It’s Just Water, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:57am

We finally got a few days of old-school rain. Large drops, audible splashing.

Made me think about water all over everywhere. I am not sure why suddenly a thing of nature, inextricable from our living, part of everything, separated itself and said “Think.” But there you have it.

Think of puddles.

Raindrops. Lakes.

I have lived on a coast most of my life, I couldn’t imagine moving inland. Even when I can’t see the ocean, or the San Francisco Bay, I know they are there. I smell marine on the breeze, seagulls get lost and fly overhead.

Or streams. Think of streams.

When I was young, we lived above a meadow, at the bottom a stream we called The Creek. I would explore, amid poison oak and banana slugs. Everything was wet, the narrow tree trunks, the ferns, the thistles, the rocks. As the oldest, I often explored alone. As I have said, my mother had a cowbell she’d ring when we had to come back for dinner. It clattered more than rang, if I’m precise.

Maybe she called us home for other things, but dinner seems like the right over-arching term.

I am writing along, waiting to know why water, but in the end maybe it’s just to remember that each aspect of our experience can be seen as part of a fabric, or, if we pay attention, a single splashing event.

Have a wonderful weekend. If you feel so inclined, tell me about your streams, your rivers, your lakes, your seas. Ah. Here’s a thought. It’s possible I’m seeking comfort, as we continue to do what’s needed for my mother, in that which always moves and never changes.

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  • I grew up here in the Bay Area, and for the majority of my life I could see the Bay when I stepped out my front door. I now live east of the Caldecott and when I drive into work every day I heave a sigh of relief when I come out of the tunnel and the expanse of the S.F. Bay greets me.

    Regarding your mother and the cow bell. You are changing your personal home culture. Maybe you should get a cowbell for your front porch. So that the first thing that greets you when you come home or when you leave the house is that cowbell. A happy memory.

    Also, just as an aside, During the summer, we would eat dinner and then all the parents would kick us out the door and we’d roam the neighborhood playing hide and seek, kickball, etc. Around 9, when the street lights would come on, we’d hear the mothers calling our names to come home. That doesn’t happen anymore, that freedom to roam. I think something very precious has been lost.

    1:31 pm
    Lisa said...

    @claire, The freedom to roam is one I wish we could reclaim. I can imagine how it feels to come through the tunnel:).

  • I second both Lisa and Claire. Growing up in Ohio, nothing was greater than the ability to roam, and water was usually the siren call. From wet spots in vacant lots we graduated to Euclid Creek Park and then to the Chagrin River; the water was always the main draw. Today I often walk to the Danshui River, where the waterside flood-zone has been turned into a continuous park.

    1:55 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Parnassus, Even the names of these bodies of water make poetry.

  • I am a child of water, having grown up in Miami. I wouldn’t have survived my years in Chicago without Lake Michigan…

    And here’s a story of water and comfort: A friend who now lives in Stinson Beach went through several terrible years in which she suffered staggering losses. She moved to Stinson shortly after that time and told me that she met others there who had had their lives similarly upended. She said that she found considerable comfort in the tides and way the sand was smoothed, as if made anew, each day.

    1:58 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Jean S, Oh from Miami to Chicago – yes, the lake would be necessary. I wonder what it is about Stinson that brings people upended there. I know it feels very much like an end of the earth place.

  • Yes, roaming, and generally towards water. In El Cerrito, we had the Gully – a wild place half a block from my house (now a park; not wild, but somehow feeling less safe for all of that, perhaps because it is so overgrown in comparison to my memory). I spent many hours, alone, sitting on the bank and just staring into the water until something liminal happened and instead of the pebbly bottom or the reflections of the trees above, I saw an in-between world that offered calm enchantment. I can still (some 55 years later) evoke the feeling and the image.

    2:01 pm
    Lisa said...

    @marsha calhoun, “just staring into the water until something liminal happened and instead of the pebbly bottom or the reflections of the trees above, I saw an in-between world that offered calm enchantment.” Oh, yes, this. I too can call up the feeling of leaving this plane for another, as I walked the edge of the creek.

  • I grew up near the Charles River in Boston. During my teenage years, my best friend and I sailed on the Charles every day of the summer. Going back further, as young children, my siblings and I knew when to come home when we heard the church bells chime out the hour. Those were free roaming days as I recall, when our parents apparently didn’t worry much, trusting that we would come home in time for dinner. I hope you are finding what you need for your mother.

    2:08 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Jane, Thank you. How wonderful to grow up sailing every day. My mom was a sailor in her childhood, at least so she said.

  • Grew up in Bay Area. Loved to roam about and loved the beach. I really like Idaho, except no ocean nearby. We do have many lakes and the mighty Snake River, but not quite enough for this old California girl. My husband takes us to the Oregon coast each year for a month or so to give me my ocean fix. Hurray for considerate husbands!

    3:57 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, Hurray for considerate husbands! I’ve rafted down an Idaho river, it was just beautiful but I agree, not quite an ocean. And there’s nothing like the horizon over an ocean.

  • You’ve written a thought provoking post for me this morning, so much so I looked up the meaning of thoughts and dreams of water.
    From an article in the Huffington Post interview of Jeffrey Sumber, Psychotherapist (

    “For many analysts, dreams about water can shed some light into our feelings and emotional state of mind. “Water tends to be about purification, change, renewal and new life when it is not otherwise significant to a person…”

    It may be the changes you are going through in your family and personal life that are drawing your thoughts to water. Wishing you peaceful thoughts today. xo

    3:58 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Candace, Oh thank you very much. That is so perfect.

  • I was born in Los Angeles, raised in Brooklyn; some of my earliest memories are of the beach and ocean, and learning to swim.

    Moving to Ohio 2 1/2 years ago was a big culture shock, but now what I really miss is the ocean. Hopefully I will be able to visit one this summer!

    10 years ago I spent a few months in Hawaii, and tried to make it to the ocean every day. The current can be really strong there and I found a protected bay (called “Baby Beach,” so cute, because it was a safe place for parents to take kids and babies) where I would swim laps. And when I would leave the ocean I would say, “Thank you, Mother,” to the waves. Cheesy I know, but I felt very grateful for her protecting me.

    The ocean really heals all things, I feel. I went to North Carolina after a horrible breakup and resulting depression. And just staring at the waves, I realized that things just ARE. Not bad or good, but constantly moving and changing.

    I love the song “Ocean Size” by Jane’s Addiction. Have you heard it?


    4:02 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Danielle, “I went to North Carolina after a horrible breakup and resulting depression. And just staring at the waves, I realized that things just ARE. Not bad or good, but constantly moving and changing.” Thank you. And I’m not quite the Jane’s Addiction type, but, I really appreciate that you shared it with me:).

  • Lisa, I grew up totally inland in deep East Texas (think just 100 miles from the western Louisiana border). We lived in an ordinary house ( built in 1954), but it was situated with ten acres of vacant land behind it. When I say vacant, I don’t want you to visualize a vacant lot, but rather woodlands and meadows–and yes, a creek. Along with my sisters and a some neighbor children, we loved the creek. We especially enjoyed watching the tadpoles turn into baby frogs and there were crawdad! Yes, there were. For some reason, we never worried about snakes. Only later as an adult, did I realize that our area was rife with poisonous copperhead snakes!

    These days, my favorite place (my happy place) is our family farm (in our family since 1971). Out in the pastures are three stock ponds. We’ve named the largest one Lake Superior. In times of a lot of rain (like right now), these ponds are large and overflowing and connected to each other by little streams which even include some tiny waterfalls!

    Sometimes my husband and I travel to the West Coast. We love seeing the ocean and relish the smell of the ocean air.

    4:24 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan D., I imagine your stock ponds are wonderful, full of life, and peaceful at the same time. And I’m glad you escaped your childhood among the copperheads unscathed;).

  • I’ve also always lived on a coast, both sides of this country. I too, can’t imagine living inland. There’s something so particular about the sense of infinite space that the ocean has, which I find so peaceful and comforting.

    4:25 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kathy, I drove down to Santa Barbara on Wednesday, and back up on Thursday. When I arrived, before I went up to my mother’s house, I parked in the lot at Hendry’s Beach and stared out at the sea and collected myself.

  • Ironically, for a baby conceived in Death Valley Junction, birthed in Las Vegas, Nevada because it was the closest hospital, at 100-plus miles away, from Beatty, Nevada where my dad was mapping, I love bodies of water and rain. Actually, maybe knowing deserts first gave me an understanding of the miracle and necessity of water. Even deserts have their water, some of the most beautiful of which occur in the form of summer rainstorms that turn the hot dry day into a splendid mixture of dark sky and the glorious smell that rises from the larrea tridentata (cresote bushes), and rushing water that can be dangerous. Experienced desert people know to move to higher ground when it rains. As you know, my dad mapped the eleven western states, and headed individual field projects. In the winter we lived beside the bay. I remember watching out the windows of our station wagon as large pieces of tide foam drifted, like salt-water tumbleweeds across the old Dumbarton Bridge as we drove to the USGS offices. In every place we lived, in all my childhood summers, there was water. Beautiful lakes, rivers, streams, and brooks in the middle of cities and towns, and in wilderness areas with undisturbed riparian beauty, the memories of which I can call up, re-experience, and then exhale with happiness. My dad grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He was born in a Craftsman house his parents built less than a mile from the Squalicum Waterway in Bellingham Bay. He was such a water-baby that he didn’t own a raincoat. He said it rained, you dripped dry, it rained again. His first two years of college were at Willamette University with the Willamette River snaking through the campus. If you stop at Willamette College in Salem along I5, you can sit in an Adirondack chair placed alongside the river on the campus. My mom grew up in Minnesota, in The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. She moved to Oregon after her dad died in 1943 to help her mom with the two youngest of her five younger siblings who were still at home. She and my dad moved to California when they bought their first home. My mom felt California was unrealistic about water. She was a member of the native plant society and thought lawns were ridiculous. I remember how happy she was to move out of our suburban ranch home to the Sierras where they could build their home within the trees, and leave the native plants undisturbed. She had a vegetable garden and a compost pile, other than that it was all the trees and plants there when they bought the land in the 1960s. Some of my best childhood memories are of picnics or camping beside beautiful lakes or rivers. I have a truly magical memory from a college summer when my boyfriend and I drove in his van from Berkeley to Seattle. We stopped at Trinity to see friends camping there, and then took back roads, including Highway 93 which ran along the Salmon River to the coast to stay at a friend’s cabin by the Smith River. We stopped and swam in the Salmon River in the clearest pool I’ve ever seen. The rocks on the bottom tinted the pool a pale aquamarine, and the water was so clear I could see large fish swimming at the bottom of the pool. When I was still, some of the fish would gather at my feet. There was not another person in sight. Just we two and the fish in the water on a warm summer afternoon. I love looking out at water. It calms me. When I moved to Chicago we lived looking out at Lake Michigan. It was beautiful to experience water that changed through the seasons from loose, blue spring waves, to a summer night flat black receptacle receiving lines of lightning bolts, to roiled autumn greens and browns, to shores of frozen waves in the winter. In San Francisco I looked out at the bay, which varied daily in color and wave in unexpected ways. I don’t need to be near an ocean, but I do need to know there is water nearby. Our latest rain, as you say, real “old-school rain,” has been a delight. I hope we get more, and that there is snow in the mountains. Thinking of you. Wishing you resolutions and forward movement. xoxoxo.

    12:02 pm
    dottoressa said...

    @Katherine C. James, Fascinating!
    “Even desserts have their water”-how true,literally and metaphorical!

    1:47 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Katherine C. James, I adore your memory of the river pool. I have a similar memory, from childhood, of a pool in a river in the Sierras. They seem so mysterious. Thank you for all you share.

  • I’ve always lived within a half hour drive of the ocean, and for the last 20+ years, as you know, right on the waterfront. Even as a teen, I remember feeling a kind of claustrophobia when I found myself too far inland… Preparing to list this home for sale, a big consolation is that my next will likely be within walking distance of river or ocean (or both).
    Not sure this will make sense as a segue, but in some ways, especially in the context of your mother’s condition and remembering the last years of my mother’s, I think of the similarity between walking and living near the water. Both walking and water are states of continuity and change at once, somehow. I find both soothing, and my mother did as well, it seemed, even when her cognitive powers had waned significantly. . .
    Not sure, even, why I offer that, but I feel as if I want to offer you something, as I remember too well how tough this stage is. Take care. xo

    1:49 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Thank you. I will need a plan to bring my mother to the water. Walking, easier.

  • True story (or as true as I can remember).
    When I was 12 I used to walk to the beach barefoot (we lived a mile away).
    My feet were always sore on the way back.
    When I was 13 I used to walk to the beach barefoot, but I took a dime with me, and called my mother when I was ready to go home.
    When I was 14, I used to walk to the beach barefoot and I took a dime with me, and called my mother to come and get me when I wanted to go home – but she told me I was the one who decided to walk to the beach barefoot, and so I could walk home barefoot as well.
    When I was 15 sometimes I walked barefoot to the beach, but I always brought shoes with me for the way back.

    1:50 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Diane, That is a wonderful, wonderful story. And, isn’t everything as true as we can remember, which makes Alzheimers so odd and new.

  • I grew up far away from the ocean but always “knew” I would end up close to one. I also “knew” that there would be palm trees! I wonder if it was all coincidence that it did work out that way, or if I was just very determined… :-)

    I think it is very interesting how apparently random things can evoke memories. My dad suffered a major stroke last March, and I so often have a memory of him when he was well that seems to come out of nowhere…

    1:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Andrea@WellnessNotes, Seems you made your palm trees happen:). And I am sorry for your dad’s stroke. These losses seem to provoke memory and feelings from some place we don’t ordinarily access.

  • I grew up in El Cerrito, a few blocks from Wildcat Canyon. I, too, had freedom to roam and it was there I found peace and connection.

    Many years later, my daughter and only child was killed at 18. I was living with her in Santa Rosa at the time. All I wanted was the ocean. I drove the coastline aimlessly until I found a place 300 miles south, near Morro Bay. I found glimpses of peace by the ocean.. I moved there, having too many memories in Santa Rosa. I walked the beaches for hours every day. I had to be by the ocean. 12 years later, I am remarried and still live here.

    2:04 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Shawn Marie, Such a loss. I am so, so sorry. I wish I could do something. You are giving me comfort, however, in sharing how the ocean helped you, and I thank you. I am so glad you have remarried, and are still by the sea.

  • Lisa, I just wanted to say I understand what you’re going through. It’s so tough. If you ever want to talk or have lunch..let’s do. It helped me to talk to friends who have gone through the same with their mothers and fathers.Keeping you in my thoughts. Be good to yourself too. It’s a stress filled time. Hugs, Kim

    2:08 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kim, Thank you. Yes, I’d love to have lunch sometime. Do you have my email? I can find yours from this comment, so, I’ll ping you soon. <3

  • All these feeling are so overwhelming,the post and all the comments
    As Mary anne,Candace and Danielle have said: ocean heals
    And me too,I need my summer “Sea fix”,sea,waves,salt,pebbles,calmness,smell…..I am always happy near the sea.
    Earth,plants,ocean…….we find the solace and peace!

    2:11 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, Solace and peace, solace and peace. <3

  • Your post reminded me of the Maori greeting protocol in New Zealand where you share who you are by identifying ‘your’ river and ‘your’ mountain.

    ‘Let there be life!
    My canoe is (name of your canoe)
    My mountain is (name of your mountain)
    My river is (name of your river)
    My tribe is (name of your tribe)
    My sub-tribe is (name of your sub-tribe)
    I am (your name)’

    Originally my river would have been the small placid Kumeu River (home of excellent wineries), but stretching the definition, my body of water now is probably Takupuna Beach and my mountain is Rangitoto, a volcanic island in the harbour which you can see from all over Auckland.

    When my mum was in the hospice, I’d walk on the beach every day and it helped, as much as anything could. That and the ice cream!

    2:18 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Eleanorjane, Ah I love that, to identify oneself by our waters. I learn so much here. And the quote makes me wonder, what is my canoe? Interesting. I’m guess it’s logic, loyalty, and the desire to do a good job. What’s yours?

    3:06 pm
    Eleanorjane said...

    @Eleanorjane, Sorry, replying to myself to reply to Lisa… the canoe idea is that there were supposedly 12 canoes (huge outriggers) who journeyed across the sea from Polynesia to find New Zealand and that all Maori can/should trace their ancestry from one of those canoes.

    But I guess if we’re talking metaphorically, my canoe is being ‘mum to the world’. I want to fix things, make things better, help people, increase fairness etc.

  • I can see the connection between gazing at water and walking, or swimming, or any exercise that can be maintained indefinitely. For me those are meditative states.
    I’ve lived on the easy coast for the past 40+ years, but I grew up in Michigan and I consider the Great Lakes coastal areas least as beautiful as the ocean coasts. When I was a child, we had a cottage on Lake Huron and we spent entire summers there. I’ve also spent time near Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Beautiful walkable beaches and, as the saying goes, unsalted and sharkfree.

    Lisa, you have my email, right? I offered Frances information and suggested that she get my email from you if she needs it.

    1:51 pm
    Frances/Materfamilias said...

    So kind of you, again, Marie. Thanks, although we’re fine for the moment. . .

    2:29 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Marie, Unsalted and shark-free;). And I have your email, yes, and I thank you.

  • No water in my childhood, growing up in the Midwest with my grandparent’s 27 acre cornfield out behind our house…but I suppose the leaves can look like water when they’re rippling in unison in the wind.
    Our childhoods sound quite similar in that I used to go out to the field in the morning…no sunscreen, of course…and hunt for rocks, specifically glimmering Quartz and ancient fossils or arrowheads. Mom would ring the bell when it was time for us to come in and wash up before “supper” as we called it, or, we just instinctively knew when it was getting darker and the dew started forming on the corn stalks.
    Are kids even allowed the freedom to do this these days?

  • I, too, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, but spent most of my adult years in green, green Germany. The Main River, and then the Mosel, were my waterways. Biking alongside a broad, tranquil river framed by steep vineyards and castle-topped crags—there’s nothing like it. Or going down to feed the ducks on Christmas day, watching them waddle on the ice that lines the banks, or marveling at the river’s fury when it rises and roars in early spring…great memories. And every summer, we’d go to France to taste the ocean again. My favorite was in Brittany, where the tide goes out, out, out, and the surf is so gentle even a timid swimmer like me could float in the sea, feeling safe in the soft push-pull of the waves. My last few years in Germany, I lived beside a 15th-century mill that once ground grain and now produces electricity. Across the creek was a small castle, with an elegant weeping willow that dipped her hair into the water. Every morning, the ducks woke us with their noisy arguments. In summer, kids came to swim in the mill pond. I always wondered what might be found down there in the murky depths.
    Now I live near the Puget Sound, and I go down there to walk, watch the cormorants dive, and soak in the beauty of the sea.

  • Long Island Sound. I grew up on the north shore-planning our summer days around the tides. Ride the low tide out to the beach and the high tide back to the meadow. The ever present pull and push just was. Horseshoe crabs taking over. Spartina marshes with hidden secrets. The saltwater perfume of the moment. Breathe deep and remember.

  • I grew up LOOKING AT THE BAY…………TOTAL View of SAN FRANCISCO.But can count on one hand how many times I was actually in THAT WATER!I like WATER more then TREES………..I could NEVER live in LAKE TAHOE!
    Roaming………kids playing kick the can or hide & seek………WE did it ALL.I think WE had a better childhood then our KIDS……..My kids had way to much homework,sports and TUTORS!
    GET A COWBELL……………I probably have one in the depths of my storage!Will look next time I go in to clean OUT!

  • My mother rang a triangle, since the family across the street rang a bell.

    I can see the water from my bedroom and from my office and for most of my commute. I am incredibly grateful for that.

  • I grew up in a small town that was surrounded on three sides by water. As kids we were outside day and night, often down in the marshes. In the evening we knew to head home when the 8 o’clock whistle blew – which it still does, to this day, and is one of the things that can take me instantly back to those joyous and free days. That, and the smell of low tide.