In 2007, back in some dripping alcove in the Grand Canyon I spent a long summer day with a stopwatch measuring the rate of seep-drips coming out of the ceiling. Far from harrowing, this was one of the more curious experiences I have had with water. I was stunned by the metronomic order of the drips, the very slight variations, and unerring accuracy down to half-seconds over the length of a day as the delicate spring kept up its cadence. In beds of maidenhair ferns and pillows of moss, I would lean over every now and then and let the drops land in my mouth. I can still hear the tapping, plinking sounds of water emerging from stone. It was an orchestration, a set of interwoven rhythms. It was beautiful.
What property of water most fascinates you?
I am most fascinated with the unbreakability of water, how it reconnects seamlessly, its molecules ever so fond of each other.
How did your appreciation of this property affect your book?
I try to write about continuity, looking for a bonding property rather than disconnection. I did not consciously approach writing about water and its landscapes this way, but now that you ask, I can see how they are related.
What attitude did you have about water and people that changed in the course of researching and writing your book?
I thought people were not part of water. I believed us to be purely special, different. I didn’t even think we were natural, but through this book, and through my own travels, I have learned that we are inseparable. We are water.
In writing your book, what was the greatest difficulty you encountered in conveying the feeling of what you’ve learned about water and people?
The greatest difficulty was telling the story to reflect at least the shadow of my own experience as a person in these places. That is, the difficulty was a writing issue, and element of craft, knowing when you have conveyed the truth and when you haven’t. When I write a book, I throw at least half of it away. Knowing which half is always the hardest part.
What is your favorite image/passage in your book?
“At the river I untied the canoe’s bowline, and swept the paddle into the water, setting a wake across a mirror of stars.”
What is your hope for Colorado and the World’s water future?
That we do not need to create more fresh water than already exists, and is available and that the fresh water of the world remains as such.
What is your favorite water book by another author?
The Desert Smells Like Rain by Gary Nabhan
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