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March 29, 2021     Post 123
water and ice



Water is amazing stuff. It’s constantly shape shifting, on the go, and, at least here in upstate NY along the shore of Lake Ontario, it is always around us. And in us. The saline solution that bathes our brains powers the processes that form these words. Ion concentrations shifting and switching sides in and out and around the membranes of our neurons and other cellular tissues make memories and marvels possible.

During the long boring dark winter the boat owner brain dreams of liquid days and moon sparkled summer night waters. We miss those gentle lake breezes, themselves the result of water’s ability to act as a thermal storage reservoir and we look forward to sunset reflections seen while afloat.


I’ve been reading a lot about groundwater lately and perhaps no other aspect of this life giving molecule is more mysterious. Myths about groundwater abound and even today with the power of 3D digital models and sophisticated instrumentation, much remains unknown. But to the sailor, water’s power especially on a rough day on the lake is impressive indeed. Gardeners worry about its application to their just germinated seedlings, surfers delight in their waves, and artists and Sunday walkers appreciate water’s beauty.


On a recent early spring hike I found myself admiring mud puddles. When the conditions are right marvels of crystalline beauty sometimes form underfoot. Huge ice needles appear if the puddles freeze slowly during a frosty March night. Crystal formation starts at some imperfection or discontinuity of surface. The crystals then grow and grow-sometimes becoming more than a foot long. The ones in my photos mostly seem to have originated around stems or from a rock surface.

A few years ago there was a lot of interest in the notion that ice crystal formation could be affected by emotional ‘energy’ directed towards the freezing liquid. A Japanese investigator named Masaru Emoto wrote a book “Hidden Messages From Water” that elaborated on the belief that water subjected to ‘positive thoughts’ yielded more beautiful ice crystals. While the science seems to have been a little sparse, his book was a NYT best seller and it does seem possible to me that polluted “sad” water might form a different crystal structure than pure clean liquid would.


By far the most commonly seen crystal form of water around here is the snow flake. It takes special patience and equipment to get a spectacular snowflake. I was surprised to get any visual with a cell phone shot of a early March assortment of fluffy lake effect flakes. They had landed on a black plastic snow shovel, a perfect background.
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The endless variations of snowflake shapes built up of alined molecules call to mind the infinite combinations of letters to form words or bits to form bytes to form computer programs. Life itself, it seems, is, at heart, a collection of patterns and formal arrangements that contain information. These patterns, like the coiled DNA helix or the folding and re-folding of protein molecules, are always changing just as water itself changes in phase and form. One could see some reason for the nearly universal fascination crystals hold for people. They seem to defy entropy as does life itself with its organized different cells and tissues.


Maybe somewhere sometime in an alternate reality, humans will regard water with the respect and reverence that it deserves. Water is quite literally life, even though we abuse it, treat it as just one more money maker, and take it, like so much else around us, for granted. This simple molecule with its magical hydrogen bond in all its amazing amalgamations should be honored if not considered outright sacred.



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