I am as enthralled and enchanted with the American Water Dipper as John Muir once was. Indeed it was his favorite bird.
This demure brown bird about the size of a robin lives in cold mountain streams and near waterfalls. It is so incredibly at home in the water – more so than even ducks which often come back to land. Their very complex and always unique song is akin to a parrot in its language. But unlike other birds, it seems the Water Dipper sings to the river itself or simply because it cannot contain its ecstastic love for the flowing water. You can’t even hear its song that well because it is so interwoven with the gurgles and crash of rapids and waterfalls. It can usually be heard from above the stream bank a little easier.
John Muir was enraptured with the bird because it seems to retain its joyous happiness even in the darkest and coldest winters when all other animals are hunkered down wishing for spring. The Water Dipper reminds us that we can be at home anywhere – even the harshest environments. To be happy and live in joy no matter how damp, grey and “dreary” that others bemoan. To be one with your environment. To be in love with the elements.
It’s understandable when animals love each other within the same species. It’s precious when animals love other species, such as when a dog mothers a fawn. But it is downright profound to behold animals in love with elements within Nature. I’ve seen this by the way a dying bee clings to a clover flower such that I was overcome by the realization of how much love the bee had towards the flower. How much comfort and joy flowers brings to this insect. I’ve seen cows and horses leap with glee upon being put out to pasture. In love with open spaces and green grasses. I’ve seen my crow, Keiko, appreciate the colors of the setting sun. I’ve seen birds of all kind do the “rain dance” when misted by rain. A dance of wild ecstasy. But the greatest love, comfort and joy I’ve seen in an animal is the Water Ouzel with water.
So at home in the water, I wondered if perhaps it originated from water itself. Perhaps the droplets of water congealed with divinity to give rise to the Water Dipper. But when I considered this more I realized perhaps the Water Ouzel manifested from the river stones instead.
Indeed when searching for the Water Ouzel, it is hard to differentiate between the rocks. It is the same color, same size, same shape as the stones they hop upon.
Besides the beautiful voice, another notable feature of the Water Ouzel is how it bobs its body up and down. Bouncing in a motion like a child excited to begin. I’m reminded of the shaking motion we do in Qi Gong to move energy and break up stagnation.
Perhaps – I wonder – the water dipper manifested from the river rocks. Animated by the love they have for its flowing companion of water. Perhaps it can only remain in bird form for as long as it sings its song and dips its body up and down. For if they forget to sing and dance they’re sure to transform back into the rocks they came from.
Maybe we can take note from the water ouzel. Maybe we loose our vitality when we forget to sing and dance. Maybe we loose our magic when we fail to see the joy of our life and environment.
Give love to the elements. Dance in the rain. Let the sunsets move you to tears. Let wind whisper sweetness to your ears. Let the smell of forest and desert remind you of something which will never be explained. Be held by nature as you behold its timeless splendor.