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“I Came for the Waters”

As a writer, part of my job – both of my jobs – is finding the right words for things. As Samuel Clemens once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

One of the great joys in my life, these past few years, has been driving through the Florida Keys and enjoying the many colors of the water on either side of the highway.

One of the great frustrations in my life, the past few years, has been trying to describe what color(s) that water is. And the blessed stuff keeps *changing* on me, with the weather and the tides. I mean, what color is this:


Or this:

The “commute” down the Keys

Sometimes it seems as though the water almost fluoresces from its own inner light. I don’t have a good picture of that one. And most of the time, no matter what I do the pictures I take don’t look like the water I see.

Then again, occasionally someone else gets it right, such as during my “catamaran cruise” gig this past trip:

This is the way I want to go to work every day.

I got to be out on a sailboat in water that looked like that for several whole hours. I was short on sleep and therefore not entirely awake…but it was one of the best times of my life so far.

There’s something about being down by the water that I find extremely healing and renewing. I can be dead tired, short on sleep, borderline sick, frazzled, overloaded…but put me in a chair where I can watch sunlight dancing on the waves and hear the water flirting with the shore, and I relax. And I’m happy. It doesn’t seem to matter where that water is.

I’ve enjoyed the Keys water from a seat in the Key West McDonald’s:

Beauty is everywhere.

I’ve sat and watched the water several times from the deck outside the Postcard Inn, formerly known as the Holiday Isle, in Islamorada:

I’ve been calmed standing or sitting by the San Francisco Bay, whether in San Leandro near my house, or up in Emeryville:

Sunset through the Golden Gate

For that matter, it doesn’t have to be an ocean or a bay. Listening to the water in a fountain or stream calms me as well.

I don’t understand why or how this all works. I’m guessing it’s something primal, that somewhere in my genetic memory is a time when we hairless apes lived by the water and were content. Perhaps it’s an echo of the primordial ooze from which our ultimate ancestors emerged, billions of years ago. I don’t know.

I just know that I love being by the water, and try to spend time there whenever I can.

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