Shimmering puddles outside my window are moving with the rhythms of falling rain. This has been a wet summer so far, in contrast with the mild drought of summer last year. For many people, rain is a hassle, and it means staying indoors, longing for a return of summer sun. For me, however, rain means opportunity. When the rains come, I watch the weather closely and prepare my gear for an outing. As soon as the rain abates, I head off to the hills with my camera to look for waterfalls.
What is it about moving water that we find so fascinating and beautiful? Of course, water is essential to all life and is a characteristic feature of our blue planet. I think our aesthetic appreciation of water is connected with its many life-giving roles, and its dynamic transformations. Water, though without life of its own, nonetheless courses through the world with power and tenacity, as if living. More than any other inanimate thing on our planet, water resembles a life-giving, life-taking spirit, nurturing the roots of our sustenance in its gentle aspect and drowning us in tsunami when raging.
And in between the extremes of water’s many manifestations, there are waterfalls. The mountain streams fill with gurgling, surging, cascading flows of water when the summer rains arrive. Boulders that have withstood centuries of storms without budging vie with water for a show of strength. Water will eventually win, but we must respect the boulders for withstanding forces that would quickly sweep us away.
At a time when human hubris has reached intensely dangerous levels, when climate change is placing heat domes over western North America and creating dangerous drought conditions around the world, I celebrate the rain. Below are some highlights from my recent explorations of a stream in Vermont. I hope that these images will inspire people to look upon rain with deep appreciation.
The immobility of a massive boulder in the shape of an oversized brick contrasts with the delicate flow of a mountain stream.
Whorled wood asters (Oclemena acuminata) flourish in the spray of a small waterfall.
Moving stream water appears milky as it flows rapidly around small boulders.
Hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides) waves in the breeze above a rivulet flowing across a length of solid rock.
Mosses and lichen decorate rocks in green, but only at a safe distance from a small waterfall. Note the bare rock where the direct spray has made the environment too wet for even these moisture-loving organisms.
Is this not Paradise? Well, it may be a little too steep for Paradise, but the ferns are happy here.
Note the large tree trunk slowly decomposing in the pool of this waterfall, also visible in the photograph above.
A portrait view of the multi-tiered waterfall in the featured image of this post. Moisture glistens on the rocks and the falls shimmer as the sun attempts to break through the cloud cover. In places like this I find hope that life will yet civilize our species in time to save our planet from sterility. The water roaring and spitting at me, I am reminded that true power lies not in innovating disruptive technologies for the sake of fleeting profits, but in perpetuating healthy relationships. This is what water does: it illustrates the perpetuation of ancient relationships through its dynamic movements. Water will always win, because it embodies the timeless truths of life.