Saturday, September 19, 2009


Sitting in a floating house on the Willamette River recently, I was thinking about floating. Then watching the elegant glide of swans on the waters at Sun Valley this week, I was again thinking about floating. It's astounding, really, that a form with weight and substance can perch on the surface of a very permeable entity like water. Why doesn't gravity just pull floating forms toward earth's core?

Well, it's all about buoyancy, I learned. Archimedes discovered and articulated the principle centuries ago: "Any body wholly or partially immersed in a fluid experiences an upthrust equal to, but opposite in sense to, the weight of the fluid displaced." I learned that an object will sink in water if its density is greater than the density of water and will float if its density is less than water. Same thing with helium and hot air balloons: they rise when their contents (helium or heated air) are less dense than the surrounding air. That makes sense to me.

Thinking about floating and buoyancy made me think about life. Some folks I know are really buoyant, able to bob along over the turbulence of daily living, looking as serene as those Sun Valley swans. I think of my incredible uncle, taking in stride cancer, loss of his beloved bride after 60+ years together, cancer, and other health struggles. Buoyant, that's what he is. When you visit with him, he's vibrant, fun, and totally focused on making you feel you're one of the most important dignitaries he's ever met. He floats above life's trials, his density being more ethereal than that of those trials.

Buoyancy also makes me think of a stunning girl friend of mine. When her employer was shattered by devestating, demoralizing cuts and demands to reduce staffing, she was buoyant. She maintained her serenity, soothed her employees, and took a hard hit herself to minimize the impact of the cuts on them. Buoyant, that's what she is. When you visit with her, she's charismatic, beautiful, and totally focused on making your encounter extra special.

I try to be buoyant but it's not always easy. Sometimes I can just bob along over the swirling waters of tribulation, my eye on the goal, my body tuned into what must be done. I think I was like that while caring for my husband as his illness demanded its tithe. Caring for him became my life's work: it was essential that I remained serene and focused on his comfort. After he was gone, though, the buoyancy diminished. Getting through trials became more of a struggle and I fear I haven't always personified serenity.

Floating...making sure that my density is lighter than that of my something I'll keep working on. I like the idea of looking like a swan.


  1. Please know that I've never questioned your density! Love your way with words and pictures. A treat for my eyes, ears and heart. Thank you.