… with luxuriant, barbed-wire boundaries

Dear Like a River,

You know how you say a river running through rock is stable no matter what? Where I live, the rivers run through common, everyday dirt. Please tell me SOME of them are stable! And if so, what are THEIR secrets? Because at this point, MY WHOLE LIFE is basically lots of common, everyday minutiae.

— Queen of the Small Stuff

Dear QSS,

It surely is misleading how rocky waterfalls get so much press time. Like the beloved spots where you’ve waded, boated, and skinny-dipped, most of our planet’s salt-of-the-earth streams have channels of cobble, gravel, sand, or silt.

Similarly, many days (or DECADES) of our human lives are dominated by details. We must see to the particulars to fashion a career. A family. Any creative endeavor.

But never fear, mighty Queen, healthy streams exist in every type of sediment, even the finest of clays. Like them, you can thrive by following this caveat  — tend to your delicate edges:

  • Cultivate densely-and-deeply-rooted surface protection. Hydrologists measure seven variables to calculate a bank’s risk for erosion; three of the seven pertain to vegetation. THE most powerful step in restoring a damaged river doesn’t always involve design calculations or big yellow heavy equipment.  Sometimes it’s planting willows.

What roots you when fast water threatens the margins of your life? Friends? Funny blogs? Leisurely morning runs? Get more of them. Care for them.

  • Maintain your natural shape, especially along the boundaries. Untoward events along a river’s banks cause the stream to widen.  Don’t let the world over-use you. Common culprits include domestic livestock (know some of those?), engineers, and developers often masquerading as sweethearts, family, friends, colleagues, and PTA officers who want to trample, over-graze, widen, channelize, pave, straighten, narrow, confine, or build on your banks. Fence them out. Set the dogs on them if they bust through. Seriously. Losing stream bank integrity, ESPECIALLY in small or variably-sized particles, triggers a series of catastrophic events.

I wish you the best of luck, beloved highness, because in tending the small stuff, you shape our homes, communities, and global innovation just as surely as the streams moving sand toward the sea shape our earth. Some say God is in those details. Others say it’s the Devil.  I agree with William Blake, it’s ALL in every detail:

To see a world in a grain of sand,

And a heaven in a wild flower,

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,

And eternity in an hour.


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