“I’m a gully! I don’t want to be a gully! Please advise.”
– You Know Who
Your request may be the most concise one I’ve received, but it’s not the only one. Gullying seems to be going around. It’s the second most common result in people who have taken the Stream Personality Quiz. I am happy to reassure you all — gullies can be healed.
But first let’s make sure you ARE a gully.
A gully’s most defining trait is isolation. Vertical isolation.
Most gullies began as healthy streams that were stressed in such a way that their only immediate choice was to cut down into themselves. Now they’re flowing down deep — lower than their surroundings — and closely contained by steep walls. Gullies can’t spread out or slow down when life overloads them with a flood. They can’t reach up to their safety valves — their floodplains.
Madagascar, Photograph by Pascal Maitre, National Geographic
Do you feel like you have nowhere to go in a crisis except down inside yourself? Then you indeed may be gullying.
But remember that not all vertical isolation is active gullying.
Don’t confuse the following healthily entrenched rivers with gullies (you can click here to take the Stream Personality Quiz and see what stream you might be):
- A-types: Waterfalls and Cascades are much steeper and straighter than gullies. They don’t meander around much. If your life’s characterized by abrupt steps alternating with calm pools, you may be an A-type. Tres scenic!
- F-types: Self-Sufficient streams often are even more vertically isolated — “deeper” — than gullies, but they’re less steep, they meander more, and they’re proportionately wider. They can be quite stable if they’re fully evolved or have a solid foundation. If your life moves moderately slowly and evenly, you might be an F-type. And quite grand.
Next let’s consider whether or not there’s really anything “wrong” with being a gully. Why do they have such a bad name?
Because gullies are not “stable.”
Wait, wait, wait before you freak out or judge! Let’s look at what we even mean by “stable.” Happily, Natural Channel Hydrology has an objective, technical definition.
A stable stream is one that, over time, transports the flows and sediment of its watershed while maintaining its dimension, pattern, and profile – neither aggrading nor degrading.
A gully’s considered unstable only because it’s adjusting. My grandmother would say it is “shaping.” And she would be very literally accurate. Something happened that was a game changer, and now the stream is changing its width and depth (dimension), where and how much it meanders (pattern), and how fast it flows (profile). The river is finding its own personal, stable form.
But for rivers and people to shape themselves, they must move and rearrange the sediment that has defined their edges and their very foundations. An outside observer will call this “erosion.” All that dirt muddies the water:
Finding oneself creates a mess.
And of course it’s worth it!
Gullies are“natural” in that the laws of physics required the stream to adjust in this way after being stressed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help. I think it’s usually wise to assist a gully in its healing.
If you, dear You, think you don’t want to be a gully because it’s an ugly word BUT your gut says you’re okay, then you are okay — just as you are. I only hope the Stream Personality Quiz and profile didn’t made you doubt yourself.
But if you feel yucky, then my next post will (finally!) answer your question about ways to begin restoring yourself. It’ll be up tomorrow, I promise. Until then,