Having grown up and lived in Benicia until the age of 18 instilled a deep love of water in me. I adore the Carquinez Strait. I used to walk to the water in my tumultuous teen years and sit at the water’s edge. The site, feel and smell of the lapping water always calmed by active mind and nerves. When you grow up with something, perhaps it’s easy to take for granted, but I have never lived far from the water since. I attended UC Santa Barbara and lived three blocks from the ocean, then at UC Berkeley, where I visited the marina, the bay and the coast as often as possible. And now I live in Sonoma County on the Russian River, about 20 minutes from the coast. The bigness of the ocean never fails to put things in perspective for me.

As you read these words, trillions of cells in your body see to their tasks of forming and repairing tissues, metabolizing nutrients, removing waste, helping all your organs (made up of cells) function together, and much more. Each individual cell is composed of about two-thirds water. Take a deep breath in. As the oxygen pours into your body, it’s entering a water-rich environment, an oasis of life.

Babies spend their time in utero immersed in amniotic fluid, which is about 98% water. A developing fetus’ lungs are filled with this fluid until the first breath is taken after birth. Human life begins in water, as did life on Earth.

Within this framework, it’s easy to understand why the rallying call of the Standing Rock Movement in South Dakota became “mni wiconi,” which means, “water is life” in the Lakota language. If we remember that water isn’t just something we drink, bathe in, and avoid when it falls from the sky, but that we are actually walking pools of water, our relationship with water may change.

Californians know all too well what it’s like when water is scarce; when our reservoirs sit far below capacity, when our lawns dry up, when our plants die because the rain doesn’t come. So what IS our relationship with water? How does water make us feel? What do we think about it? What do we know about our drinking water? How many ways do we interact with water every day? What rituals and memories do we have that center around water?

In 1994, the now late Dr. Masuro Emoto began experimenting with frozen water under a microscope, with the goal of observing water crystals. He and his team noticed that the water crystals changed depending on where the water was from. Water from pristine, untouched sources showed beautiful, unique crystalline patterns, while tap water and water near cities did not. This precipitated (no pun intended) many years of experimentation observing crystals from distilled water after showing pictures, letters and phrases to the water, as well as playing music and praying to it. His results, which show photo-documentation of differences between positive and negative messages, are published in several books, including The Hidden Messages in Water. While not everyone agrees with his results, Dr. Emoto’s findings shed light on the possibility that our thoughts and actions can affect the molecular structure of the water in our internal and external environments.

Indigenous traditions around the world hold water as sacred, and engage with water not only as the source of all life, but as a precious resource that must be protected, and a living entity that we have a relationship with. It may be said that because we are made up of water, how we treat our water is how we treat ourselves. In a time where counting our blessings is important, let us be thankful for our water, and show our gratitude by doing what we can to keep our shorelines clean, preserving water, and taking good care of our “bodies of water” however we choose to define that.