The Ways of Water

by Laura Parker Roerden

As a child, we had a hand pump
over an artesian well
by a white, double-decker chicken barn.

It was the only water
for hundreds of birds
growing on that land.

The pump required
several hard thrusts
of the handle to raise the water

like spirit, to the surface.

Then each long,
resistance laden
pull of its arm brought up

a triumph of water;
a river

into a galvanized bucket

foam and mist
in confusing and thrilling planes

that felt like rafting on whitewater.

Everything in the dim eastern
light would turn
silver and metallic,
reflective and animated

like balls of mercury
jump around a bathroom floor
when you drop
a thermometer.

The pump had long ago
been painted dark green,
but it had weathered

with flecks of peeling paint
gathered on the creaky boards capping
the well below;

the patterns held my imagination
while I pumped
the water,

drawing in the cold
air, with each long pull.

“Learn the ways of water,”
I was told

one morning

and I listened,

plunging my hand into the icy
bucket, as if the winter air was finally
ready to explain itself to me,

as if the every day
need of water

carried a promise
I had not yet


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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.


Scholarship Opportunity: Do You Know a Florida Teen Who Wants to Make a Splash for the Ocean?

Calling all creative Florida teens who want to make a splash on behalf of the world’s oceans! Ocean Matters is proud to announce a partnership with the prestigious Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, which is generously providing one full scholarship ($3,500 value) to an Ocean Awareness Contest applicant from Florida to participate in our Ocean Matters’ Florida Marine Ecology Expedition, June 19-29, 2020!

Artwork by Hana Choi, 14, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest participant.

The Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition combines five days with Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the west coast of Florida with another five days in Key Largo with the Coral Restoration Foundation (TM) on the east coast, giving teens a broad experience of the integrated issues impacting the watershed and ocean. Students will earn open water scuba certification, participate in a coral restoration project, learn about manatee, turtle, and dolphin conservation from researchers in the field, and gain skills to make a difference in our changing world.

The applicant must apply to both the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest with a piece of art (visual art, film, music, poetry, prose, or interactive & multimedia) that addresses this year’s theme of “Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis” and to the Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition to be considered. You need not win an award in the Ocean Awareness Contest, however, to be awarded this need-based scholarship for the Ocean Matters expedition.

“Amazing trip! So thankful for everything—the experiences, scuba certification, the friends I’ve made. This has honestly been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life—will never foget it! I’m so sad that it’s come to an end.” — Ellie Siney, Florida Marine Ecology Expedition 2019.

“I got to help fix what was falling apart.” — Josh Fields, Florida Marine Ecology Expedition 2019

“This program has been the most impactful week of my life. Thank you so much!” — Sophie Sharp, Florida Marine Ecology Expedition 2019

About Bow Seat

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides a global platform for teens to create and communicate for the blue planet. Bow Seat’s programming engages youth in learning about ocean issues through art-making; amplifies their voices to advance environmental awareness and action; and empowers them to become cultural changemakers.

Artwork by Sydney Prescott, 14, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest participant.

How to Apply to the Scholarship & Deadlines
To be eligible for this need-based scholarship, students must submit to the Ocean Awareness Contest with a piece of original art and opt-in to the award on the submission form by March 1, 2020, AND apply separately to Ocean Matters by March 15, 2020.

The Ocean Matters Award recipient will be notified by April 1, 2020.

Rules & Eligibility

  • Students must be a resident of Florida, currently enrolled in high school, and at least 15 years old by the start of the program.
  • Students must be able to swim 200 yards comfortably and tread water for 10 minutes to be able to participate in the Florida Marine Ecology Expedition.
  • Students must submit to Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest and opt-in to the Ocean Matters Award on the submission form by March 1, 2020.
  • Students must apply separately, and be admitted, to the Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition program by March 15, 2020. Eligible students must demonstrate merit and need on the Ocean Matters application to be considered for the scholarship.
  • While it is our policy not to share email addresses with third parties, students who opt in to this award agree to have their email address shared with the Ocean Matters team solely for the purposes of this scholarship.
  • Student submissions (Visual Art, Film, Interactive & Multimedia, Music, Poetry, or Prose) to the Ocean Awareness Contest will be reviewed by the Ocean Matters Award selection committee. Students who do not receive the Ocean Matters Award are still eligible to earn a prize in the Ocean Awareness Contest.
  • The award winner will be required to complete Bow Seat’s Affidavit of Eligibility/Liability Release.
  • The full program scholarship includes all scuba equipment and certification, instruction, food, lodging, and materials. Travel to and from home to Clearwater, FL is not included.
  • The award winner agrees to write a blog post about their Ocean Matters experience for publication on the Bow Seat blog.
Artwork by Hannah Jones, 16, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest participant.

Questions & Contact
For questions about applying for this scholarship, please contact For more information about the Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition, visit, or contact All scuba related questions should be directed to

Please help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity for a Florida teen! Sharing is caring.