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Author says science and art express power of water

Posted on Mar 4, 2020, by

By Dave Horst, Donor Services and Environmental Grants Manager

What is it about water?

Author Wallace J. Nichols brought his message of the calming and healing power of enjoying or viewing bodies of water to Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance’s 2020 Watershed Celebration last week at Bubolz Nature Center. The conference draws engineers, municipal officials, regulators, researchers and other water management professionals from across the Midwest.

Nichols spoke to about 200 attendees of the two-day conference earlier in the day and about 75 people at the public evening gathering. Nichols appeared thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation’s Bright Idea Fund.

Wallace J. Nichols

Nichols, who holds a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology and evolutionary biology, wrote “Blue Mind,” which looks at the science behind our fascination with water and its healing effects on us.

Nichols is no stranger to northeast Wisconsin. His adoptive mother lives in the Green Bay area. He visits every summer to take her to her reunion at Preble High School.

The national public speaker stuttered as a child. He overcame it, he said, when “I figured out I needed to be able to express the things I cared about.”

Nichols cited a list of popular songs like Lyle Lovett’s “If I had a Boat” as testimony to the importance of water. So many movies feature water that it deserves a lifetime achievement Oscar, he said.

“This is not a new concept. This is not a country music concept,” he said, offering the 23rd Psalms’ promise that lying down beside still waters will restore your soul as proof.

He insisted studies that look at the emotions associated with water are as complex and rigorous as any neurological research. “It’s usually the hardest science in the room,” he said.

He spoke of the state of peace and happiness that comes from water as blue mind. The rushed, manic state we too often find ourselves in is red mind and they breakdown that can follow as grey mind. Red mind can be productive and useful, he said, as long as we get out on the water and escape to blue mind periodically.

Nichols passed out blue marbles as a symbol of blue mind and sign of gratitude to pass along to someone else.

If you need advice on this subject, Nichols points to a classic.

Go row your boat down a stream, gently and merrily, merrily, merrily.


Want to help bright ideas burn even brighter? Learn how to get involved as a donor, or learn how to apply for a Bright Idea grant as a nonprofit organization. Check out our current Bright Idea Fund results from 2019 – 2020!

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