Posted by: chrismaser | August 5, 2013



A Journey Through The Metaphors Of Childhood And Maturity


Chris Maser


The first ditch was probably an idle scratch in the surface of the ground made by some child playing in a puddle of water after a rain or perhaps along a stream on some faraway afternoon in the dim past of humanity. The child had no grand scheme in mind while digging the little trench that allowed water to flow where it was to where it would not otherwise have gone. It was a simple, innocent act with no outcome intended, but once the outcome became clear, the next little ditch had a purpose—to see if water would behave the same a second time, and then a third, and then to see how far water would follow a ditch, and so on. With each experiment, the inquisitive, beginner’s mind of the child enriched the child’s knowledge of cause and effect and thereby gave the child a sense of control over water within the bounds of specific circumstances, circumstances that would be continually tested to find their limitations.

Somewhere in time a man or a woman had a budding idea and then the conscious thought of leading water from one place to another for a specific purpose—a purpose beyond play and mere curiosity. That one thought, that one experiment in the control of water for a specific, practical end, forever changed the world and humanity’s relationship to it. With the first purposeful ditch, water became a commodity that could be owned, as well as moved from place to place, stored, bought and sold, stolen, and fought over, thus leading to the concept of water rights: who had the first “right” to get the available water, how much, when, where, and for how long. With control of water, land became more and more valuable to individuals, family groups, communities, and ultimately to the nations of the world.

As the first ditch became the many ditches, it allowed humanity and plants and animals to live in places that had previously been uninhabitable by those who needed water in close proximity. It helped give rise to agriculture and eventually led to such feats of engineering as the Suez and Panama Canals, each of which physically connects one ocean with another. The first ditch irrevocably altered humanity’s view of itself, its sense of society, and its ability to manipulate Nature.

And that first ditch, the precursor to the ditch of my childhood, connects me with all children who have ever stopped to examine, create, or play in a ditch even to the child who made the first ditch by scratching the surface of the ground, thereby leading a trickle of water from one place to another. And I suspect that as long as there are children and ditches, the lure of the ditch will prevail, even with “grown-up” children, like myself.

. . .

Once again, the ditch taught and the pond reflected the same lesson—the more attached to material things we humans become, the more we focus on losing them, the more we cling to what we have, the more we become obsessed with attempting to predict emotionally comfortable outcomes in the face of uncertainty (which is the only certainty in material life), the more out of control we become. This is but saying that I consciously learned from the pond as an adult what I had not learned from the ditch as a child: namely, that all of life participates in the perfect spatial-temporal unity of the Cosmos, and all of life is unpredictable and exquisitely interdependent within that unity.


“This deeply philosophical memoir closely examines that place in all of us where the human world intersects with the natural one. His respect and awe for all life is, in Chris Maser's case, a true measure of the man. Read this book. It's for everyone who has ever had a friend or planted a garden.”—Virginia White, Writer and Teacher (former Biologist), Institute for Extended Learning, Community Colleges of Spokane, Washington.

“This marvelous book takes us on a deep journey, from the close, rapt attention of a child’s eye to the long view of life on this planet. It shows us a true way to connect, through the path of inquisitiveness, to our world and our selves.”—Barbara Bash, Author, calligrapher, illustrator, and teacher, Accord, NY.

Of Ditches and Ponds is a call to remembrance, nested in the ordinary, wondrous landscape of Life. With a naturalist’s eye for detail and a philosopher’s gift of reason, Chris Maser maps the interconnectedness and the moral beauty of earthly forms. A journey of time and space, a memoir of self and matter, this is an inspiring read.”—Doreen Valentine, Acquisitions Editor for Rutgers University Press, Piscataway, NJ; writer; and mother.

Of Ditches And Ponds: A Journey Through The Metaphors Of Childhood And Maturity. Woven Strings Publishing, Amarillo, TX. (2004) 184 pp.

If you want more information about this book or want to purchase it, visit “BOOKS” on my website.

Text and Photo © by Chris Maser 2013. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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