“Interconnected,” by Vanessa
Outside, there are two girls hula hooping on the sidewalk. A boy with a guitar sits on the front stoop, singing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” A fresh, warm breeze blows across my face, accented by dew and fallen leaves, with a hint of an incoming rain shower.
I can only see the hula hoopers from their shoulders down. They do not speak. They rotate their bodies independently of each other, the bright plastic hoops spinning around their waists, chests, arms, and knees. They are barefoot on the sidewalk carpeted with leaves and fresh grass clippings. One wears jean shorts and a purple tank top; the other is dressed in a long brown skirt.
Now there are three or four other people outside with us. Do they know the hula hoopers, or are they here only to inhale the dulcet tones of the guitarist’s song? A gust of warm wind shifts the leaf cover on the sidewalk and rustles the autumnal patterned fabric of the girl’s skirt.
Without warning, I feel the cool kiss of rain on my forehead. I tilt my head to the night sky and begin to see the drops, made to diamonds under the pale streetlight, multiplying by the second. Looking over, the guitarist has begun to pack his guitar into the safety of its hard plastic case. He retreats to the dry apartment with the small crowd that had only just begun to form outside, and the dancers are left alone.
They do not break the rhythm of their dance. Spinning, swirling, slowly waltzing along the sparkling wetness of the sidewalk, their hair hangs in drenched strands and becomes plastered to their bare necks and arms. Their feet quickly become submerged in the gathering pools of water on the sidewalk; I can hear the gentle splash created by the contact of foot with the uniquely strong surface tension of water.
A small rivulet begins to flow down the edge of the sidewalk. Still hula hooping, the girl in the skirt dances over to it and stands with her right foot in the center of the current. The clear water, only occasionally highlighted by tiny fallen leaves, runs freely over her slim foot and continues toward the roaring storm drain just a few feet away.
Always with the plastic hoop spinning around her waist, the girl wearing the purple tank top raises her arms to the sky. I lower my head so that I can see her face, and I see that she is laughing. Her face is to the heavens, catching each raindrop that falls in her area and channeling it down her neck and back, eventually leading it to the tiny rivers and into the storm drain. Her eyes are closed but her mouth is open wide, showing two rows of gleaming teeth. Her cheeks are the color of apples, contrasted with the sun-bleached blond of her hair. Not once does the pouring rain cause her to miss a beat. She does not speak. She is simply dancing in the rain.
After the rain overcomes the barrier of her foot, it hurries down the sidewalk to the storm drain, a waffled plate of rusted metal. And then where does the water go? Does it disappear?
As stormwater moves through a landscape, it runs over each surface as it makes its way downhill toward its collecting body of water (usually a lake or river). Any suspendible particles, any sediment, any chemicals, fertilizers, excrement, or other substances can be transported in the stream of water. In the parking lot, I see the rainbow swirl of an oil leak from someone’s car. This too will make its path down the watershed.
Everything we do on this Earth is interconnected. When the suburban homeowner sprays fertilizers on his lawn to make it look welcoming and green, those fertilizers end up in our waterways. When the farmer’s well runs dry in the heat of summer, he can’t keep his children healthy and hydrated. When the mother of five in Nigeria is raped on her way home from collecting the day’s water supply, basic human rights are not being recognized. When my neighbor drives her SUV less than a mile to class every morning, she is idealizing the American notion that we choose our actions based upon the benefits we see rather than thinking about the long term. Every action has a reaction. The Sun rises because the Earth spins in orbit. We live because of the energy cast down from the sky. Every day makes each of us an older and wiser person.
The guitarist has returned to the front stoop. He is smoking a cigarette under the overhang of the apartment, watching the rain fall from the sky. He says something to one of the hula hoopers but she does not reply. The two are both transfixed by the steady pulsing of precipitation.
One last drag is drawn from the cigarette. He holds out the dying ember and catches a drop of rain on the end, quenching the orange glow. Examining the tip to ensure the flame is completely out, he throws it onto the sidewalk and lands it in the middle of one of the tiny rushing rivers. The dancer in brown grabs her hula hoop with one hand, stopping its motion for the first time that evening, and fishes the butt out of the stream with her other hand. Without a word, she marches over to the dumpsters across the street and throws it forcefully in. The world continues turning, and one less source of chemicals will find its way downstream.
This piece of prose was revised from a journal entry I had written for another class about watching two girls hula hooping outside my bedroom window. I combined that experience with a collection of my own experiences with watching rain fall and thinking about where stormwater goes after it disappears down storm drains.
I tried to make subtle yet relevant connections to our course material throughout the piece. I mentioned one of water’s unique qualities fairly early on: its ability to hold its surface tension amazingly well. The next connection I made was in talking about where stormwater goes after it begins its journey downstream, and how pollutants are collected along the way. The final major connection I made was about community and how each person’s actions affect the lives of others near and far. Overall, I tried my best to incorporate themes of appreciation for water and universal human connectedness.