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Dropping our bags, we free our feet from shoe prisons and survey the room. Beige walls, tan carpet, white sheets. Nice, nice, we say, patting the beds and looking for open outlets to charge our devices.  We espy a small balcony through the slats of the window blinds and hope for a glimpse of the final rays of the day.

We swing open the back door, then fall back on our heels, blasted by a most unlikely assailant: the roar of a raging river. White foam shoots like fireworks over great boulders, aquamarine threads pinball around lesser adversaries before pooling into a more polite assembly advancing on down the sandy riverbed.

Have we stepped into a holodeck? We reside in bone-dry Los Angeles where we celebrate every bead of falling water. A torrent of this magnitude must be CGI, an invention of Pixar Studios. We close the door and open it again, only to be astounded once more. We shake our heads. What is the meaning of this extravagant display of water?

The thunder in our ears and spray on our cheeks finally convince us this tour de force is real. We squeal and clap our hands like children finding their first egg hidden by a benevolent bunny. Who placed this wonder here for our surprise and delight? We flop into deck chairs to consider, to relish every moment of this spectacular.

As floods fly by, on and on and on, the realization dawns that this water show doesn’t end at 10 pm or when the park closes. This is not a pageant, not an exposition invented for our entertainment. The fevered pitch of the river, the heft of these boulders and the hardiness of the oaks lining the banks, evidence forces quite indifferent to the presence of humans. We feel privileged for this glimpse of the world beyond the vast influence of our kind.

Gravity, erosion, deposition, freeze, thaw, pollination, germination, transpiration, these processes, put into motion long before our species even evolved, have been shaping the face of this planet for eons. This is Earth, naked in her boudoir: exfoliating, grooming, reshaping her own skin. We suddenly wonder if we are intruders on a private affair, like peeking into a neighbor’s windows unbidden.

A great splash sends fresh spray across our faces, and we realize we’re not bystanders after all. “Stop thinking you’re somehow apart and separate from the basic functions, the day-to-day operations of the world, silly humans” that spray seemed to say. Our hearts swell to be included in this gushing miracle.

We pour a glass of wine, prop our heels up on the deck railing and settle in. River’s not going anywhere tonight, and, for now, neither are we.

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