Today I stepped out of my old brick building consumed with the problems and challenges of an office-worker with cubicle and projects to bring in on budget. I turned the corner to cross the Fort Point Channel and watched the low-riding wave of a cloud break across the sky-scrapers of the financial district in the Hub of the Universe. For a moment, foot-fast and bustled on every side, I was transported to Klapatche Park on Mt. Rainier. One trip, as we ascended the vast mountain, we arrived at this long sought and often missed site at the same time a determined cloud did. Although some of the finest scenery in the world was being covered by that cloud, I was struck motionless watching the vast wave of cloud crash over the banks of the mountain, swarming the walls like determined soldiers heedless of survival. The motion, the energy of those clouds stayed with me still.
Today I watched those self-same clouds, or their sisters, break across the monoliths of capitalism in the storied ancient city on the Atlantic. I thought, for a moment, how proud, how special those drops of water must be to touch those soaring buildings. Of all the water in the world, THEY were the ones dancing around the marble-dewed palaces of One International Place and the State Street Financial Center.
But then I realized, in a dizzying turnabout, where else those water molecules might have been in their journey.
They came to us, those dancing particles of mist, through fire and ice. Some were born as the molten core of the new world cooled. Others journeyed through distance stars and long milennia of darkness in the hearts of comets – only to smash against a planet, water droplets like the broken pieces of chandeliers scattering on impact. Those fog banks nurtured the first complex compounds. They supported the first gasping explorers on land with pools and puddles. In the hot ages of the earth, they steamed around the swirling feet of animals unwitnessed by human eye. Those droplets were locked up for a thousand thousand years in a timeless icebank. They explored the depths of the ocean, marvels in the dark pressure that will forever escape our knowing. They were trapped quietly under continents, rolling through limestone caves. They have lived a million lives, passing ten million times through the beating hearts of creatures from the humblest to the mightiest. Perhaps that water ran through the channels of civilizations unknown, who did not build in rock for us to remember. Perhaps that cloud, there, witnessed the rising up of the silent sentinels of Easter Island. Perhaps that water was lifted by a hyssop branch on a sponge to a parched and dying man. Perhaps it was an iceburg, unseen, calved in the North Atlantic in the path of the maiden voyage of a mighty ship. A thousand moments in history, known and unknown, this water has coursed through. Or perhaps, over its long voyage, this is its first encounter with any human history at all.
It is not the water that should be proud to writhe around our mighty buildings, our great civilization, our high towers. It is we who should be humble before this water which has come from the beginnings of our time, passed through our ancestors and and ancestor’s ancestors, and yet is unchanged in its tendrils, habits and majesty. It endures and persists. It may be in constant motion, or content to stand still for uncounted ages. Witnessed, unwitnessed. Noticed, unnoticed. Remarked or unremarked.
Today that water danced in the city, swooping low above the heads of the distracted, the busy, the self-important. And we did not attend it. It did not care, because it does not exist for our approbation.