One of the silliest mistakes I made during my graduate school oral exams was not mentioning the water cycle. When you are a geographer focused on water resources you must always consider the water cycle. And I did. It just was so obvious that I didn’t mention it and that got me some additional assignments from my adviser. I’ve not made that mistake again; the water cycle figures prominently in my thoughts, especially on a warm summer day as my toes dangle in the clear water of the Salmon River.
As I stare into the glassy water on the river’s fringe I also see the parent rock and the gritty volcanic sand that is the river bed. I shift my focus from water to forest to water again. This water, this rock, and these trees all working together to clarify the water – no turbidity today, none at all. Below the surface a whole world thrives. I reach into the cool crystal and turn over a rock; macroinvertabrates cling to the mineral surface, salmon fry dart away and then circle back to hover next to my ankles. And the light, the bright midsummer midday sunlight brightens the pool and plays refractive tricks with surface tension and shadows. This shadow the avatar of a Western hemlock, a large 100-year old tree sprawling down the riverbank and across the water’s surface. Its needles, tight and lacy, filtering downstream-bound debris and painting pictures of the water cycle on the river floor.