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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Prudence Is Not a Blue-eyed Blonde

“Imagine trying to live in a world dominated by dihydrogen oxide, a compound that has no taste or smell and is so variable in its properties that it is generally benign but at other times swiftly lethal. Depending on its state, it can scald you or freeze you. In the presence of certain organic molecules it can form carbonic acids so nasty that they can strip the leaves from trees and eat the faces off statuary. In bulk, when agitated, it can strike with a fury that no human edifice could withstand. Even for those who have learned to live with it, it is an often murderous substance.”

So writes Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything. He adds: “They call it water.” Water is a good example of something for which we can be unspeakably grateful, but with which we must be intensely careful.

Some years back when hiking alone in Yukon Territory’s Kluane National Park I was several miles into the bush and ran out of water on a scorching July day. My guidebook said there was an artesian spring a mile or so away, and I could actually see the designated hillside. What I hadn’t counted on was the rough terrain between me and the spring, so what I had estimated to be a half hour trek took more like an hour and a half. If there had been no bubbling spring there, I would have been in serious dehydration trouble. In my state of mind and body, I would have given you five hundred bucks for a liter of water. As it happened, when I reached the hillside I found clear, cool water filling a small depression into which I plunged my entire head. The only thing in the whole wide world I wanted at that moment was water . . . which was there and saved the day.

Lynn Creek runs down the mountains in North Vancouver and empties into Burrard Inlet, a coastal fjord in southwestern British Columbia. Hiking up the relatively shallow creek one eventually comes to a small waterfall (twenty-some foot drop) with an inviting pool at the base. There are nifty rocks alongside the waterfall which are perfect for jumping or diving into said pool. But there are signs all around the falls warning people to not do so, the reason being that there are whirlpools at the bottom which easily trap and drown creek jumpers. Several plaques embedded in rocks commemorate people who died there.

As the two examples above illustrate, water can bring life or death. It can be friend or foe. The moral: be careful.

Such it is with much of life. Be it water, fire, drugs, or relationships, one must be aware of all possible consequences, all possible benefits and/or dangers before making decisions and acting on them. Many a person has entered arid terrain with inadequate water . . . or jumped into a body of water without thoroughly checking out the situation beforehand.

Put simply, prudent decisions need be preceded by serious homework and followed by the use of one’s best judgment. Endeavoring to follow that prescription can lead to life-enhancing experiences. Neglecting that process can all too easily lead to dire consequences.

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