In honor of publishing the 2017 Spirit of the Water Essay Contest, the Iowa Water Center staff have decided to join in and answer the chosen essay prompt for the contest.
This year, the prompt was: Think of a body of water that you are familiar with and the different kinds of benefits that it provides to the surrounding area. Why are places like that worth protecting?
Dr. Richard Cruse fishing in 2013. Photo submitted by Cruse.
Story submitted by Dr. Richard Cruse, Director of the Iowa Water Center
What is it that makes lakes and streams so special to so many? Is it what our eyes see, or what our noses sense, or maybe it is the sounds associated with diverse life along these bodies of water? Maybe it is the sense of warm or maybe chilly water as you walk in a stream or the temperature of a fish you hold taken from the water. And what about the personal feelings of freedom that comes from bonding with constantly flowing water as it finds it way around the next bend? And then there is the mystery of what lies beneath the surface, a surface that reflects your image like a mirror no one can ever possess.
My personal bond with streams was first tied to fishing in the Cedar River. I spent countless hours sitting on the bank with a fishing pole in hand, dominantly early in the morning or late at night pursuing what was then our sport fish – the channel cat. As I learned what worked (and of course what did not), success was the norm. Catching was not the challenge it once was, nor was it as exciting as it previously had been because I had experienced it many times. Yet, my drive to repeat the fishing activity grew. What was truly driving my urge to fight mosquitos and suffer welts from an occasional poison ivy or nettles encounter? It was not the thrill of catching a fish, the likes of which I had caught many times before. It was, and still is, the bond and sense of freedom that comes from a natural water connection.
My sense of connectedness with the natural world has grown from the seeds planted in my childhood along the Cedar River. I’ve fished for REAL sportfish in what some consider quite glamorous fishing locations – Minnesota, Ontario, and even in Europe. I’ve camped along lakes in the Canadian Wilderness about which many can only dream. I’ve camped and hunted in the Saw Tooth Mountains of the Idaho Rockies following, crossing and drinking from mountain streams overflowing with energy, freedom, and the laughter of Mom Nature. My desire to return to these locations is immense, but no greater than the desire to return to the sand bars on which I camped as a teenage on the Cedar in Bremer County.
The passion of those that have experienced the unexplainable connection with our lakes and streams drives our desire to maintain or improve water quality and natural resources in Iowa and the nation. The magic of the water moments cannot be duplicated or reproduced with any technology known to man. My dad told me often, not everything with value can be bought, and in fact, things with the most value have no price tag. My bond with the natural world is priceless and my desire to share these experiences with family and friends knows no bounds. May everyone sometime experience the choir of frogs singing relentlessly through the night, the echo of rippling water flowing across a rocky river bottom, the fragrance of fresh air heavy with night time dew, and the unexplainable joy that only these experiences can bring.