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Monday, March 1, 2010

WATER



When water is locked up as ice, I worry about the wildlife. 
Yes, I realize that they have made it just fine without me, but it still concerns me.  We have a rain barrel, a harnessed spring, and, of course the Pool of Tranquility I showed you in a previous blog in back in December.  All have been frozen during most of February.  We have regularly seen tracks of all kinds of animals going by these water sources to no avail during this frozen winter.  Luckily, though there are other sources of water.  On our property we have a  spring named Deer Lick that flows all winter.  It consistently runs except during the very driest summers. Generations ago, someone carved a nice bowl into the rock so that water could pool before running out a small chiseled channel above the creek. It was nice to get out last week and see running water brought forth by the short thaw.

Today there was water everywhere.  A small stream had even formed in the middle of the timber trail, a regular walking path and one of the paths I try to bike.  While I am sure it is not so great for the integrity of the path, the sound was nice as it trickled and flowed down the gentle grade. Water has power.  It will cut through rock or move a grain of sand from West Virginia to New Orleans. When flooding it can destroy a community or provide transportation that allows a community to grow. Our bodies are mostly water as is our world. Water gives us food and drink.  Water is cleansing, When it forms into crystals and falls from the sky it reflects most light and covers our land, turning the dirtiest, ugliest spot into a place of white beauty if only for a short time.   Water makes our lives possible but we often don't think about it until it is missing.  
Some of my favorite memories center around water; swimming in the elk river with my brothers and sister as we repeadedly road inflatable rafts over the shoals or when I fished from the john boat with my dad and Jim Arthur.  I particularly remember Mr. Arthur allowing me to fish with him once when I was about ten years old.  Mr. Arthur was an avid fisherman and I appreciated his kindness in letting me tag along.  He probably did not appreciate me catching five fish while he caught none.
Lately, in our neighborhood there has been a drive to lease mineral rights so that the gas drilling companies can have enough water to drill to the super-giant natural gas reserve found about a mile below the surface in the marcellus shale. The methane is reached by using water preassure to fracture the shale then drilling in a slant along the shale seam.   The problem is that it takes alot of water to fracture the shale.  Selling these rights may mean lots of money to a land owner but the need for money has to be balanced with the mess the drilling companies make. It would be nice if the companies would learn from their past mistakes and have better stewardship of their drilling sites in order to have better public relations. 
For us, drilling means mud, mess, and trash left at drill sights, including plastic bottles, beverage cans and paper.   The drilling frenzy of about 100 years ago stilll has not been cleaned up.  When I go out walking I continually step (or trip) over old pipes, gears or other drilling equipment.  There are sink holes and oil slicks from abandoned tanks and well projects.  This water hole pictured at left is one such place. It would actually be pretty if not for the rusty metal off to the side.
Much nicer is the spring around the other side of the hill.  The government helped Jeff's grandfather build a concrete basin to catch water from a nearby spring so that he could water his cattle without having them destroy and contaminate the natural spring. This particular day - that day between snows - the water was clear and reflected the sky above it.  I couldn't resist taking off my glove and dipping my hand down into the water to feel its coolness.  I had been walking a couple hours so the water felt good . . .cold, but good. There was no rememberance of last summer's drought here at this spring overflowing through a pipe that ran to a trough then continued on toward the pond where catfish and snapping turtles waited, burried the mud at the bottom, letting the water flow overhead as they waited for Spring.

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