Flow of Water ~ Flow of Life

NorthFork Skokomish River

Years ago, my Dad and I were sitting in a duck blind in Eastern Oregon prior to dawn and I mentioned how much I wanted to live near the Oregon Coast.  The  gist of my reasoning was that the Oregon Coast is beautiful, and having water around was comforting.

There is nothing quite like the sight and sound of water; roar of an ocean or babble of brook.  The response from my Dad surprised me; he preferred the high desert and mountains…

Flow of Water-5

It was not the first time I have been surprised by such a response, as my ex- felt the same way, where I always envisioned a place on the water, she felt the opposite.

My dad laughed at my incredulous look, and said he loves being at the pond (one of his favorite places on earth), and it is made better because it is located in Eastern Oregon (which is why he chose Pendleton).  He also laughed at the situation with my ex-, saying that my Mom’s thought on the subject is also the opposite of his and, like me, she would rather live next to the ocean.

Flow of Water-9

Why I bring this up, is that there is a special connection to water that inspires me, calms me.  I will not think twice to pay more for a sea view room, while others cringe at the thought as they do not see the same value: some people can’t believe someone else would pay so much more for a house (or flat) with a water view, while others cannot comprehend why not.

The beauty of differences in human nature.

Flow of Water-8

Among us all, however, is a tremendous respect for water, and it is an inherent respect as we flowed like water from conception onwards.  Beyond the most obvious reason that the majority of our body is made up of the stuff,  it is the nature of water that intrigues.

Water is pure: two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.  It has no desire other than to be itself.

  • try to pick it up, control and squeeze it, and it will elude ~ as will a strong human spirit
  • if it remains still, it becomes stagnate ~ as will our body & mind without pursuing life
  • when it flows it becomes pure ~ as when we flow & move: life, love and our spirits tend to flourish

Natural properties that we should emulate.

Flow of Water-7

Water is resilient.  Soft yet incredibly strong.  An analogy which is often repeated, is how over time water can turn stone into sand with its relentless flow, creating such marvels as the Grand Canyon.  Water never ceases in its pursuit of life…it just keeps on flowing, bending when necessary, and without question follows its nature.

My favorite verse from the Dao de Jing is number eight which parallels water with human nature.  If I had to summarize the words of this verse it is: be true to who you are, keep it simple and kind, and flow with your work and in life, without expectations, and you will not be disappointed.

Flow of Water-3

Simple thoughts.  Whenever life throws something at me, a trip to the coast (or a creek) is all I need to gain perspective.

As with all words of Lao-zi, they are words of poetry…which makes translation by any non-native speaker close to impossible.  Below is the Chinese, and an old translation I made 15 years ago with a lot of help.

  • 上善若水。
  • 水善利万物而不争,处众人之所恶,故几于道。
  • 居善地,心善渊,与善仁,言善信,政善治,事善能,动善时。
  • 夫唯不争,故无尤。

The greatest good is like water.  Nourishing all in our world without effort, flowing to depths we ignore.  Water is therefore like the Dao.

In living, be close to the land

In thinking, be simple from the heart

In dealing with others, be kind with sincere words

In politics and business, do not manipulate

In life, be effective and completely present

When you are content being yourself, your flow gains the respect of those around you.

Flow of Water-2

I do remember when I was studying Chinese and the Dao de Jing, I asked many questions about this verse and finally the person I was studying with said the meaning of the verse “is just like a brook in the mountains: travels from high to low, nourishing, sincere, humble and true to itself…and most of all it sounds beautiful if you shut-up and take time to listen.”

Take the time to listen to what the water (and the world) is saying.

Flow of Water-6

Flow of Water-4

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87 Comments on “Flow of Water ~ Flow of Life

  1. The photos… Randy! The photos are breath-taking. They made me gasp; they made me hold my head in my hands. Too much… just too much. If the photos did this to me, imagining what it must be like in person, makes me giddy.
    The words, overwhelming. I have no idea why but reading this brought tears to my eyes… it felt strange. How silly do I sound?
    I kept staring at photos #5 and #6 for what seemed like an eternity.

    You amaze me.
    Every. Single. Time.

    – M.

    • Beautiful words Meghna, it always makes a person feel good to know what they produce in work/play can make someone else feel good…to move someone is perhaps the best gift someone can give. Your reply makes me feel great ~ so thank you 🙂

      • Is it allowed to have both, thank you and you’re welcome in the same sentence? Oh well, never paid much attention to the rules anyway!
        Thank YOU and you’re welcome. 🙂

  2. Where to begin? “The beauty of differences in human nature.” Isn’t that the truth? While I am exactly like you in that I LOVE water and am never more at peace than when walking by the ocean, listening to a babbling brook or a lake’s waves lap up on shore (when asked I always say my favorite color is the color of water), how boring would the world be if everyone were just like you and me?… and how (much more) crowded would be the beaches! This world is amazing because of its variety…

    But also the parallels you mention between water and human nature, and how we should try to emulate it. Water has no desire to be anything other than itself… stagnant… pure… I really can’t add anything to what you have already written. The purity of your words and the magnificence of your photos demonstrates the truth of the Dao, and of this post. I love it.

    • Agree, the variety of likes & opinions makes this world a much more interesting place…and part of the fun is finding out all of these differences. So happy you liked the photos and I can see from your posts the influence of nature and the Dao with your writing, a beautiful and effortless flow. Cheers!

      • Thank you. Your pictures, too, appear effortless. I must also say I am now even more impressed by your Mandarin. Reading Chinese takes knowing the language to a whole new level… And the Dao. There is so much more to Asian culture that I must learn. Truly, there is much to it that is a beautiful way of life.
        Cheers, Jess

  3. I come to your blog for the photos….but your words always make me linger longer! With this one, I felt as if someone understood my affinity for water. It sounds so hokey when I try to explain that I belong near the ocean, thanks for intelligently validating my feelings.

    • That is very nice to hear, I always think while a picture is worth a thousand words, and a few more can’t hurt…so I also write as well. Happy to know that you too are a water person… Cheers!

  4. My people say next to air, water is life!
    I don’t have the right words to articulate the effects of the photo’s Dalo, I can only say being there would be the only thing to top it.
    I love water! I think I must have started swimming almost as soon as I was born because I don’t remember learning to swim, I just swam as far as I can remember.

    The sounds of the many different bodies of water stir varying emotions in me and each has an antidote to a human condition of either a spiritual, mental or physical nature. I could not agree more with your apt observations and opinions here and like many, I admire your dedication to doing justice in interpreting Chinese ( which I know nothing about) sadly. Many times, finding the right word in English to interpret or accurately rephrase a verse is almost impossible but we still manage huh 🙂

    Yes, as much as we are different in likes, the one thing which connects all life form is water and it unites us all in a way perhaps only air could possible rival. I’m not just awed by the beauty and magnificence of our many bodies of water, I respect and fear them equally. It’s like they say, size matters,but not with water. It’s amazing how a so-called gentle or small serene body of water could equally rage into a strong current and easily take away life in an instance, Like all nature, water may be beautiful and gentle, it’s still wise to be weary of her no matter how small.
    This one is close to my heart, keep on Randy, keep on.

    • Thanks Dotta, yes there is something very primal about water and the affect it has on us. Like you, it seems as if I was always in the water…made special by the ease in which water unites us with nature. Respect and fear, very well put: one time scuba diving, and down about 100ft., I thought (and felt) the mass-weight of all this water on me, and as much as I was in ecstasy seeing beauty ~ there was this anxiety of how insignificance I was in this environment. Water does not care, and its wild & pure nature can be devastating and deadly. Respect is indeed needed.

      So true about translations, it is almost an art (in which I fumble around a lot)…as this translation is a very subjective translation. Verse 8 has been translated many ways…all quite different than mine, but I think the overall feel is accurate in my words (at least for me). It is always so wonderful to hear your comments and words, cheers to a great week for you.

  5. I don’t know how you make these pictures but they all look completely magical! Thank you for sharing the wise poem, I think I should learn it and recite it to myself everyday…
    I prefer water too!

    • Thanks Sofia, the key is to have a good set of ND filters that slow down time (reduced light, so the lower shutter speed can smooth the water into silk). The most important set of filters a photographer can have. 🙂

  6. Beautiful images Randall. I love the silky water and the vibrant green moss. That second image in particular intrigues me. Due to the lack of color in the bottom portion of the image, it almost looks like you applied a desaturation gradient running down the bottom 3/4s of your image.

    • Thanks Mark, great eye. The moss on the bottom of the photo was light and of a different hue, so I was able to reduce most of the color on the bottom section…and what color was left I desaturated with a brush tool in LR.

  7. A beautiful and thought provoking post with even more beautiful pictures! I’d love to one day take such beautiful moving water shots as you! The waterfall picture was breathtaking!

  8. Such exquisite and delicate photos. They radiate peace and quietness. Beautifully captured and processed. Like you I could not imagine not living by the sea. I love water in all its forms. My favourite picture is probably the one of the lone leaf.

    • Thanks Otto, water seems to spur creativity…making it easier to get into a peaceful zone (granted the creative process often is not that peaceful).

  9. These pictures took my breath away. Literally. I can’t stop looking at #6 – it is just so perfect. Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful work!

  10. Well I don’t know how you get these pictures, but you do and it’s great! keep it going- loving ’em!

    • Thanks Charles. For these photos I used a ND filter on my lens, creating a smooth/mystic affect on the water.

      • Oh ok. I’ve heard of those filters. Also heard they’re very expensive accessories. Lol. yeah I Love the effect- makes those pictures look somewhat surreal. Cool!

  11. First, great photos!

    Then, I used to live three hours away from Iguazu Falls in Argentina/Brazil, and I’m still amazed at the insignificance and temporariness I felt anytime I visited them. There’s a power and a rhythm there that almost escapes definition…

    • What an amazing place/time it must have been to live in Argentina & Brazil…and then to be able to see Iguazu Falls. The feel of water, and especially the sound of waterfalls has a powerful rhythm and you are right it does escape definition. It flaunts its power & beauty, but with the music of danger.

  12. Och nature does work in mysterious ways.. such amazingly beautiful shots. Love number 6 it reminds me of Brokopondo Lake/resevoir in Surinam. There is something about lakes that makes you feel like you are dancing on a bridge between danger and enchantment. Yet it also feels a little strange to watch.. as most of a human body is made up of H20… perhaps the water in us makes us long to be with water.

    • Thanks Purnima, you say it well, there is some sort of enchantment we all have with water. Cheers.

  13. Pingback: Day 278: Elevated to tears | The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally

  14. My God, these photos are magnificent. Truly, that tall one with water going down the rocks & a bridge halfway down (why they chose to build a bridge there I don’t know!) – that is magical, really magical.

    • Thanks Noeleen. Multnomah Waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge…one of my favorite places ~ along the highway between my home town and Portland, OR.

      • Ah, I can only imagine… I have GOT to travel!!!

        But meantime, I enjoy photos on people’s blogs!

  15. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back!

  16. Sorry, I have sent only the first part of the comment previously.
    Your post is not only about photography or your photography is more than photography? (or should I say this is not a poem. some poems are dull, they make you sleep??)?
    It happened that I told him quite oftenly: We are both WATER…and we are!…You see the things in the same way….!) Wish I could say more, but I will stop here, hoping that you will understand why.

    try to pick it up, control and squeeze it, and it will elude ~ as will a strong human spirit
    if it remains still, it becomes stagnate ~ as will our body & mind without pursuing life
    when it flows it becomes pure ~ as when we flow & move: life, love and our spirits tend to flourish

    THAT IS SO TRUE….Who feels like water, knows it so well.

    • Definitely, from your posts I see you pursue life as well, and it flows through the passion of your work, family and friends. 🙂

      • My work? My blog is just a fun part…a private garden even if so public. In reality I am a designer (mainly for the pharma industry so, the blog doesn’t reflect my work)….and yes, in reality you are right, I love life…especially now that I finally do feel so alive…and in love. Quite a miracle. Quite a miracle!!!

      • I thank you…and I thank you for sharing with me the link you have just have sent. Very emotional (as a mother, I love seeing certain things). I thank you even though it is somehow difficult for me to accept someone saying what I do is “art”…I’m very far from considering it “art”. For giving you an idea, I can tell you I consider this as art: http://monakuhn.com/collections/view/native/…..or this:
        http://www.mothandrust.se/maurizio-cattelan/…or the classics, the beauty which never dies….Cattelan makes me laugh and think about so many things… your photos makes me want to travel more and see the beauty you were able to see…; what I feel makes me fly now…is it art? No it isn’t….They are simply emotions.

        Wish you a wonderful evening and thank you again.

      • I thought you would like the link, I really see the same in your art you have made throughout your blog 🙂 Art is emotion brought to life…and the beauty of life is that it is vast and covers so much.

        Wish you a wonderful evening as well…

      • I did like your link!! I really, really thank you! Just because I sent you different ideas it doesn’t mean I did not like it…
        Besides, you are correct…art is emotion brought to life.
        And the beauty of life you are able to see is incredible…You reaveal it. Yes, you do.

      • My meaning was I knew you would like the link ~ it seemed so perfect/special on the same plane with you, your son and your art 🙂

      • I perfectly understood it…and I am sorry I was not able to let you understand this…I am tired (I’ve been away the whole day)…The music blows my thoughts and I do not belong where I am actually. My son just told me he wants to merry me. We were laughing loud…
        I’m programming the things I need to do tomorrow and this has nothing to do with “art”…but with LOVE….

  17. Absolutely beautiful images, I specially like the bridge and how you have captured the tranquil atmosphere of the lake.

  18. wOw! words can’t describe enough the relief found in those pictures.
    You are ‘excellently’ gifted.

    • Most of these photos were taken in the Pacific Northwest in the USA, such a peaceful place. Happy that you enjoyed them. Thank you!

  19. A true masterpiece of a post — in words, reflection, and art.
    Thank you for serving by sharing! Peace and luvz, Uncle Tree

    • Thanks Tree, it was great looking back at the post & that time…nothing quite like nature teaching us a thing or two. Cheers!

  20. As a water lover, I am thankful that our world has so much variety that there is a landscape and a natural element that can speak to each of our individual tastes. Beautiful capture of the little golden leaf sitting quietly by the running rapids.

  21. Pingback: Flow of Water ~ Flow of Life ~ Randall Collis | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

  22. Your pictures are truly stunning. And I love the idea of listening to what the water is saying – and the world. Good advice, and we should all do more of that. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Alli. Wishing you a great finish to the summer and onto a wonderful autumn.

  23. So glad Sue reblogged this as I hadn’t see it before. Stunning photos – as always – and yes, we need to shut up sometimes just to listen to what the water is telling us.

  24. Can I ask where the 2nd picture on this page was taken?

    • The 2nd photo on this page was taken on the North Fork of the Skokomish River in Washington state.

  25. Love all the pix, but only recognized Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River gorge, which I saw on a western states vacation decades ago.

    As for water views, there are water views and then there are water views! In general, my favorites are streams, lakes, ponds, and waterfalls rather than ocean/beachfront views. Why? I suppose one reason is that the former seem more intimate (for want of a better word) and unique than ocean views. I just don’t get the same ‘up close and personal’ feeling with most ocean views.

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