Yesterday as part of a creative writing exercise Summer Institute participants were asked to respond to a quote from the “Reclaiming the Edge” exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum, “Water, a commonplace in our lives, has one extraordinary quality: all of it, everywhere, is connected symbolically and poetically with all the rest of the water on earth” (Donlyn Lyndon and Charles Moore).
The quote inspired lovely and intimate reflections. People shared stories about living in places where there wasn’t enough water, never being able to fully submerge in order to protect intricate hairstyles, and summers spent diving into the deepest parts of pools in search of the coolest water.
I used the time to meditate on the idea of water as holy:
“I once heard that the ocean emits positive ions that neutralize negative stress ions in humans. I’m no scientist but I believe this to be true. There are no words to describe the supreme peace that I feel throughout every inch of my body when I am near the ocean. When I am in the presence of a creek, or a pond, or a lake, or in the shower, it is not quite the same but surprisingly similar.
A side note: I cannot actually swim. Funny huh?
Yesterday at the museum there was a photograph of a woman being baptised. The moment was her emergence from the water.
I know that feeling. It is the feeling of being renewed, as if every cell in your body has taken a single deep breath.
Water carries…energy.I wish I had a better word for it. I think about sunken slave ships, and the many lives that have been lost to the sea; Secret underwater life–great whales thrashing with giant squids in parts of the ocean that I’ll never see. Fish sucking on the toes of children swimming in ponds. People born again in rivers. All of it. How can we imagine water, all water, as sacred? As holy?”
I’ve been thinking about the Anacostia River since yesterday. About the older man in the video who nostalgically shared that he learned to swim in it back when it was clean enough. About the two huge fish caught by some lucky fisherman, flopping in the grass where we danced. As I consider how the Anacostia continues to breathe life into humans and wildlife despite all, I can’t help but wonder, how does she do it?
Editors note: Bimbola Akinbola, a PhD student in the American Studies department at the University of Maryland, is blogging daily about her experience as a participant in this year’s Summer Institute. You can read her blog on our first day here. –S.L.