Water & Sky
There are days I feel as if I’m held in a vice-like grip. Mostly I know it’s in my mind, but I can externalize this; sky above me and water below. I cannot exist without them, they are indispensable sources of life and each harbor beauty, birth, death and potential danger. Clouds set adrift, thunder storms, warm beach waves and crashing surf are transcendental and mesmerizing in their glory. Cupped in their vastness, are mountain ranges, beautiful pastoral days, trickling streams, gentle breezes as well as havoc in the form of tsunami’s, hurricanes, lightning and tornadoes.
The ancient Greeks considered both water and air, along with earth and fire to be classical elements. An intricately connected system, a matter of adding or subtracting elements, there is not much difference on a molecular level between water and sky. Each are a vast ocean of elements locked in a constant interchange. We are composed of both. The human body contains anywhere between 55-78% water and requires between 1-7 liters per day to avoid dehydration, but we are mostly air.
Civilization historically has flourished around rivers and waterways, one of the first cradles held between the Tigris and Euphrates. Believed to be prevalent in the universe for nearly its entire existence, water is a vital solvent in metabolic processes. Water is vital to photosynthesis; using the suns energy to split hydrogen from oxygen, enabling the recombination that results in the releasing of oxygen and reducing the impact of human greenhouse gases. All living cells use such fuels in the function of life.
Warmer weather lasting longer in number of days, is in lock-step with the melting of the Alaskan permafrost and the fire friendly draught conditions around the globe. Fires combust plants releasing their carbon back into the atmosphere. Wildfire activity increases, plants die back and a positive feedback loop is formed; these flames are worsened by warming and in turn worsen the warming of the planet.
Of no small consideration, the Earth’s atmosphere weighs over 5,000 trillion tons. Bound by the laws of chaos and thermodynamics, the air above is a multilayered system that acts as shielding and protection for all of life. Scattering photons passing through the atmosphere impart its characteristic blue; it boils and seethes with energy, a cascade of convection currents as sun warmed pockets of water vapor rise, cool, condense and fall.
The clouds I like to paint are composed in varying degrees of vapor and ice particles. Cloud formation is the result of evaporation from clouds, oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, and the transpiration of water from plants. Droplets of water form around dust and pollutants. At any given moment the Earth is experiencing about 1,800 thunderstorms; a single, typical thunderstorm capable of sucking a half million tons of water into the air and releasing enough energy to power a city of 100,000 for a month. Watching water hang in the air and fall in sheets of rain on the Gulf coast of Florida familiarized me with this fundamental fury and life in Hawaii has only furthered the introduction.
The friction between wind and water generates wave trains that span entire oceans, but all I see are rollers breaking against the shore. Vast transports of energy a one-meter wave can carry over 1,300 horsepower as it strikes against the coastline. It is Samsara, the cycle of birth, existence and death and I am flotsam and jetsam adrift and always nearing the shore and its rocky outcroppings below. It is a simple metaphor for the living of life and experience has taught me I may not fare well if I allow myself to become lost in the grip of an undertow. It is an art perfected by surfers but held at brush length that allows me to dance with these waves of life instead of drowning.
A fascinating fact; the total amount of all water on Earth equals roughly 330 million cubic miles and every cubic mile is equal to more than 1 trillion gallons. Yet, not everyone has enough to drink. Water is never sitting still and coexists in solid, liquid and gaseous states; it is, all at once, ice, steam, vapor, snow, fog, dew, rain and cloud.
Much of the water in the universe is formed as a byproduct of the formation stars in the ever expanding and contracting of the universe we know so little about. The birth is accompanied by an outward pouring of wind, dust and gas, and in the simplest of terms shockwaves compress and heat these gases forming water. Water has been detected in interstellar clouds within our galaxy and can be found in various states in Saturn’s rings, Saturian moons and the moons of Jupiter, on Mars and in comets. Further away, a vast vapor cloud of water containing 140 trillion times more water than all of Earth’s oceans has been detected around a quasar 12 billion light-years from here.
Water is not a finite resource, but rather as potable water it is recirculated in precipitation many times higher than human consumption. I watch as the rains thunder down on the roof over my head and fill the storage tank outside. It is its distribution and the land held reserves that are non-renewable and a few weeks without rain will certainly have me on a ladder peering over the side of the tank wondering if I should cut my showers short. Shockingly, but then again not, a United Nation’s report stated that there is enough of this elixir for all, but mismanagement, corruption and the corporate lust for money and power has hampered equal access. Already people die in the thousands and millions each year because of draught and waterborne disease due to pollution and the dumbing of wastewater. Sadly, the quality of drinking water is expected to fall thirty to forty percent over the coming years.