Saturday, February 13, 2016

From My Nature Journal: Where Waters Meet, They Always Flow to the Low Spots

Our little cabin in the big woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has as its mailing address the small town of Watersmeet. Thirteen miles away, Watersmeet is the nearest town and the place where we pick up our General Delivery mail. Never mind that our place is in a completely different township and county (crazily, even a different time zone!), our mailing address is still Watersmeet, for which we’re grateful. Otherwise we’d probably have to travel at least twice as far to get our mail.

What’s in a name? Well, what might you imagine from a town named Watersmeet? The town sits within the south central Ottawa National Forest, a million vast acres of semi-boreal northern forest; its predominant woodland type is one called Hemlock Hardwood, as the forest is around us, speckled with diverse broadleaf trees (mostly maples, birch and aspens) and conifers (hemlocks, pines, spruces and firs). But I venture to say that this area is also one of the wettest spots in the ol’ USA. Michigan itself is enveloped of course by the Great Lakes, but beyond that, not an insignificant portion of the Ottawa is wetland – lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, marshes and bogs. Some might even disparagingly call part of our area swamps. Frankly, as I tip my hand above, I prefer the term wetlands, or even the more exotic-sounding words -- muskeg, as they say north of the border, or fenland, as they call it across the pond.

Thus, nearly needless to say, it’s fairly wet around there, and that brings us back to Watersmeet and its name. Curiously, somewhere nearby is the confluence of what is called a triple watershed. In that general area, waters will divide and flow three different directions. They’ll flow north to Lake Superior, the largest and most voluminous freshwater lake in the world, and thereby through the Sault and into the rest of the Great Lakes system. Or they will flow south and east to Lake Michigan via the Menominee, and from there, together with water from Lake Superior and all the Great Lakes, will go over Niagara Falls and out the vast St. Lawrence to the prodigious north Atlantic. Finally, other streams will take it south and west to the Wisconsin River, into the mighty Mississippi, and out to the sea via the warm Gulf of Mexico. A triple watershed… Natives and early travelers knew this reality very well, the place where the waters meet, and it dictated their portage routes. If I could find that general area, perhaps I could poke around a bit, spit in three different places, and have it flow with the rest via three vastly different, grand courses to the ocean deeps.

Parenthetically, do you know why it is that water flows at all, unlike most other compounds or elements? Interestingly, it’s because a number of the electrons of a molecule of water, the good old compound H2O, are in a constant state of paying friendly visits to the molecules next door,
just as those molecules in turn are sharing their electrons with the various molecules of water next to them, and so on. I don’t understand quite how it does that, but it makes the whole thing, as they say, fluid. Amazingly, even some seemingly solid elements can flow, over time, due to gravity or other forces, just nothing as fast as water.

Here’s a no brainer as I get to my point, though: it doesn’t matter where waters meet, as long as there’s somewhere further to flow; water always flows to the low spots. No surprise here, the nature of water is to flow to the next lowest nearby point, if it can, always to somewhere else. That area of Michigan is only one kind of low spot, which is what makes it so wet. But there we are in turn over eight hundred feet above sea level, and the water that doesn’t evaporate must eventually move along to sea level.

Allow me to reiterate. Water flows to the lowest spot. The town of Watersmeet is only that point in a local sense; it must flow elsewhere from there, given the chance.

...It will not flow uphill to the 
haughty spirit, but only downward
to the contrite in spirit...

Did you know God’s Word is also like that, like water? That’s not my idea but God’s. And it also flows only, and thankfully, to our lowest points. It will not flow uphill to the haughty spirit, but only downward to the contrite in spirit, only to the one who is ready and open to receive it from somewhere higher up. Unlike the water near Watersmeet, however, God’s water never evaporates, but remains in constant flowage to where it is allowed. That’s God’s idea, too.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Be encouraged.

~~ RGM, from an earlier entry in my nature journal,
Adapted for use here February 11, 2016

P. S. And yes, as the signs say, Watersmeet is also the home of the Nimrods; far from its common parlance, the Bible says Nimrod was a mighty hunter warrior...

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