Petit Jean Falls, Arkansas Mountains

Moving water is addictive, stimulating so many senses that our brain must slow down and move into a state of contemplation.  Continuous movement of a sinuous matter, ongoing rush of multi-tonic sound, rumble of colliding masses, vibrations running up our legs and into our body, nerves tickled by negative ions rushing through the air.  All this sensory overload kicks our mind into a new dimension as we increase awareness of what’s outside our body over what’s inside, expanding our thoughts to include the surrounding world, minimizing the ongoing internal conversation by maximizing our connection between person and environment.

What is the draw?  Evolutionary thinking would have our ancestors avoiding such a hazard.  Noise that masks approaching danger, rapidly moving water over bone-shattering rocks, heights threatening life-ending falls.  What possible benefit would overcome these risks such that a location would become attractive?  Maybe the cool outflow of air on a hot summer day.  Perhaps the fish caught in deep pools, prevented from escape by the surrounding shallows.  Or maybe the attraction of rhythmic sight and sound that calms all that come in contact with it.

Think of approaching a waterfall in the distance through the woods.  You hear or feel it before actually seeing it, yet you recognize the sound and know what to look for.  Parting the underbrush while moving toward the roar, you glimpse the sun reflecting off the white water, sparkles off the downstream water.  Finally you push through the last of the surrounding foliage and there is the source of the attraction.  Under an opening in the forest canopy among jumbled rocks slowly released by the progress of the falling water you see the deep pool of cool, clear water being replenished from above by the white column pouring downward.  There is an almost irresistible draw to move closer, to revel in the mist of the spray near the cliff wall, to approach the roaring sound that vibrates inside your chest.  To stand in the presence of something more powerful than everyday life, the immoveable object constantly in motion yet static in its location.

Is that what overcomes our evolutionary inhibition toward danger?  Does our awe of such an existence trump our flight reflex?  At what point in our development did we acquire those aspects countering expected survival actions, an internal connection manifested as a desire to approach rather than flee?  Isn’t it great that we have such, one more attribute that makes us human rather than simply animal.


4 thoughts on “Appreciation

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