Water. The 332,500,000 cubic miles of the life-sustaining essential compound contained in, on, and above our planet is largely responsible for our existence. At a molecular level, we are water.
We drink it. We grow and cook our food with it. Water cleanses, renews, and invigorates. When it falls out of the sky, we dance. When it falls out of our eyes, we feel better afterward. We migrate to the coasts, placing a higher value on homes near water.
Mismanagement of Earth’s most precious resource might be our undoing—the evidence that immediate worldwide changes are needed is easy to see from the American West to Micronesia to Africa.
Our connection to water runs deeper than its physical properties and uses.
Water is often a major character in novels, myths, fables, and recurring dreams. Human drama unfolds on the rolling sea, in driving rain, near crashing surf or raging rivers. We converse with gurgling brooks and contemplate the mirrored stillness of mountain lakes. Water’s prominence in our literature is but one way we honor it, and our fascination isn’t always about its life-giving properties: We give deadly storms human names and gender-specific pronouns.
Humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize objects and nonhuman animals that are important to us—it makes us feel more connected to them. (Attributing human characteristics to furry household mammals has become an art form on YouTube—just try to watch “Dog Wants a Kitty” and not laugh out loud.)
So it’s no surprise that some swimmers describe water as a valued teammate and friend: one who is forgiving and tolerant, one who listens and consoles.
Masters megastar Karlyn Pipes shared her intensely personal story with Elaine K. Howley and in it describes the welcoming, healing properties of the medium that she says accepted her when she felt most broken (page 18).
On page 30, Linda Brown-Kuhn explores the palliative power of water. Whether we float in it, stand near it, or even just look at a picture of it, we could be deriving a lot more benefit than we realize at the surface. For the story, Kuhn interviewed marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, author of “The Blue Mind,” about humans’ complex relationship with water and its potential to improve every aspect of our lives.
As swimmers, our intimate relationship with water is likely part and parcel of why we believe our sport and the people in it are so special—we share its bonds figuratively and literally—connected through its touch.