Leonardo da Vinci said that water is the driving force of all nature. Now we say that where there is water, there is life. The idea, much like the liquid element itself, is beautiful in its' simplicity. Whether it be crystal clear or boggy brown, both Mother Nature and the built environment thrive on water, and both would shrivel without it. With this thought in mind, I stand transfixed by a children's exhibit at the natural history museum. The exhibit depicts, through a less-than-simple conglomeration of pulleys, chutes, and pistons, the finely-tuned cycles of water and energy on our planet. A plant is at the root of it, providing energy for the rest of the system. But without the water, which all at once fell from the sky and was then recycled in the depths below, the plant wouldn't grow. Without the plant, neither would anything else.
So we go to great lengths to acquire this most basic of substances. We take it from where it is, and move it to where it has never been. We move it in bottles, by truck, and through pipelines; we spray it carelessly into the air from marble-clad fountain works of art in our cities, and we use it to flood the ground beneath the massive iron irrigation systems that keep watch over our farmers' fields.
I follow water, but not because I am a swimmer or a fisherman. The last time I swam in a lake, I thought I was going to drown. The last fish that I caught, a mere 6 inches long, was promptly returned to the water from whence it came. I follow water looking for life, but not of the fish variety. I follow it into the deserts. In the Great Basin Desert hot springs bubble up where the Earth's crust is thin, creating what look like inviting, aquamarine pools. The water, resting calmly after its' foray into the depths of the planet, is hot enough to cook an unwitting cow that might stumble in while grazing on Nevada's open rangeland. And yet, there is life. Microscopic life, but life just the same. Life that might employ the same strategies as that which first began on Earth in stormy, volcanically-heated waters. How does it manage to survive? In the Antarctic desert - the coldest and one of the driest on Earth - these organisms thrive in the microscopic, water-filled veins that form between ice crystals, and they prosper in lakes sealed for centuries by ice. Sometimes, they survive even in the absence of light, but never in the absence of water.
This ability of life to persevere in extreme environments beyond the limits of human existence fascinates me, and I have followed the water places that I never dreamed I could visit. I have peered down a hole through 12 meters of ice into a pool of icy cold Antarctic water. It was dark, yet teeming with life. An entire world that I can never enter, and only understand from the pieces that I pull to the surface, out of the hole in the ice.
Causes Tristy Vick Supports
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society