Summer Series #3

Down by the water

Hello and welcome to the 67th issue of Place! As the days of summer settle in around us, we are feeling the need to get outside, reset, and take some time to reflect on all that Place has sent out into the world so far. Which is why this week we are continuing our summer series – dispatches which, instead of introducing topics entirely new, will bring you back to several stories we’ve already published, all connected by a common thread. Our third summer series takes its inspiration from a life force here on earth that is as mysterious at times as it is a necessity to our survival: water. Below, three past Place issues that reflect upon the place of life itself.

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Summer Series #3: Down by the water

There is something about standing near a body of water that makes one feel small, but no less important. Water has a way of crystallizing lost or jumbled thoughts as it carries us, surrounds us, or dances on the edge of the horizon in a distance. It manages to imbue emotion in a way that hits us hard in the stomach, while at the same time remaining totally aloof from us. We cannot see beyond its surface, we cannot know what is hiding below the froth or the glass-like plane. The ocean remains one of the most unexplored ecosystems on earth – but what we have learned from them has impacted our society tenfold.

Water also travels around the earth in cycles. The same water which existed hundreds of years ago still exists, albeit perhaps in a currently different elemental state. Its this connectivity of water which allows it to take such a firm hold of the places surrounding it – it’s seen what came before us, and it will see what comes after us. It is a great observer, and an adornment to coastlines or backyards. It is continually changing yet constant.

“People have always congregated around water, building their communities and cities at the banks of rivers and along the coasts,” writes Josie Cox, in her dispatch called Bodies of Water. “This is partly due to practical and logistical reasons, as water is necessary to our most fundamental needs – hygiene and hydration – and those which have shaped our modern world - transportation, trade, energy. But the psychological reasons for why we gather at the water’s edge are perhaps just as salient – Simply seeing and hearing water releases a cocktail of neurochemicals which induce relaxation, increasing blood flow to the brain and heart.”

In the second piece of this summer series, Don’t Go Swimming in the Gulf: A Poem, poet Patricia Garcia explores what it is about water that helps her face grief, or trauma.

“I believe that we can inherit places – for me, this place is a beach in Galveston, Texas. There is something about the water, and the kinship in realizing that it has known and lost the same people that I have,” writes Garcia.

“[The coastline] is the place to go and search out something of someone that I knew, or want to know better because every time the wind shifts, the shore changes and it looks a little different. But there’s also something in how it washes something away, of cleansing.”

It’s these cleansing and inspiring vistas that also brings Pooja Sivaraman to write about the sea that cradles her home city of Mumbai, in her piece, A City Without its Sea. In her lament of a proposed highway cutting down the city’s coastline, Sivaraman writes…

“We are about to lose something of utmost importance: the very specific sensation of looking out into a continuous horizon, gulping down the sea breeze, and momentarily leaving the city behind.”

Leave the land you’re standing on for a minute, and come with us on this summer break, down by the water.

1. Bodies of Water

- Josie Cox explores the water that has been with her through her life

2. Don't Go Swimming in the Gulf: A Poem

- Patricia Garcia’s poem interrogates grief through the structure of the seaside

3. A City Without Its Sea

- Pooja Sivaraman writes about the importance of a coastline to one of the most populous cities in the world

Place Recommends:

A solo Tour de France,

and how to save a river delta.

Join us next week for another journey.