Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dave Pederson - The Many Ways of ‘Knowing’ Water

Dave Pederson lives on the Middle Fork of the Crow River above the New London mill pond in beautiful Kandiyohi County. He serves as the Executive Director at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and has enjoyed designing and facilitating adventure learning programs for nearly 40 years. Dave has loved being on water and in water for as long as he can remember.

Last night the river gently invited me out of my house, slowed me down, and quieted my thoughts as it often does. Slipping a canoe into flat calm water at the end of the day, watching the last reflections as the sun sets, is a great way to calm a busy mind. The circular motion of my paddle, a familiar meditation, helps me to reflect upon the day and important events of the past.      

On this particular evening my thoughts turned to co-instructors and companions on wilderness trips in decades past. I remember Skip, my co-guide on a canoe trip in the White Otter Wilderness Area of Canada, floating contentedly at the end of day, seemingly oblivious to what I thought was really cold water. Skip had quietly offered tobacco in a ritual at the beginning of the trip and would periodically share his thoughts as an Ojibwe man, father, Vet, and prankster. His dry, impish humor could double me over with laughter but in this moment, Skip’s sincerity was obvious. With just his head sticking out of the water, he spoke: “Dave, you know that when you are in the water, you are connected to all the water in the world. The water in this lake flows into a stream to the river to the ocean. We are connected to water in the sky and in the ground. Water connects all things.”  

It was obvious that Skip was not delivering a lecture on hydrology; he also was not asking a question. With the conviction of a door-knocking missionary he was sharing his direct experience of feeling “connected” on a deep level and a particular way of “knowing” in that moment, and that moment was important enough for me that I clearly recall it some 35 years later.

There are many ways of “knowing” water. We all have water stories to tell. This summer Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and our 18 project partners are excited to work with the Minnesota Humanities Center and the Smithsonian Institution to employ music, art, history, storytelling, science, and direct experience to help raise our collective awareness, appreciation, celebration of, and concern for water. You are all invited to join us at Prairie Woods for an opening celebration of the Water/Ways exhibit in Minnesota on Saturday, June 25th at 10:00 am. And do plan to come back on July 2nd for a free concert at 10:30 am by the family-friendly, bluegrass and roots duo, the Okee Dokee Brothers.

Water! To know it is to love it. Share your story.

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