Clear, Blue Spaces

What is it about water that draws us? Whether it’s a sparkling blue lake, a mossy, gurgling brook or a grassy pool of melted snow in spring, we’re captivated and calmed by its shimmering surface and often encouraged to wade into its cool depths.

For years, studies have shown stress levels are lowered significantly in green spaces, but now evidence also supports the notion “blue spaces” (otherwise known as oceans, lakes, streams and even urban water features or aquariums) can have positive effects on our mental and physical health. This must be the reason kids are drawn, like fuzzy moths to a flame, into puddles.

I’m not immune to their charms myself. There’s something satisfying about wading through water in your gum boots (as my father calls them). Perhaps it’s the sloshy sound, the feeling of being one with nature, or possibly it’s some false sense of power found as you part the waves with a mere shifting of your toe (sort of like Moses and the Red Sea – but not really).

Of course, children are always irresistibly lured. They stand, with wide, glassy eyes; compelled by some unseen force to slowly edge across a large puddle by the school where I work. Tiny faces rapt with delight, they know they’ll likely go too far, but it matters not.  

Whether they soak their winter boots, sodden up their sneakers or fill their rubbers is immaterial. What matters is the voyage of exploration. Predictably however, a teacher appears; whose sole purpose in life is to ruin this exciting game of chance.

“GET OUT OF THE WATER!” they holler, in their usual short-sighted way, “you’re going to fall in and get wet.” This last bit, of course, is prophetic and unnecessary, but it helps the hollerer to feel at least they’ve tried to intervene. 

Reluctantly, the child inches toward the speaker, their voice raised with tragic, whining complaint; their eyes darting back upon the swirling swamp as if in a trance. Naturally, the moment teacher disappears around the corner, that same child, plus six more, moves back to the murky liquid again.

Geese are big fans of open water too, but there are always those few that come back a little too soon. I’ve seen them lately, hunkered down on mounds of ice and snow, waiting patiently – or perchance, not so patiently.

“Gilbert Goose, I told you we shouldn’t have left the south so early!” Gertrude barked at her husband who stood off to one side pretending to study a cloud in the distance. “Do you remember me telling you to wait another two weeks? But oh no, you knew best, and now what? We look like bloody fools shuffling around in the snow – and my feet are FREEZING!” Her voice rose to a screech as she lumbered heavily through a drift to cuff him roughly with her wing.

“What if Nancy and Howard hear about this? I’ll never live it down. Mother always told me this would happen. The shame and embarrassment I’ve been subjected to since our marriage is…”

Gilbert closed his eyes as the strident sound of his wife’s voice echoed in his tiny brain. Sighing, he let it all slip away as his thoughts drifted back to childhood and the happy slough where shining waters rippled among the cattails.

You see—even geese can be calmed by clear, blue spaces.

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