What cool water there must be in Montana, as the crystalline mountain snows melt into streams and make their way down river, leading ever to nourish the landscape, and ultimately after thousands of miles to their home in the sea.
Norman Maclean was fond of the water, and was graced in knowing the land and the water and the air the way he did. Without ever studying Zen he became entranced by these elementals, and came to know his God on earth in a way that would make many of us envious – jealous, and in so doing we slip farther away from our own salvation.
In his lifetime the analogy of the water is rich with meaning. We view a pond and standing at the shore we cannot see the bottom, since there is a wind and the waters are stirring, there are waves on the surface, ‘ripples on the water’, and these obscure what is below.
The mind is like the waters, deep, often dark and mysterious. Nature, the world around us, the senses and the perceptions are the wind and the waves, and the bottom of the pond is our destiny, our true self, the one which we seek, and are bound to know.
Looking at the water in this way we can see that until we still the waves, the constant motion of the mind flitting from here to there and back again, then the bottom will always be obscured, and our journey will be long and restless.
When we can rest on the waters edge, and the winds calm, as the sun shines warm upon our skin, the surface of the waters become a clear glass and the bottom … our eternal spirit … comes into view. Fleetingly at first, but evermore we are changed. In the moment of serenity, we know our God is within, and live renewed.
This is the Spirit Norman wrote of, and sought in the rivers that parted the earth throughout his boyhood, and to which he returned in old age. This is the Spirit the Native Americans knew. This is our source, the place we are bound, the place of our origin.
“I am haunted by water …” (Norman Maclean)