The Watershed

By Greg Baer M.D.

April 24, 2018

Behind our house runs Beech Creek. It’s not a big creek. In the summer, in fact, it can run completely dry, but sometimes in the winter—when we have the heaviest rains—it can run very high, flowing over the bridge and even up to the foundation of the house.

The other day, when the water flow was moderate, I put my kayak in and began a downstream journey. In my four-mile journey I crossed over seven beaver dams, and had to portage around two logjams. It was a strenuous journey, partly because of the obstacles and partly because the flow of the river was slow and caused me to scrape the bottom in many places.

I had assumed that after four miles of paddling, the creek would flow with considerably more volume, because as rivers flow downstream, they pick up the contributions of smaller creeks, as well as the water runoff from the surrounding land. All the land that contributes its water to a given river is called the watershed for that particular river. The Mississippi River, for example, is enormously larger at the Gulf of Mexico than it is in the tiny streams that create its beginnings, because its total watershed, from beginning to end, is 1.25 million square miles, all or parts of 31 states and 2 Canadian provinces.

After paddling for four miles, however, even though I had the advantage of roughly sixteen square miles more watershed than at the point where I began—twelves times the area of Central Park in New York City—the volume of the creek was not appreciably larger. I was impressed by how much land, or watershed, is required to create a creek or river.

A similar phenomenon can be seen in our lives. Just as every drop of rain—in ground-soaked conditions—eventually makes its way to the river downhill from it, so all our experiences and decisions make their way into the creation of who we are and what we can do. In order to create the power of a significant river—emotionally and spiritually speaking—a great number of experiences, risks, and decisions are involved. Sometimes we get impatient about our progress, but we need to remember how great our emotional watershed must be in before we can expect our river to reach the size where we can, for example, easily float small and then larger boats.

Every experience, every decision, is a drop of rain. Each drop may not be impressive, but if we gather them together and join with the watersheds of other people, we can create a mighty force indeed, capable of carrying enormous vessels and irrigating vast expanses of dry land downstream.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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