Inspired by Water…


“Only by working within the laws that govern the flow of water will happiness be achieved.” –Lao-tse

“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” –Jacques Cousteau

“Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other.”-John Thorson

“What you people call your natural resources our people call our relatives” –Oren Lyons, Faith Keeper of the Onondaga

“Just as water is the foundation of life, it must also be the foundation of design in the built environment.” –Betsy Damon, Founder of Keeper of the Waters

Painting by Adam Wolpert

“It is a fascinating and provocative thought that a body of water deserves to be considered as an organism in its own right.”-Lyall Watson, Supernature

“The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” –Wendell Berry

“Next to blood relationships, come water relationships.” -Stanley Crawford, Mayordomo

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” –W.H. Auden

“Watersheds come in families; nested levels of intimacy… As you work upstream toward home, you’re more closely related. The big river is like your nation, a little out of hand. The lake is your cousin. The creek is your sister. The pond is her child. And, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, you’re married to your sink. “ –Michael Parfit, National Geographic

“We have been quick to assume rights to use water but slow to recognize obligations to preserve and protect it… In short, we need a water ethic–a guide to right conduct in the face of complex decisions about natural systems we do not and cannot fully understand.” –Sandra Postel, Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity

“If we could ever competitively, at a cheap rate, get fresh water from saltwater, ..(this) would be in the long-range interests of humanity which could really dwarf any other scientific accomplishments.”-John F. Kennedy

“It is water, in every form and at every scale, that saturates the mind. All the water that will ever be is, right now.” –National Geographic, October 1993

photo by Brock Dolman

“Irrigation of the land with seawater desalinated by fusion power is ancient. It’s called rain. ” –Michael McClary

“Water is the driver of Nature.” –Leonardo da Vinci

“Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.” –Mark Twain, 1884

“Good old days: Beer foamed and drinking water didn’t.” –Unknown

“In the abundance of water – the fool is thirsty” –Bob Marley

“In the Western United States, water flows uphill to money.” –Glen Sanders

“Water in the American West and sex share two things in common. First, both are topics many people like to talk about. And, second, people are very concerned that someone else is getting more than their fair share.” –Robert Glennon, conference address, Spring 2000

“Man – despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”-Author Unknown

“Fix it in your constitution that no corporation, no body of men, no capital can get possession and right to your waters. Hold the waters in the hands of the people.” –John Wesley Powell, 1890 North Dakota Constitutional Convention

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.” –Steven Wright

“Throughout the history of literature, the guy who poisons the well has been the worst of all villains…”-Author unknown

“It is time we paid attention to that which sustains us.” –Valerie Gremillion

“In sweet water there is a pleasure ungrudged by anyone.” –Ovid, 13 A.D.

“Water flows humbly to the lowest level. Nothing is weaker than water, yet for overcoming what is hard and strong, nothing surpasses it.” –Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“Rain is grace; rain is the sky condescending to the earth; without rain, there would be no life.”-John Updike

“The sound of the water says what I think.” –Chuang Tzu

“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.” –Benjamin Franklin

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught.” –Baba Dioum, African ecologist

“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” –Thomas Jefferson

“The noblest of the elements is water” –Pindar, 476 B.C.

“Human beings were invented by water as a device for transporting itself from one place to another.” –Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction, 1971

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” –Loran Eisley (Anthropologist), The Immense Journey, 1957

“Water should not be judged by its history, but by its quality.” –Dr Lucas Van Vuuren, National Institute of Water Research, South Africa

“Water is a very good servant, but it is a cruel master.” –C.G.D. Roberts, Adrift in America, 1891

“California’s water system might have been invented by a Soviet bureaucrat on an LSD trip.” –Peter Passel, New York Times, February 27, 1991

“It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, ‘Let justice roll down like mighty waters,’ and quite another to work out the irrigation system.” –William Sloane Coffin, c. 1990

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy; neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” –John W. Gardner

“Asked to name an example of water waste, one Arizona 6th grader replied, ‘Cooking carrots!” –Lester Snow, c. 1987

“Children of a culture born in a water-rich environment, we have never really learned how important water is to us. We understand it, but we do not respect it.” –William Ashworth, Nor Any Drop to Drink, 1982

“The bad news is that if the drought keeps up, within a few years we’ll all be drinking reclaimed sewer water. The good news is that there won’t be enough to go around.” –Bill Miller, The Chicago Sun-Times, March 4, 1977

“On observing Niagara Falls: ‘The wonder would be if the water did not fall.’” –Oscar Wilde, on his tour of North America, 1882

“He who drinks a tumbler of London water has literally in his stomach more animated beings than there are men, women, and children on the face of the globe. “-Syndney Smith, Letter to Countess Grey, November 19, 1834

“The good rain, like the bad preacher, does not know when to leave off.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody.” -Mark Twain

“Water is the only drink for a wise man.” –Henry David Thoreau

“You could not step twice into the same rivers; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” –Heraclitus of Ephesus

“Truths are first clouds; then rain, then harvest and food. “ –Henry Ward Beecher

“If you gave me several million years, there would be nothing that did not grow in beauty if it were surrounded by water.” –Jan Erik Vold, What All The World Knows

“The biggest waste of water in the country by far. You spend half a pint and flush two gallons.” –Prince Phillip, speech, 1965

“Is ditchwater dull? Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun.” –G. K. Chesterton, The Spice of Life, 1936

painting by Adam Wolpert

“The trees reflected in the river – they are unconscious of a spiritual world so near to them. So are we.” –Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Any river is really the summation of the whole valley. To think of it as nothing but water is to ignore the greater part.” –Hal Borland, This Hill, This Valley

“The Rio Grande is the only river I ever saw that needed irrigation.” –Will Rogers

“To enjoy freedom … we have of course to control ourselves. We must not squander our powers, helplessly and ignorantly, squirting half the house in order to water a single rose.” -Virginia Woolf, The Second Common Reader

“Freedom alone is not enough without light to read at night, without time or access to water to irrigate your farm, without the ability to catch fish to feed your family.”-Nelson Mandela

“There is little chance that meteorologists can solve the mysteries of weather until they gain an understanding of the mutual attraction of rain and weekends.” -Arnot Sheppard

“Rain is a blessing when it falls gently on parched fields, turning the earth green, causing the birds to sing.” –Donald Worster, Meeting the Expectations of the Land, 1984

“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.”-Tagore, Bengali poet and novelist

“The wise man of Miletus thus declared the first of things is water” -J.S. Blackie, 1877

“Solid stone is just sand and water…Sand and water and a million years gone by.”-Beth Nielsen Chapman

“By means of water, we give life to everything.” –Koran, 21:30

“Remember that, when the rain fall – it don’t fall on one man’s house – yea, remember that…” –Bob Marley

“Constant dripping hollows out a stone.” –Lucretius

“Expect poison from the standing water.” –William Blake

“In order for something to become clean, something else must become dirty.” –Imbesi’s Conservation of Filth Law

“Water sustains all.” –Thales of Miletus, 600 B.C.

“Keeping in touch with childhood memories keeps us believing in life’s simplest pleasures like a rainy afternoon, a swingset, and a giant puddle to play in.” –Chrissy Ogden

“Some people are making such thorough plans for rainy days that they aren’t enjoying today’s sunshine.” –William Feather

“Water is the one substance from which the earth can conceal nothing; it sucks out its innermost secrets and brings them to our very lips.” –Jean Giraudoux

“The highest good is like water. Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive. It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.” –Excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, chapter 8

“…Good luck and Good work for the happy mountain raindrops, each one of them a high waterfall in itself, descending from the cliffs and hollows of the clouds to the cliffs and hollows of the rocks, out of the sky-thunder into the thunder of the falling rivers.” –John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra

“Aquifer: a mysterious, magical and poorly defined area beneath the surface of the earth that either yields or withholds vast or lesser quantities of standing/flowing water, the quantity and/or quality of which is dependent on who is describing it or how much money may be at stake.” –R. Radden, “Watershed Resources”, Jan. 2002

“Water helped ancient man learn those first lessons about the rights of others and responsibility to a larger society…. It became part of the moral and mental legacy parents passed on to their children.” –M. Meyer, Water in the Hispanic Southwest

“Our bodies are molded rivers.” –Novalis

“A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” –Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (quoted by the Supreme Court in its decision in U.S. v. Republic Steel, 1960)

“Like swift water, an active mind never stagnates.” –Author unknown

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” –Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

“To trace the history of a river… is to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body.” –Gretel Ehrlich

“The river moves from land to water to land, in and out of organisms, reminding us what native peoples have never forgotten: that you cannot separate the land from the water, or the people from the land.” –Lynn Noel, Voyages: Canada’s Heritage Rivers

“A river seems a magic thing. A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself – for it is from the soil, both from its depth and from its surface, that a river has its beginning.” -Laura Gilpin

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water . . . has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river.” –Roderick Haig-Brown

“The Mississippi River carries the mud of thirty states and two provinces 2,000 miles south to the delta and deposits 500 million tons of it there every year. The business of the Mississippi, which it will accomplish in time, is methodically to transport all of Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.” –Charles Kuralt

photo by Brock Dolman

photo by Brock Dolman

“Rivers are magnets for the imagination, for conscious pondering and subconscious dreams, thrills, fears. People stare into the moving water, captivated, as they are when gazing into a fire. What is it that draws and holds us? The rivers’ reflections of our lives and experiences are endless . . .” –Tim Palmer, Lifelines

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” –Saint Augustine

“The many-voiced song of the river echoed softly. Siddhartha looked into the river and saw many pictures in the flowing water. The river’s voice was sorrowful. It sang with yearning and sadness, flowing towards its goal … Siddhartha was now listening intently…to this song of a thousand voices … then the great song of a thousand voices consisted of one word: Om — Perfection … From that hour Siddhartha ceased to fight against his destiny.” –Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

“Water is sometimes sharp and sometimes strong, sometimes acid and sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and sometimes thick or thin, sometimes it is seen bringing hurt or pestilence, sometime health-giving, sometimes poisonous. It suffers change into as many natures as are the different places through which it passes. And as the mirror changes with the colour of its subject, so it alters with the nature of the place, becoming noisome, laxative, astringent, sulfurous, salty, incarnadined, mournful, raging, angry, red, yellow, green, black, blue, greasy, fat or slim. Sometimes it starts a conflagration, sometimes it extinguishes one; is warm and is cold, carries away or sets down, hollows out or builds up, tears or establishes, fills or empties, raises itself or burrows down, speeds or is still; is the cause at times of life or death, or increase or privation, nourishes at times and at others does the contrary; at times has a tang, at times is without savor, sometimes submerging the valleys with great floods. In time and with water, everything changes.” –Leonardo da Vinci

“If gardeners will forget a little the phrase, “watering the plants” and think of watering as a matter of “watering the earth” under the plants, keeping up its moisture content and gauging its need, the garden will get on very well.” –Henry Beston, Herbs and the Earth, 1935

“The underlying attraction of the movement of water and sand is biological. If we look more deeply we can see it as the basis of an abstract idea linking ourselves with the limitless mechanics of the universe.” -Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe

“In every glass of water we drink, some of the water has already passed through fishes, trees, bacteria, worms in the soil, and many other organisms, including people… Living systems cleanse water and make it fit, among other things, for human consumption.” –Elliot A. Norse, Animal Extinctions

“When time comes for us to again rejoin the infinite stream of water flowing to and from the great timeless ocean, our little droplet of soulful water will once again flow with the endless stream.” –William E. Marks, The Holy Order Of Water

“Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” –Susan Ertz

“Advice to those about to build a Water-garden – DON’T. Not that the Water-garden is not a joy and a glory; but that it is cruelly hard to keep in order and control unless you are a master of millions and of broad ample acres of pool and pond. Water, like fire, is a good servant, perhaps, but is painfully liable to develop into a master.” –R. J. Farrer, Alpines and Bog Plants, 1908

“For fountains, they are a Great Beauty and Refreshment, but Pools mar all, and make the Garden unwholesome, and full of Flies and Frogs.” –Sir Francis Bacon, Of Gardens, 1625

“Some think that even the ancients who lived long before the present generation, and first framed accounts of the Gods, had a similar view of nature; for they made the Oceanus and Tethys the parents of creation, and described the oath of the Gods as being by water, to which they give the name of Styx; for what is oldest is most honourable, and the most honourable thing is that by which one swears.” –Mary Austin, Land of Little Rain

“Everywhere water is a thing of beauty gleaming in the dewdrop, singing in the summer rain.” –John Ballantine Gough

“I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains. One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness.” –Adeline Knapp

“I am an optimist, but I’m an optimist who carries a raincoat.” –Harold Wilson

“Life processes take place in an aqueous medium. All organisms are composed mostly of water, whether they dwell in the oceans, lakes, and rivers, or on the land. Because the physical and chemical properties of water are well suited to the requirements of life, it is no accident that life is a water-based phenomenon.”- Robert E. Ricklefs, Ecology

“For keenest enjoyment, I visit when the dew is on them, or in cloudy weather, or when the rain is falling: and I must be alone or with someone who cares for them as I do.” –David Fairchild

“For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.” -Sandra Postel, Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity

“Ancient traditions have long associated holy wells and springs as very special places of the Goddess or anima mundi: symbolic of the Great Mother and associated with birth, the feminine principle, the universal womb, the prima materia, the waters of fertility and refreshment and the fountain of life. The dreaming sites, as they are called, have also been associated with visions, healing, and other paranormal experiences. In ancient Greece, for example, there were more than three-hundred medical centers placed at water sources, where patients experienced healing.” –Christopher and Tricia McDowell, The Sanctuary Garden, 1998, p. 62

“Passions are likened best to floods and streams: The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb.” –Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552 – 1618

“From the heart of this fountain of delights wells up some bitter taste to choke them even amid the flowers.” –Lucretius, 99 – 55 B.C.

“O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o’clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, heliaanthemum, lavender, and the others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought loving plants – I will write their names on a paper if you like – and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not for instance, on spiraea, or on gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron), and not to much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. Amen.” –Karel Capek, The Gardener’s Year, 1929

“A pool is the eye of the garden in whose candid depths is mirrored its advancing grace.” –Lousie Bebe Wilder

“Genius is a bend in the creek where bright water has gathered, and which mirrors the trees, the sky and the banks. It just does that because it is there and the scenery is there. Talent is a fine mirror with a silver frame, with the name of the owner engraved on the back.” –Edgar Lee Masters

God made rainy days, so gardeners could get the housework done.” -Author Unknown

“Water is the formless potential out of which creation emerged. It is the ocean of unconsciousness enveloping the islands of consciousness. Water bathes us at birth and again at death, and in between it washes away sin. It is by turns the elixir of life or the renewing rain or the devastating flood.” Scott Russell Sanders, Writing from the Center

photo by Brock Dolman

“Then Heaven, the Father Almighty, comes down in fruitful showers into the lap of his joyous spouse, and his might, with her mighty frame commingling, nurtures all growths.” –Virgil, Georgics

“In Scandinavian mythology, for example, the fountain of Mimir, source of hidden wisdom, lay under the roots of the great world tree and in Islamic culture fountains are found referred to in the Koran, in the garden called Paradise. In the Bible the passage: “It is done, I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely,” reflects the importance that fountains symbolized to the writers.” –Bryan R. Hirst, Fountains

“All feelings, both positive and unpleasant, come out of the same faucet. To turn down the faucet on pain is to slow the flow of pleasant feelings as well.” –Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks

“From a drop of water a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other. So all life is a great chain, the nature of which is known whenever we are shown a link of it.” –Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet

“Of the first philosophers, then, most thought the principles which were of the nature of matter were the only principles of all things. That of which all things that are consist, the first from which they come to be, the last into which they are resolved….this they say is the element and this is the principle of things…. yet they do not all agree as to the number and the nature of these principle is water….” –Mary Austin, Land of Little Rain

“According to Democritus, truth lies at the bottom of a well, the water of which serves as a mirror in which objects may be reflected. I have heard, however, that some philosophers, in seeking for truth, to pay homage to her, have seen their own image and adored it instead.” –Charles Richter

“The physical rhythm of life established through sensitivity to qualitative time mirrors the ebb and flow of water. Maintaining rhythm is dependent on our daily decisions concerning vocation, recreation and work. Using the image of water roots Watershed Spirituality in diversity and pluralism. Life in a “variety of forms” implies an emphasis on inter-religious appreciation and the universalist vision.” –Arthur Paul Patterson, Watershed Spirituality

“Day after day we looked for rain, and day after day we saw nothing but the sun. Lavender that we had planted in the spring died. The patch of grass in front of the house abandoned its ambitions to become a lawn and turned into the dirty yellow of poor straw. The earth shrank, revealing its knuckles and bones, rocks and roots that had been invisible before.” -Peter Mayle

“I have left almost to the last the magic of water, an element which owing to its changefulness of form and mood and colour and to the vast range of its effects is ever the principal source of landscape beauty, and has like music a mysterious influence over the mind.” –Sir George Sitwell, On the Making of Gardens, 1909

“Water…which though not absolutely necessary to a beautiful composition, yet occurs so often, and is so capital a feature, that is is always regretted when wanting; and no large place can be supposed, a little spot can hardly be imagined in which it may not be agreeable; it accommodates itself to every situation; is the most interesting object in a landscape, and the happiest circumstance in a retired recess; captivates the eye at a distance; invites approach, and is delightful when near; it refreshes an open exposure; it animates a shade; cheers the dreariness of a waste, and enriches the most crowded view; in form, in style, and in extent, may be made equal to the greatest compositions, or adapted to the least; it may spread in a calm expanse to sooth the tranquillity of a peaceful scene; or hurrying along a devious course, add splendor to a gay, and extravagance to a romantic situation.” –Thomas Whately, Observations on Modern Gardening, 1770

“To trace the history of a river, or a raindrop, as John Muir would have done, is also to trace the history of the soul, the history of the mind descending and arising in the body. In both we constantly seek and stumble on divinity, which, like the cornice feeding the lake and the spring becoming a waterfall, feeds, spills, falls, and feeds itself over and over again.” –Gretel Ehrlich, Sisters of the Earth

“When oxygen and hydrogen find one another, their joining produces fiery passion. Out of this fire, water is born. Quaint Victorian chemistry gives us an image of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms in a fixed molecule that bounces around from place to place. The reality of water is not so orderly. The hydrogen atoms are not owned by any particular oxygen atom. Water is a substance very much in love with itself, and the atoms connect in webs and clusters where oxygen shares around the hydrogen atoms freely, a fluid situation indeed. “ –Ian D. Anderson, Ian Lurking Bear

“Fountains indicate and signal well-being to all. Not only that, they share their Karmic energy with all who see, hear, smell, taste and touch them. They are, and always have been, necessary for permanent settlements. We use them when ever we turn on a tap. Fountains have come to symbolize the generosity of a god, an institution or a person. They indicate abundance and ingenuity. In every culture they play a part in the mythology of life. “ –Bryan R. Hirst, Fountains

“To serve the cause of water adequately… We must get to know it in its true being. And how do we do this? Why, by treating it in the very way exemplified by its own behavior; that is, whenever we encounter it, we wash the tablet of our souls clean of all other impressions in order to allow the being of water to make its imprint on us.” –Theodor Schwenk, Water: The Element of Life

“In the time that I have been acquainted with this region I have become increasingly aware of it as a testament of water, the origin and guide of its contours and gradients and of all the lives – the plants and small creatures, and the culture – that evolved here. That was always here to be seen, of course, and the recognition has forced itself, in one form or other, upon people in every part of the world who have been directly involved with the growing of living things. The gardener who ignores it is soon left with no garden.” –W. S. Merwin, A Shape of Water, 1997

“Always leave extra time for unraveling the hose.The Thirst is so great that many visualize Heaven as being in the Midst of Clouds. The fountains, pools and streams in Shangri-La are ever full and never polluted. Remember that the River of Forgetfulness flows by the Elysian Fields. Drip, drip, drip … your way to garden stewardship. The end of the garden is at the end of the hose. Gardens dream about water. Water the soil not the plants. Every gallon must work!” –Michael P. Garofalo, Pulling Onions: The Quips and Maxims of a Gardener

photo by Jim Coleman


Click here to read the poem Basins of Relations by Brock Dolman

The bare earth, plantless, waterless, is an immense puzzle.   In the forests

or beside rivers everything speaks to humans. The desert does not speak.

I could not comprehend its tongue; its silence…

Pablo Neruda

We can’t help being thirsty, moving toward the voice of water.

Milk drinkers draw close to the mother.

Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists,

Hindus, shamans, everyone hears the intelligent sound

and moves with thirst to meet it.

Jeladuddin Rumi (1207-1273)

The Waking

I came where the river

Ran over stones;

My ears knew

An early joy.

And all the waters

Of all the streams

Sang in my veins

That summer day.

Theodore Roethke, 1948

Even stones under

mountain waterfalls compose

odes to plum blossoms.


When you hear the splash

Of the water drops that fall

Into the stone bowl

You will feel that all the dust

Of your mind is washed away.


Collecting all

The rains of May

The swift Mogami River.

– Basho

To the waters, and the wild, with a Faerie, hand in hand,

for the world is more

full of weeping … than you can understand.

– W.B. Yeats

Rain in Summer

How beautiful is the rain!

After the dust and the heat,

In the broad and fiery street,

In the narrow lane,

How beautiful is the rain!

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Danaides

The great and amorous sky curved over the earth, and lay upon her as a pure lover.

The rain, the humid flux descending from heaven for both man and animal, for both

thick and strong, germinated the wheat, swelled the furrows with fecund mud and

brought forth the buds in the orchards. And it is I who empowered these moist espousals,

I the great Aphrodite…

– Aeschylus c.500 B.C.


You open, land,

your mouth full of water,

your body gushes sky,

you burst, land,

your seeds explode,

the word grows green

Octavio Paz, 1966. The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz: 1957 -1987.


The rain is plenteous but, by God’s decree,

Only a third is meant for you and me;

Two-thirds are taken by the growing things

Or vanish Heavenward on vapour’s wings:

Nor does it mathematically fall

With social equity on one and all.

The population’s habit is to grow

In every region where the water’s low:

Nature is blamed for failings that are Man’s,

And well-run rivers have to change their plans.

– Sir Alan Herbert

Here is the land where life is written in water

The West is where the water was and is

Father and son of old mother and daughter

Following rivers up immensities

of range and desert thirsting the sundown ever

Crossing a hill to climb a hill still drier

Naming tonight a city by some river

a different name from last night’s camping fire

Look to the green within the mountain cup

look to the prairie parched for water lack

Look to the sun that pulls the oceans up

look to the cloud that gives the oceans back

Look to your heart and may your wisdom grow

to power of lightning and to peace of snow

– Thomas H. Ferril, 1940

Ode, On the General Subject of Water

Water is far from a simple commodity,

Water’s a sociological oddity,

Water’s a pasture for science to forage in,

Water’s a mark of our dubious origin,

Water’s a link with a distant futurity,

Water’s a symbol of ritual purity.

Water is politics, Water’s religion,

Water is just about anyone’s pigeon.

Water is frightening, water’s endearing,

Water’s a lot more than mere engineering.

Water is tragical, water is comical,

Water is far from Pure Economical,

So studies of water, though free from aridity

Are apt to produce a good deal of turbidity.

– Kenneth Boulding; Feather River Anthology

Gunga Din (first half of first verse)

You may talk o’ gin an’ beer

When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,

An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;

But if it comes to slaughter

You will do your work on water,

An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.

– Rudyard Kipling, 1865

photo by Brock Dolman

The Task

A life all turbulence and noise may seem

To him that leads it wise and to be praised,

But wisdom is a pearl with most success

Sought in still waters.

– William Cowper

photo by Brock Dolman

The Brook

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow

To join the brimming river,

For men may come and men may go,

But I go on for ever.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

Just Add Water

The words on labels tell this tale,

In recipes, in ads by mail,

And chances are, at work or play,

You’ll see these famous words today –

Just add water.

You’d be surprised how many things

Are dry and useless till one brings

The magic liquid known to all;

You use it when you heed the call –

Just add water.

To illustrate and prove this thought,

Remember all the food you’ve bought

On which was printed, clear and bright,

Instructions that make cooking light –

Just add water.

You now can buy

Dried fruits, or soups, or tasty cakes;

To powdered milk and frozen juices,

To products with a thousand uses,

Just add water.

Imagine for a minute, please,

An arid wasteland, bare of trees;

This could be farmland, rich and good

And quite productive if we could

Just add water.

What turns cement into concrete?

What changes seed to golden wheat?

No other words now known to man

Can answer that: but these words can:

Just add water

– David J. Ford

The Cloud

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under;

And then again I dissolve it in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder.

– Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.

Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.

Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

– Langston Hughes 1902 – 1967


The rain is plentious but, by God’s decree,

Only a third is meant for you and me;

Two-thirds are taken by the growing things

Or vanish Heavenward on vapour’s wings:

Nor does it mathematically fall

With social equity on one and all.

The population’s habit is to grow

In every region where the water’s low:

Nature is blamed for failings that are Man’s,

And well-run rivers have to change their plans.

– Sir Alan Herbert


Renouncing any form of its own

it becomes the creative matrix

for form in everything else


Renouncing any life of its own

it becomes the primal substance of all life


Renouncing material fixity

it becomes the implementer of material change


Renouncing any rhythm of its own

it becomes the progenitor

of rhythm elsewhere

– Theodor Schwenk from ‘Water: The Element of Life

Dry Salvages

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river

is a strong brown god–sullen, untamed and intractable,

Patient to some degree, at first recognized as a frontier;

Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;

Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.

The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten

By the dwellers in cities–ever, however, implacable.

Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder

Of what men choose to forget. Unhonored, unpropitiated

By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

– T. S. Eliot

The Man With the Blue Guitar

It is the sea that whitens the roof.

The sea drifts through the winter air.

It is the sea that the north wind makes.

The sea is in the falling snow.

   – Wallace Stevens

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside still waters…

Psalm 23:1-2

And Noah he often said to his wife

when he sat down to dine,

‘I don’t care where the water goes

if it doesn’t get into the wine.’

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Wine and Water, 1928

The river Rhine, it is well known,

Doth wash your city of Cologne;

But tell me, nymphs! what power divine

Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?

-Samuel T. Coleridge, 1772-1834, Cologne

Two Tramps in Mud Time (verse 5)

The water for which we may have to look

In summertime with a witching-wand,

In every wheelrut’s now a brook,

In every print of a hoof a pond.

Be glad of water, but don’t forget

The lurking frost in the earth beneath

That will steal forth after the sun is set

And show on the water its crystal teeth.

– Robert Frost, 1936

It ain’t no use to grumble and complain;

It’s jest as cheap and easy to rejoice;

When God sorts out the weather and sends rain,

Why, rain’s my choice.

James Whitcomb Riley, Rain, 1849 – 1916


The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.– American Indian Saying

Flowing water never goes bad; our doorways never gather termites.- Chinese Proverbs

Rain does not fall on one roof alone.– Proverb from Cameroon

Don’t empty the water jar until the rain falls.- Philippine proverb

Don’t throw away the old bucket until you know whether the new one holds water.

A waster of water is a waster of better.- Old Irish Adage

Love is like dew that falls on both nettles and lilies.– Swedish Proverb

photo by Brock Dolman

Do not bathe if there is no water.– Shan proverb

A little rain each day will fill the rivers to overflowing.– Proverb from Liberia

If you saw what the river carried, you would never drink the water.– Jamaican proverb

Every peasant is proud of the pond in his village because from it he measures the sea.– Russian proverb

No one can see their reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see. – Taoist proverb

Filthy water cannot be washed.

Even if you sit at the bottom of the stream, you cannot be a fish.

If there is a continual going to the well, one day there will be a smashing of the pitcher.

The stone in the water knows nothing of the hill which lies parched in the sun. -African Proverb


Nearly 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% can be used for all agricultural, residential, manufacturing, community and personal needs.

If all the world’s water were fit into a gallon jug, the fresh water available for us to use would equal only about one tablespoon.


US Consumption in 1978 was 415 Million Gallons

US Consumption in 2001 was 5.4 Billion Gallons

A rise of 1,300%, equaling about 43 Billion 16oz plastic bottles!!!

Bottled water is now the fastest growing product among the top 50 supermarket categories.

-Robert Glennon. Water Follies: Groundwater pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters. 2002

Human beings are made up mostly of water, in roughly the same percentage as water is to the surface of the earth. Our tissues and membranes, our brains and hearts, our sweat and tears-all reflect the same recipe for life, in which efficient use is made of those ingredients available on the surface of the earth. We are 23 percent carbon, 2.6 percent nitrogen, 1.4 percent calcium, 1.1 percent phosphorous, with tiny amounts of roughly three dozen other elements. But above all we are oxygen (61 percent) and hydrogen (10 percent), fused together in the unique molecular combination known as water, which makes up 71 percent of the human body. –Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

photo by Jim Coleman