“All streams flow into the sea…” — Ecclesiastes 1:7
“All things end in the Tao as rivers flow into the sea.” — Tao Te Ching # 32
“Love is like a river running straight back to the sea”– “Love is Like a River”
The sages agree:
King Solomon, Lao Tzu (via translator Stephen Mitchell), AND Stevie Nicks define the sea as that place where the rivers end.
The sages apparently never visited Nevada.
I’ve lived in lands where rivers never make it to the ocean – confined, arid, lands where rivers haven’t had the time or fluid energy to bust through surrounding mountains. Those rivers terminate right inside their homeland, in the lowest spot they can find.
Almost 18% of our planet’s landforms drain not into the inter-connected ocean system but into such endorheic (“flowing within”) basins:
[Note each ocean’s drainage area is color-coordinated, and endorheic basins are grey. “Why not sunshiny yellow?” I know, but still this map is just so cool.]
Don’t cry tears for the water.
River water escapes a basin eventually, either percolating into the soil or evaporating into the atmosphere. When you live like a water molecule, you have no “final destination.” You just keep moving through the hydrologic cycle.
Rather cry for the salt.
A river is not solely water. It’s also the load carried by that water – rocky, muddy bits of earth. These minerals remain behind when the water re-cycles, hence, like the ocean, basins are salty.
It’s probably a duck.
Wait a second — if it looks like a sea (the lowest thing around), acts like a sea (receives rivers), AND tastes like a sea… then I say each basin, no matter how small, isolated, or even seasonally dry, IS a SEA.
“Inland sea” describes the noble sights pictured above more fittingly than the pedestrian terms basin, salt lake, or terminal lake (though not as prettily or accurately as the Spanish playa which evokes beach umbrellas, beach drinks embellished with umbrellas, and, of course, surfboards!). Worse yet are labels we assign intermittent/dry basins: Pan. Flat. Hole. Sink.
The grimness is somewhat understandable.
Humans can’t drink the brine of Devil’s Lake. And salting the earth WAS an ancient form of warfare for GOOD REASON: nothing grows in Death Valley.
… we value salt. For years it’s served as currency, shaped trade routes, established cities, sparked wars, and
rescued enhanced my cooking. Why?
Salt makes everything taste more like its essential self.
And authenticity is not only yummy but healing:
“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” — Isak Dinesen
How astonishing that Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed — to mere humans — “you are the salt of the earth.” Us? WE make earthly life more.. earthy and lively?
How troubling that he went on to say…
“… but if that salt has lost its flavor, it ain’t got much in its favor.”
I’ve puzzled over this teaching since the very first time I saw Godspell. (I know the NRSV translates Matthew’s gospel as asking “How can its saltiness be restored?” but if Broadway writers can figure out how to rhyme it, I suspect the original guy could too.)
According to Mark’s gospel, Jesus provided his own answer:
“Have salt in yourselves.”
How can we possibly do THAT? The Mystery feels so much larger than us:
“The river is within us, the sea is all about us.” — TS Eliot, Four Quartets
Perhaps our inland seas re-salt us.
Perhaps visiting those places inside — places where our world drains into frightening, gorgeous plains layered with crystallized burdens — releases our essential taste for savoring the earth, all its inhabitants, ourselves. One another. Delicious.