“Water does not act like a perfect mirror. Light objects will appear a little darker and duller in their reflected images and dark objects will appear a touch lighter… A reflection [also] shows you the view from the point on the water’s surface that you are looking at, not the perspective from where you are standing.” – Tristan Gooley, How To Read Water
I admit, standing on the riverwalk next to the Merrimack River in Haverhill, Massachusetts I didn’t think about whether the reflection was perfect or imperfect. I only thought about the beauty of the reflected light on the dark river water. For why dwell on the science behind the magic? Does knowing the science behind why something happens a certain way make it less magical? I should think not, and neither does Tristan Gooley. If anything it amplifies the beauty. Does knowing the name of the constellations improve or detract from the wonder in the night sky? Clearly it improves the experience. And so it is with water.
I’ve borrowed How To Read Water from a friend and I chip away at it slowly. In fact, I finished two other books since he handed it to me. It’s not that I don’t want to read it, it’s more that the other books have been whispering to me more persistently. But after witnessing the sunset on the Merrimack River I’m inclined to dive deeper into the book.
The Merrimack River holds a special place in my heart, flaws and all, because of my time living along its shores, and rowing on its waters, and exploring it from source to sea. Haverhill has never been my home, but I’m drawn to the city for its history and the raw beauty it still displays despite rough treatment by humans for generations. The land and the river both share the same affront from generations of humans, but still the land stoically holds on, scarred but dignified. And the river flows persistently onward, outlasting the generations who abused it. Those generations are eventually buried six feet into the land, becoming a part of it as we all must someday. For all our noisy encroachment, the land and the river silently have the last laugh.
When you combine the history and the river and sunset, well, you’ve generally got me. And so I lingered along the edge of the river. My old friend and I quietly conspired as the light danced with shadows on her still water, until finally the shadows won out. The day faded and the river transformed into a black ribbon of water that now reflected starlight even as I reflected on another day that quietly slipped into the past.