Summer Reading, Water View

We don’t need to go farther than the real estate ads to see how much people want to live by water. For some folks, it is such a central base of their lives that I wonder if it’s genetic. I myself have a severe case of bicoastal syndrome, never having even considered living in a non-coastal state.

I’ve been reading two authors who may have this same syndrome. They have explored the nearly universal pull of water in different styles, one neutral and “scientific”, the other personal and evocative.

Blue Mind

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And ….eventually one of them looks over at the and goes, “What the hell is water?’”
— p. xviii. Wallace, Nichols. From speech by David Foster Wallace

Wallace Nichols presents a comprehensive look at all the ways humans do better with water nearby. His analytic approach is to gather up any experimental science, along with the more available statistics, and he has done a thorough job of it.

An inherent problem is that much of his information is less than startling since wanting to be near water is so self-evident. If you don’t live near enough to see it in the crowding of beach houses, you see the romanticizing of water in books, plays, and ads for getaway vacations.

The book is more lively when he brings in his personal experiences, including his creation of the Blue Mind Summits where the scientific, creative, and activists gather annually.

Living by Water

Blending the personal and the factual is what Brenda Peterson does very well. Her passion for nature and, in particular, water and its creatures, make for engaging reading in several books.

Singing to the Sound is essentially love letter to the Northwest coast. It is a collection of essays that certainly will speak to those who share this rainy corner of the world. Descriptions of her various homes right on the beach remind those of use who live near a salty shore to go walk on it. The depth of her Colorado river canyon experiences is a touchstone for all those who have loved (or rafted) a river.

Her earlier book, Living by Water, covers similar experiences. I’ve not read it but it has been reviewed very favorably. If you like her writing in general, explore her other books,  including  her in-depth study of gray whales and their great migrations (with Linda Hogan).

“Peterson glides through the waters, notes the marvels, flows with the tides, and keeps her sense open to the lessons of the watery world.”
— Spirituality and Practice*

Finally, for pure fun and a dash of her lovely humor, try her memoir I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth. It follows how she got to be a nature writer from her beginnings in a fundamentalist Christian family focused on the coming rapture.

Whatever you think about the rapture and about global warming, her take on how we balance our belief systems is entertaining reading for your summer vacation, hopefully at a welcoming seashore, lakeside, or riverbank.
*Spirituality and Practice Website