“It is life, I think, to watch the water. A man can learn so many things.” –  Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

Illuminating the enraptured notion that I am, as we all are, but a tiny speck of consciousness in an incredibly expanding, immense and almost eternal universe, 190 billion light years across, was never more prophetically enlightening then when I first saw the majesty that is Victoria Falls. I met her in 1974 where she straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa.

Since the whole of black ruled Africa was then officially in a state of war with apartheid Zimbabwe, named Rhodesia then, and I’d promised myself despite that sanction that I would not travel over 8,000 miles and be denied a Visa into Zambia, which I was, it left me little choice. Enlisting the talents of my native pals fearless guidance; we snuck across the border.

This was no small foolish feat since newspapers, that I read from the safety and privilege of the youth hostel in the capital city of Harare, then Salisbury, in recent days had reported that two young American female hikers had been shot and killed by Zambian border guards as they camped peacefully on the Rhodesian side.

I had by all measure a serviceable view of the Falls from the Rhodesian side; but for reasons, ganja enhanced, that escape me now, the world wonder twice as high and ½ again as wide as Niagara Falls, over which the volume of the Zambezi River crashes, forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world, beckoned with a demand to attempt an adventure in her honor as great as she.

At the peak of the rainy season, almost 300,000 gallons of water cascade over these majestic Falls every second. The  treacherous rapids, deadly crocodile, aggressive Hippopotamuses and Zambezi shark (bull shark) infested waters were so dangerous that although the Shona people first arrived in 1100, it wasn’t until the Ngoni, fleeing the wrath of Chaka Zulu, made the first successful crossing during the solar eclipse of November 19, 1835.

That fact was not lost on me while being goaded with chants to show some Yankee balls by crossing in rubber dingy over the mighty Zambezi by my adventurous and law-abiding adverse local companions, and I was just sober enough to remember another fact as well, that this river throughout history was considered so un-crossable that humans on either side evolved differently in language and custom. So with prayers for divine intervention and a brave exterior in service of the pride of my country, and hoping not to join my African brothers in a watery eternity; although catatonic in an inner fight or flee panic; I took the bait.

Where my fascination with water started I no longer remember; had it been my near drowning in the notoriously dangerous Lake Michigan when I lived in its shadow, or the harbor seal with a head the size of a basketball that scared me into sinking flight as it popped its head not three feet from mine at Stinson Beach on a balmy California summers day where I’d decided to go skinny dipping with my courageous friend Big Pauly; who to this day seems fearful of nothing.

Perhaps it was the nonstop 21 day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in winter in a tiny dilapidated and outdated 21 passenger Greek tramp steamer from New York harbor to Cape Town, where I nearly slipped, in a LSD altered haze, into the dark depths, or maybe it was the cocaine trickery of invincibility that found me snagged in a riptide off the coast of Miami; or maybe finally it was those mad moments bobbing hysterically on the Zambezi which set the hook.

Perhaps it has, as most things do, nothing to do with me particularly. It might spring from the same nature as our collective fascination with fire; the way men compete to be the one to build the camp fire and the way we all stare at it in fascination, germinates from the fact that were it not for this monumental discovery no Homo sapiens would have evolved or existed. Since we could also not exist without water for very long and are all made up of at least 60% of it; it is us and we are it.

Today, nine months into my move from metropolitan Oakland, with its diverse population of 400,000 and nearly every vantage point above a few feet from grade close enough to see the green apple Pacific ocean, to rural Spooner Wisconsin with a homogenous population of 2,682 where I sit tonight spitting distance from where I tickle my Typer on a heroes journey not 25 feet from the shores of Dunn lake, one of nearly 1,000 lakes in a county of just 15,000 people; one lake for every 15 people; my connection to water is now permanent and irrevocable.

In the half-light of this wholesome and flawlessly enchanting evening, gazing upon the always present placid golden pond; the same lake where fifty years ago I swan and boated and fished, I contemplate the difference between its blessing and those other bodies of water I once touched and in my wild moments communing with them nearly visited their eternal nadir.

This brilliantly lit morning brought the boatmen with their women and their children who donned life vests to traverse her voluptuous expanses on pontoon pleasure boats, floating decks 10-0 x 20-0 with outboard motors and canopies and barbeques and fishing rods in a floating revelry that caused endless mathematically perfect concentric ripples on a common axis; making the Loon’s scream a symphony in what appeared a behemoth bathtub about to overflow.

These lake locked mariners flopped like skin on the surface of her undulating body with their sun scrunched eyes seeing nothing but horizon, where fish came to nibble, where water and land and sky kiss each other like lovers; where all were one in god’s mirror underneath the sky, and I, now separated from risky adventures by age and wisdom, became as ever, this spring evenings guest; a grateful spectator.