While browsing in a Kennebunk gift shop, the mug caught my eye. "Be like water," the small white text on its side read. At that moment, in the middle of a long Maine vacation, it evoked other phrases like "go with the flow." Be easygoing, be open to whatever happens, allow yourself to drift on the current.
Although I didn't really need yet another coffee mug, I allowed myself to be seduced by the charm of the color and the phrase and the smooth feel of the cup in my hand, and left the shop with it nestled in tissue in a bag hanging off my arm.
Once home in Virginia again, I filled it with warm, creamy coffee and sat in my living room with a book. Griffin approached, read the mug, and asked what it meant. Rather than tell him what I thought, I asked him what water is like, and how a person might have qualities like the water. He recalled a time last summer when the current in the James River nearly swept him away, and answered that water is strong, so being like water must mean to have strength.
It interested me how his first thought was so different from mine, and I considered how many characteristics water might embody. While unpacking a box of vacation paraphernalia that afternoon, I uncovered some beach cobbles - rocks smoothed by centuries of being tossed in the waves. Each is different - speckled granite eggs, sparkling mica-flecked stones, pebbles cris-crossed with bands of contrasting minerals. If I were to take a lesson from these, it would be that water is persistent. It works slowly, over time. It does not tire. It is always present, sometimes ebbing, sometimes flowing, but as constant as the cycles of the moon.
I wrote these thoughts down and left them for a while. Then, today, while reaching for a cup for my coffee, I saw the mug again, and wondered what it might mean to me today. It is the day before Thanksgiving, and I just finished making the brine in which I will soak our turkey overnight, after the mixture has steeped and cooled. Brine is water full of delicious things that mingle together to make something savory and wonderful. It imparts its flavor to the turkey and makes it juicier, more delectable. How can I be like this water, the brine? I could fill myself with good things - new skills, self-care, good thoughts - and then let them percolate for a while before imparting the other people with whom I connect. What flavor do I want to give the world around me? This is especially appropriate as the holiday season begins, because I'm starting a small initiative that I'm calling "Comfort and Joy," the purpose of which is to make the world a less stressful, friendlier place through small practical acts of consideration for others. (Stay tuned for more about that or look for #ComfortAndJoy on Twitter.)
In the weeks and months and years to come, I know that this mug will continue to provoke meditation upon the many things to be learned from water.
Be like water.
What does it mean to you, today?