Water in the desert. It’s a huge factor, and not in the way you’d think. Water shaped the desert landscape, even though you might think there’s none there. The canyons and caverns of the American West were formed by water. I heard a very enthusiastic Death Valley National Park ranger named Jay Snow expound on this amazing fact. He was right. Death Valley is all about water. So is the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns and all those other iconic desert places. Many of them were once part of a vast inland sea, believe it or not. Water is ancient and powerful and wild. When we’re not tampering with it, that is. (and that’s a huge topic for another post on my ‘In Wilderness…’ page)
A piece I wrote in the last century…
The King’s Dream (John 4:13-14)
There once was a wise and noble king who had a magnificent kingdom. The king loved his kingdom immensely. He could name every tree and flower, river, rock and creature in it. He knew every thing about his kingdom, down to the number of the grains of sand on its shores. He would take long walks through the hills and valleys, and sometimes he would come across a traveler, and they would walk together for a while. Usually, the traveler did not recognize him immediately. This may seen odd to you or me, since we are used to seeing pictures of our leaders in the newspaper or on our money, but this king had never had his likeness made in print or statue. However, after some time in conversation, most people who encountered him could identify his authority by his regal bearing and knowledge. For some reason that the king could not entirely understand, the travelers would begin to feel uncomfortable with him and refuse to keep his company after discovering his identity. The king was puzzled and a bit hurt by this phenomenon.
In time, the people of the kingdom convened among themselves and decided to build the king a palace and a throne room where they assumed he would reside happily without the need to walk about the countryside bumping into them unexpectedly. Certain subjects vowed to devote their lives to the business of making sure the king was reasonably content to stay in the throne room. They brought lavish gifts of food and music to him and decorated his chamber with fine art and furnishings. The king was very kind and wanted to honor these subjects’ devotion, for it seemed to him that they were trying their best to serve him in their own way.
It wasn’t long, however, before the king began to miss his time among the rocks and trees and flowers that so delighted him. It had also come to his attention that not all of his people had visited him, or were even allowed to visit him, in his fancy estate. He wondered what the ones who hadn’t met him might think of him, and he still wondered why the ones who did meet him became uneasy in his presence. Would they want to meet him here, gathered around this throne of gold, or would they stand just as uncomfortably, shifting their weight from foot to foot and shifting their eyes from floor to exit, just as they had done on the road? He wondered what kind of a throne it could be around which they might gather comfortably.
The king began to daydream about what it would be like if he could be king of the palace and king of every inch of his kingdom all at the same time. He wondered how he might set up a throne wherever people were: in their homes, on the road, where they played, worked and visited, maybe as close as under their very skin, so that wherever people were, there was a place for him right in their midst. He thought of the things that were common to every person in his kingdom, things that were linked to the richness of the land on which they all lived. He thought of them walking home for supper at the end of the day, lighting fires in their hearths, gathering their children about them, and sharing a loaf of bread and a jug of cool water. He thought of the water that flowed down from the mountain glaciers, cutting a fertile river valley in the plains and coming to rest in a large and bountiful lake.
“To be truly king of this kingdom,” he thought, “I would have to be like water. Then my throne would be on the highest mountain, in the smallest dewdrop dangling from a flower, in every kiss between two people, and at the feet of the children dancing on the beach. Oh!” he thought, “to be amongst my people like water would be the best way to reign!”
Giggling softly at his own pun, he drifted off into a contented sleep. He dreamed that he was in a meadow. He felt the warmth of the sun on his face and the tickle of the grass against his skin. Suddenly, he heard laughter coming from the woods, and a host of joyful people burst onto the meadow. Children skipped among the tall wildflowers playing games. Women gathered bouquets and spread out colorful cloths on the grass. Met set out large loaves of bread and wheels of cheese, cutting slices with knives that flashed sunlight back to the heavens. In the middle of this happy scene, a young man carrying a wooden buck and and young woman with a crystal vase approached. Steadily they advanced, and the king realized they were probably going to fetch water.
“Let me help you,” he tried to call out, but he found he had no voice.
Still they came nearer with clear purpose in their step. The king was puzzled as they held out their vessels in his direction. Then, with a smack! they plunged them through his heart and drew back their brimming containers dripping with the cool, clear liquid.
Breathless, the king realized that he was the source of the water they were now pouring and passing among themselves, and more than that, he could feel everything he flowed into all at the same time. He was still the meadow spring that felt the impact of the bucket, but he was also surrounding the bouquet at the bottom of the vase. He was ladled from the bucket to the lips of a child whose throat was dry and greedy and whose sleeve ran quickly over him. He was passed in a wooden bowl to a lady, old and withered. She parched in skin and bone and tongue, and he longed to fill her completely, to cool the burning heat that age had baked into her body. He was mingled with the mud and dirt on the feet of men who had walked for miles to come to this gathering. He heard them sighing in relief as he cleansed their weary soles. A woman slicing cheese had slipped and blood ran from her finger. He was pressed into her would to guard her from disease.
He found himself poured out, divided, spilled, then multiplied in a thousand new encounters with his people, while a part of him lay quietly in the meadow, ever-filled from deep below the earth. His dreamed adventure set him about the kingdom enthroned in living water, and never did a traveler turn from him uncomfortably again. He was able to be present in every corner of the land at once, and they say in that kingdom that the king has never fully awakened from his dream.
Reblogged from 2 years ago:
Today I had an opportunity to get into the holiday spirit by doing some arts & crafts with kids at the Nature Center. Unfortunately for fundraising but fortunately for me, not too many people showed up this morning. That meant that I got to play with the materials myself. I was at the wrapping paper station with an array of washable paint colors and objects to dip into them. Leaves, cedar boughs, fir needles, spruce branches, feathers, pine cones, sponges and whatnot.
Years ago, I went into the prairie with scissors, came back with leaves and seed pods, spray painted my treasures in gold, silver, and clear varnish, and decorated a mask with them. That hung on the wall of the den for ages. I’m always looking for ways to decorate indoors with pieces of the outdoors. And all for free, essentially. (Cheap & Weird – my kids’ nickname for me) That reminds me of the dried macaroni gifts I gave the Christmas I was, what, 9? Too funny. Spray paint macaroni, glue it to a box, call it a gift. I suppose I could get away with it as a kid, but what is it called when I’m almost 50 and still messing around like that? Okay, call it messing around. I have fun. Here are a few examples:
Imagine me gleefully slapping a piece of butcher paper with a paint-soaked cedar branch ala Jackson Pollack! I tell you, kindergarteners should not be having all the fun.
The best things in life are free. So far on my December countdown, I’ve received Sunshine (Dec. 1), Fresh Air (Dec. 2), and Water (Rain – today). Each day I go outside to receive some miraculous gift, and there’s always something. No need to wrap it or trap it. Martha Stewart or Andy Goldsworthy, I’m not. Just a kid in a fabulous universe, trying to stay happy with what there is.