Ben Chipman

United States

​Molecular Memories

October 5, 2018

PROMPT: Water Drop

I’ve endured this journey many times, yet each experience has taught me new truths about the world. Some call me wise, but I know better. I’ve simply been on Earth for a short moment. Despite this, I’ve had more time than any organism to learn the world’s secrets. Throughout my brief 4.6 billion years of existence, I have only traversed Earth’s atmosphere for about 4.5 billion of those years, so I am hardly an expert. Nevertheless, I do have a fair understanding regarding my journey. I, a humble, old water molecule, have spent most of my recent years around Boston, Massachusetts— an area I’ve come to know as home.
Of late, I have been graced with an opportunity to pause. I rest graciously in the darkness of the Charles River Watershed, along the intersection of Medway and Myrtle Street in Norfolk, Massachusetts. Comprised of four matching gravel-packed wells, the Charles River Watershed has come far from its adulterated, toxic past, appearing more like an underground resort and spa preparing us for our extensive journey ahead. Soon, I, along with all of the molecules that lay waiting to be sent throughout Norfolk to spew forth from faucets, would leave this watershed and find my way through miles of piping to industrial holding tanks, sanitization centers, pump stations and, eventually, into the immense homes of the humans.
This transfer is truly my favorite part about the trek, particularly coming from this watershed. Following fifty-seven miles of piping from the Charles River Watershed to the the sanitization plant, all of the molecules surge through the underground channels, carefree and eagerly anticipating our sterilization. Upon reaching this station, we all clamor to adhere to the metals that contain us and cohere to one another, knowing that we will soon be infiltrated by alkaline compounds designed to reduce our corrosive properties against the humans’ household plumbing. Nevertheless, there is no evading this permeation of sodium hydroxide, and soon we are blinded by radiant ultraviolet light, eradicating our ranks of the bacterias that lurk in our depths and the residual copper and lead that we’ve all collected throughout our journey. Finally, before arriving at the pump station to part ways with one another, we face chlorination, ensuring the safety of those whom we are going to serve.
It is a somber, yet excited goodbye. Constantly unsure of the mission that will befall us, each molecule ventures out onto their next assignment, bending at the whim of the pump. Once launched, we scatter throughout the underground labyrinth, finding our way into homes, offices, hospitals, restaurants, pools or other fascinating creations of human ingenuity that lay dispersed throughout Norfolk’s charming suburban community.
Once we drip from our faucet, our task is done. Thenceforth, our process enters its denouement. Each molecule reminisces about its prior expeditions while cascading down the piping into underground septic tanks. Upon our arrival in the tanks, we hurriedly escape the vile obsidian-like sludge and seep into the surrounding leach fields. Entering the porous soil that encompasses us, all the molecules must say goodbye again, spreading out more and more over the unsaturated soil. Here, we travel through the soil, embracing percolation as we descend deeper into the earth where we will rest as wastewater. Here we stay until other means bring us to our next location. Oftentimes, after a Norfolk-based journey, I find myself flowing along the banks of the Charles River, floating in Mirror Lake, or sometimes even maneuvering my way into the Stony Brook Conservation wetlands. Regardless of where I end up, it is never a dull adventure.
Any water molecule will experience a wide array of journeys throughout their life, but I believe it would be a shame if one never got the opportunity to experience the journey originating through the glamorous the Charles River Watershed.


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  • October 5, 2018 - 10:23am (Now Viewing)

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