Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Water Bison

This post is about water, and my complicated relationship with water.

For those of you who don't know me, I am a New Mexican. As a New Mexican, I grew up in a waterless environment. New Mexico is a desert, one where it never rains, there are no streams or lakes, and the creatures who live there are allergic to moisture. We fear water. Our bodies are different than people in the Northwest -- water is poisonous to us, and we eat dirt for hydration. The only time we ever saw water was at our city's yearly Water Demons ceremony, or La Dia de Aguas Atroz. This large public event (I dare not use words like festival, celebration or party -- the mood was solemn and grim) was where all the children learned that water is evil, and should be neither used nor trusted, ever! Everyone gathered at the plaza in the center of town to see the water, which was spattered into the sky through a metal contraption called a "sprinkler". It was like a clear volcano only more dangerous. The bravest men in the village would remove their clothes, tie themselves together at the waist with yucca-leaf rope, and run back-and-forth through the toxic spray -- writhing in pain, and screaming in agony. The water burned their skins, and caused instant blisters. It blinded their eyes and made it hard for the men to move as one; they stumbled and tripped. It melted their hair off, and made their jaw bones turn soft so their mouths hung wide open, flapping like giant, blistered, toothy banana peels as they ran. Before long, all the children in the village would be crying, and they wanted to look away because the horrors before their eyes were too much to bare, but their mothers would not let them look away -- "NEVER GO NEAR WATER CHILDREN, SEE WHAT THOSE DEMONS DO TO THE BRAVEST MEN IN THE VILLAGE??? IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD DO TO TINY CHILDREN LIKE YOU!!" The men repeated this gruesome trial, often having to help the weaker ones who collapsed with exhaustion and pain, until the screams of the children became louder than the screams of the brave men. Only then would the water relent, the demons banished until the next year. That was how we learned to distrust water.

And yet, for my birthday, I found myself up at Lucky Peak reservoir, racing around on a jet ski at 50 miles per hour. Despite the disappointment my ancestors would undoubtedly feel -- I had fun.

We had to sign a waver that contained the phrase: "Avoid falling off the water craft while it is in motion; the forceful entry of water into the anus or vagina can cause serious injury...HAVE FUN!!"
We did fall, but fortunately, none of us suffered a "forceful entry" based injury.
And then, less than three days later, I found myself floating down the Des Chutes river in a small rubber raft. Again -- water proved to be both relaxing and fun. Geese live in it.
However, I did my best to keep myself safe from the water by using extra rafts.
Cascade starts tomorrow. Levi better watch out.

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