There is an electric stream in my backyard, among the sumac trees and Black-Eyed Susans. It sounds remarkably like a natural stream, bubbling over rocks placed to offer the desired aural ambiance.
Submerged invisibly in a pool at the bottom of the falling stream is an electric pump that pushes the water from the pool to the top of the hill, where it pours out and flows back down over the rocks. The mammals, birds and bugs that populate our backyard find it a dandy place to bathe. I even have watched wasps land on almost submerged rocks in the water course to drink from a quiet spot in the stream.
Like the real creek on which I often paddle or, alternatively, in which I sit turning rocks to find bugs and crawdads, the flow is endless. Splashing and gurgling rapidly over steep falls and rocks, or slower, as though resting, where the slope is less steep, the life-carrying fluid moves determinedly toward the sea, where it wafts its way into clouds that move back over the mountains to drop their burdens and send the water, in the form of rain or snow, on its downstream passage.
Most everything in life goes in cycles, some longer than others. The place I love to contemplate was under water for awhile, a few million years ago. Then mountains wrinkled up taller than the Alps. For the past nearly 500 million years, the Appalachian Mountains have been wearing away, big rocks breaking into ever smaller stones and pebbles in an inexorably slow rush down the mountainside, helped along by drooling spring-thawed mud and wild summer creeks and rivers, to become sand at the edge of the sea.
Sometimes, one may notice, if visits are often and attentive in the creek’s shallow places after a storm, small gravel islands have moved downstream, washed by the rushing flood ever closer to becoming seashore. One day, the weight of the ocean-side sand likely will melt and be pushed out of a volcano to make mountains of the then-former coast land, and the process will begin again.
My ponderings remind me of the way blood travels in similar cycles through our mammalian vessels from lungs, where it gathers oxygen, to the toes where it releases its cargo, and back. If the blood ever stops flowing, the rest of the body starves in exceptionally short order.
Our own blood is, in fact, some 50 percent water, the river of red cells carrying oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs, and the host of white cells ever on guard for foreign invaders.
Water is Earth’s blood, cycling and recycling like the blood in our own bodies, carrying nourishment downstream to waiting trout, merganzers, crawdads, kayakers and canoeists.
I often wonder how the first Americans used Marsh Creek – not the Europeans who came later and employed the water to power saw and textile mills, but those who had witnessed the demise of the Stone Age, and whose descendants wandered 12,000 or so years in the area near my home, fishing and hunting because where there was clean running water, there was food.
The Susquehannocks, who lived generally along the river that eventually took their name, likely followed the creeks the way we follow GPS as they navigated to favored hunting and fishing sites. They had been here since the Stone Age, and they welcomed William Penn when he defined the Manor of Maske.
Sometimes I let the kayak drift on the current, and imagine those time travelers who wandered this way all those ages ago.