When it’s part of the view, we just have to watch, we are greedy to see water. Whether it’s a meandering stream at the end of a garden or a serene harbor glimpsed out of an attic window, whether it’s a silvery lake in the distance or the gentle surf near our feet, water in its natural form commands our attention.
Like fire (also compelling to watch), water remains the same but is constantly changing. Even a calm lake changes: now, mirror-like, reflecting leaves and clouds; now, in the breeze, becoming ruffled and opaque; now, at night, reflecting stars and moon.
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Perhaps watching water is a way to slow ourselves down. The waves and the ripples can be strangely hypnotic, and little worries and big fears slip away as we gaze at the sea. If the surf is rough, its very power drives out nagging thoughts and petty grievances. We are soothed by the rhythm of the waves. Our concerns recede. Our mood brightens.
Some attribute the happiness we feel at ocean beaches and beside waterfalls to negative ions: charged molecules produced (among other ways) when water crashes, sometimes called the Lenard effect. Many scientific papers have explored the connection between negative ions and human health. Extravagant claims have been made and disproved, but negative ions do seem to reduce the symptoms of depression and slightly improve cognitive performance.
But I think we’re happy and exhilarated beside waterfalls because we get to watch the water move toward the ledge and through the air to crash into the pool below.
Slow, man-made waterfalls and fountains have a soothing effect. I’ve been to several Japanese restaurants with slow “sheet of glass” waterfalls: water moving downward within panes of glass.
But I was surprised to wander into a random Japanese restaurant in Mexico City last month that had waterfalls built into some of the tables! If short of conversation, you could look at the glass tabletop and watch the water flowing underneath your plate of sushi.
Even watching raindrops meander down a window pain is somehow absorbing, whether we are in a house or a car. In our minds, we race the droplets against each other. We even like watching water boil, the bubbles exploding against the side of the pot.
My mother lived in a house by the sea, and she slept in a bed looking out at the Sag Harbor bay. She also ate at a table looking out at the bay. Indeed, she lived looking out at the bay. In her last years especially (at 97 and 98), she derived perpetual pleasure from watching and describing the water outside the window. “It’s such an unusual . . . blue,” she would insist, even when it was not at all unusual. Then a cloud would pass over the sun, and the water became a different shade of ordinary blue. “Look, look, look at its color now!”
Apparently, the color blue, due to its wavelength, has both a calming and an energizing effect on the human animal. In our primordial past, our surroundings were often blue water and blue sky. Perhaps that’s why today many of us crave an escape from the gray and glassy urban landscape; perhaps it’s why we long for a lake or a beach.
We want to be under blue skies, beside the blue waters.
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To my mind, Cathy, you are one of the most unique voices in literature today…your insights brighten the average…🤗…t