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It's Elemental, Part 1: The Transformative Power of Water

Have you been on a Medicine Walk? How about a Medicine Walk to contemplate the transformative power of the elements, one at a time?


This week I began that process. Because I am Pisces, and sitting in my kayak on a lake is my "happy place," of course I began with Water. I set out one morning about an hour after sunrise with the intention of asking "What is the transformative Power of Water?"


First, my sneakers were soaked when I picked them up from the rug in the mudroom. How did that happen? They were only damp when I set them down the night before, and they should have dried overnight, especially sitting next to the baseboard heater. But no, they were soaked- with water.


So I donned my Crocs instead. They have plenty of holes, so if my feet got wet, they would drain, and my wool socks would keep me warm enough. After all, I was only walking for half an hour or so around town- my hometown= "downstreet" we called it while I was growing up because we lived up on a hill north of town- the town my father's ancestors founded.


Because the sun was finally shining, after days of snow, sleet, freezing rain and drizzle, the sidewalks were not only wet, but in varying degrees. The sunny side was beginning to melt into little pools of slush, and the shady side was slick with ice- and once I reached Main Street, the red brick opera house building with it's clock tower was tall enough to shade both sides of the street, so ice prevailed.


I had to look down and Pay Attention. I used all my senses to Pay Attention, and saw the ice, the slush, the puddles, heard the slop of the slush on my Crocs, felt the water make my feet wet in places, smelled and even tasted the humidity in the air, and felt the past, mingled with the present.


I am a bit of a stranger in my hometown these days. Wait! Is there a tanning salon now in the old farmhouse converted to apartments where my Grammie and Grampa and a couple cousins lived when I was a kid?! No, they lived in the next converted farmhouse up, now converted again into more modern apartments. Or at least the siding is vinyl, I could tell, and the windows appear to be double paned.


I had thought I might aim for a walk as far as the head of the lake, but the going was slow, to avoid slipping on ice or completely drenching my feet in puddles and slush. And there is no sidewalk once you get past what used to be the old Trading Post, where a totem pole stands even today- but not the old totem pole that was there when it was Tommy Ryan's trading post.


As I contemplated where and when to turn back, I spied an arched footbridge across the street, and I heard a rush of water. The Little Androscoggin River flows right through this old mill town, and there at the head of Main Street is a little falls. And I had forgotten that. So, naturally, my feet led me across the street and down into the parking lot at the Gingerbread House, and onto the footbridge, where I imbibed in the waterfall, again with all my senses.


What is the transformative Power of Water? Water is immensely powerful. Not just a falls like this, which powered mills, and after several days of precipitation rushed, but water changes form, from ice to slush to puddle, with assistance from the fire that is the Sun, and causing changes in other elements, from humidity, fog, mist in the air, to frost heaving and glaciation that splits rock and wears it down to gravel, to sand, and more.


And personally, the most fascinating aspect of the transformative Power of Water I discovered was that when I go to the lake with my kayak and sit on the water in the stillness, I do this to relax, and I have thought of this activity as mindless in a sense, free from worry. But paying attention to my footsteps and the feel of wet feet, and the power of the water in so many forms on my Medicine Walk, showed me that in fact, those visits are mindful, not mindless. I sit in my kayak and listen for birds, watch them, hear the fishermen across the lake speak in soft voices, feel the water underneath my boat, gauge the direction and speed of the breeze, and its shifts, where I have drifted, and feel the effort of my body powering the paddle on the water.


The transformative Power of Water is great.


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