Columns and Editorials

The Dangerous Beauty of Water

Michelle Zurkle

The Dangerous Beauty of Water                                                           Michele Savaunah Zirkle

With flooding rampant, soaking stores and homes, and causing upheaval throughout the water-logged communities, it’s a good opportunity to recognize that, just like sweet lemonade, too much of a good thing is still too much.

One of the most breathtaking sites I’ve visited was a 150-foot waterfall in Oahu, Hawaii. Granted, I had hiked a few miles through steep terrain and sloshed through the mud to see Manoa Falls, but that’s not why I was breathless—the water seemed to gush straight from a large pitcher in the sky as if God himself was pouring the water onto the cliffs.  

I watched it cascade across the boulder, spraying and puffing up like cotton candy and felt like I was sliding down the cliff with it.   

I imagined early civilizations bathing beneath it and collecting water in jars for cooking. I imagined washing my hair under the foamy current while I tried to avoid looking for leeches and snakes. I pictured plunging from the top in a barrel like I’d heard some folks survived doing at Niagara Falls.

I stood in awe. How could anything be so beautiful and so scary at the same time?

Later that evening, after a pina colada and an acai bowl—a berry yogurt topped with granola and fruit—I learned that a young lady had plummeted to her death at Manoa Falls just hours after I’d left.

She had just graduated Valedictorian of her high school class and was enrolled in pre-med at the University of Washington. Now, she wouldn’t be able to ever hug her loved ones again. She wouldn’t be able to savor the fruits of her school labors or enjoy a berry smoothie or flash her friend a smile.

She had marveled over the falls, teetered on the edge and toppled over into the water. She had lost her balance.

The water claimed her life and is a harsh reminder that maintaining balance is crucial—not just physical balance, but harmony with all of life—all of our surroundings—and that we must respect the majesty of nature even as we revel in it’s healing power.

Water is both invigorating and relaxing—cleansing and destructive.  

Water can cleanse the body and mind. A shower can wash away the dirt, and watching a waterfall pound the rocks as you imagine your worries bursting can lighten a burdened heart.  

As those of us who are in areas drenched by the latest rains recuperate, let us acknowledge the blessings water brings, and give thanks even as we are sopping up and drying out. The sun will, most likely, come out tomorrow and if we’re lucky, a rainbow may appear, reminding us there is always hope.