By Jim McCloskey
Given what I do for a living, it’s fortunate that I have a deep and abiding love of water. I enjoy being in, on and near it. I even like water in the forms of mist and fog.
I must declare, however, that living in the Pacific Northwest for more than three years in the early 1980s put me off a similar love of rain and, more specifically, led me to loathe drizzle. As much as I appreciate what precipitation does, I suppose I’m enough of a California kid to prefer the sun to relentless stretches of drippy, skim-milk-colored sky and tend not to like water-resistant apparel.
But I may be “maturing” so far as rain is concerned. Partly it has to do with California’s persistent drought and concerns that we’re in for yet another painful year of use restrictions, sensationalized news coverage and water-deprived landscapes. But partly it’s that we’ve had a couple of uncommonly beautiful brushes with wet weather in recent weeks – not enough to put a dent in our water need, but truly lovely just the same with gentle plashing and great rainbows.
The best episode occurred a few days back, amid bulletins telling us to expect thunderstorms and hail – a rare, major “weather event,” as the television meteorologists kept warning us. That didn’t make me happy, because our citrus and stone-fruit trees were all at a point where a heavy rain (let alone hail) might batter away a whole year’s crop. But in the event, there was no thunder or lightning, no trace of hail and about a quarter hour’s worth of gentle spring rain. Just beautiful – which is why I spent several of those 15 minutes on my back porch watching the flowers, shrubs and trees lap it up.
I’ll resist the urge to go on with a commentary on the preciousness of water, its central role in watershaping or any observations on the need for conservation, careful management and personal responsibility. I know how hollow that would sound to those in other parts of the country who are still coping with the persistence of an excessively white winter. I also know that, for most people who’ll read this, these sentiments about the value of water are just understood.
But I would like to share a thought that crossed my mind as I watched the rain dampen my decks, roil the surface of my pool and give our plants a bath: Water is cool stuff, and all watershapers are privileged to know how to manipulate and control what is, all in all, a dynamic, plastic, and often uncooperative material – and manage to do it with functional as well as aesthetic grace.
As I continue my exploration of this unique design discipline, I am encouraged on the functional level that the sky is the limit. When WaterShapes first appeared in 1999, it was difficult to find anyone who was thinking too far beyond vanishing edges or pond-free waterfalls or interactive splash pads as the pinnacle of design ambition. I’m pleased to say that you’ve discovered there’s much more to life than artfully crafted weirs, compact waterfeatures and sequenced jets and have found countless other ways to turn bodies of water into expressions of great beauty, tension and artistry.
To be sure, I’m discouraged on a cultural level by a growing sense that water is being discussed, in ultra-serious tones, as a life-giving, life-sustaining commodity that must be regulated, conserved and restricted. I can’t help thinking that the intoners will use water as a pawn in a political game in which the relative importance of disparate demands for resources are becoming matters of debate and back-room dealing.
These are indeed challenging times for water resources in California (and beyond), but as I stood there watching the rain the other day, I couldn’t help thinking of watershapes as unique, value-adding entities: Pools, spas, fountains, ponds and waterfalls contain water, yes, but they lend it a visual and emotional spark that builds everyone’s appreciation of just how great it is to see water as a matter of daily routine.
I see that as a positive as I hope for April showers.