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Slices of Life: A daily treasure hunt -- for water

Everyday treasures are sitting in plain sight all around us all the time, just waiting for us to take notice. Just waiting for us to remind ourselves, (in the words of David Foster Wallace) “This is water.”

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler
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I think a lot about perspective. I’ve even touched on the topic from time to time. But today, I stumbled across a new take on it. (Stumbled being the operative word. Isn’t it funny—in a not-so-funny-way—how life is a series of stumbles sometimes?)

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Each of our days is filled with moments. They string together to make up the whole. Minutes. Hours. Days. Weeks. Years. Decades. Lifetimes. And so on.

We can trudge through them, as I’ve often been known to do. One day after the other. They blend together to the point that one isn’t distinguishable from the next. Day after day after week after year.

Let’s put that perspective on pause and return to a wonderfully open time in life known as childhood. It’s a time of play and pretend, when make-believe is real and entities like a large bunny and a white bearded man leave treasures for you—just because.

During childhood, each day is like a treasure hunt, with something new and magical ready to discover at every turn of the corner. Moment by moment.


What if we, as adults, lived life as though it was a treasure hunt, with us noticing the treasures and many miracles put before us each day?

I may have lost you at miracles. Let me explain it in another way.

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There is an essay by the late writer David Foster Wallace that moves me every time I read or listen to it. I’ll do my best to summarize, but I’ll include a link at the end of this column and I encourage you to check it out because he was so much more eloquent than I could ever be.

Wallace starts his story with three fish. The elder swims by the two younger fish and asks, “How’s the water?”

The two younger fish keep swimming and soon one turns to the other and asks, “What the hell is water?”

The crux of the message is that the fish are so busy with whatever fish get busy with that they have lost sight of the simple fact that they are living and breathing in water. In a sense, they are lost.

It is deafeningly sad. To be so adrift and unaware of your circumstances you don’t even realize you are immersed in it.

Part of Wallace’s message is about losing sight of the moment—the very “water” we are living in and breathing—to such an extent that we don’t even understand what water is anymore. We forget what it is like to appreciate the water—that it sparkles in the sunlight and reflects all of life around it. That it moves and flows like life itself. That it laps at the shore and over time smooths and changes rocks, glass and even the shoreline itself. We don’t notice when it is cool and invigorating or warm and relaxing because we’ve stopped paying attention. Not just to water, but to life itself.


Life can be mundane—or not. It is our choice. We all are surrounded by our own version of water, and whether we choose to be bored by the pettiness and meaninglessness or awed in wonder of the many daily miracles is our choice.

We can approach every day as a treasure hunt, looking for the magic and beauty in our surroundings: the very miracle of breathing. Or we can see it all as the same-old same-old: as monotonous and humdrum as breathing.

Does all this come across as a platitude? Perhaps. But I also think it is reality.

Life is what we make of it. Awareness is simple, but awesome, if you make it so.

Everyday treasures are sitting in plain sight all around us all the time, just waiting for us to take notice. Just waiting for us to remind ourselves, (in the words of David Foster Wallace) “This is water.”

“This is water.”

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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