Harvey pounced on Rockport and the Texas coast, dumping Noahic quantities of water on a very flat place. He wandered inland half-way to San Antonio, then swooped out over the Gulf again, scooping up acre-feet of water and marched with muddy feet up the Mississippi Valley. Everywhere we see pictures of just the tops of cars above the water and people on balconies because their ground floor is a lake. Tens of thousands are without power, and we’re hearing the stories of grief or near misses.

Water on flat land piles up and slowly drowns things. Water in the mountains collects into floods that wash devastation downhill, making moonscapes overnight. Pick your poison. Or, if you like, you can read Lieutenant Emory’s account of crossing the Southwest submitted to Washington on December 15, 1847, you can read about taking hundreds of men and animals across what had to have been Death Valley, going days without water and eating their horses when the poor creatures finally just dried up and gave up.

On the other hand, water in the right quantities is life. Religions around the world celebrate that fact in rituals that involve water: ritual bathing, sacred wells, rivers and lakes, drinking and spreading water around. There is between the desert and the flood the golden mean of life. There is, between silence and noise, the golden mean of speech. There is, between loneliness and a crowd, the golden mean of community. There is, between birth and death, the golden mean of meaning.


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