Don't Sell The Water, My Friend

Colleen Fletcher Iceland Don't Sell The Water, My Friend

When we connect ourselves with the water we have inside of our bodies, the water we are surrounded with, and to the fundamental connections we have with each other, it’s easy to sense the connection, through water, we have with the earth and our humanness. These two stories you are about to read go beyond time, location and experience. Yet, both will teach you. They will teach you about perseverance, conservation, trusting, acting upon your individualism, and altruism as a connected part of worldwide humanity.  

Gullfoss, Iceland


Our first tale of water is the story of Sigridur Tómasdóttir and her fierce determination to protect the water of Gullfoss falls in Iceland. Her legend is one of perseverance, of conviction, of believing in something larger than herself. She was a steward for the Earth. She walked for what she believed in and held true to her convictions. All in a time when “environmentalism” wasn’t really a thing, and especially wasn’t a thing for women! The water shaped her, and she saved the water.

This history comes from the official Gullfoss website, Iceland travel, and Wikipedia (of course). Translated to “Golden Falls,” the Gullfoss waterfall is one of the most iconic and beloved in Iceland. Located in the Hvítá river canyon in south-west Iceland, it’s a popular tourist destination for those who want to stand in awe and take in its amazing beauty. It was also a source of controversy at the previous turn of the century.    

At the time, it was owned by farmer, Tómas Tómasson. In 1907, an English investor was interested in owning the falls and harnessing their power for energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant. Tómas declined his offer to purchase the land, stating “I will not sell my friend.”

His daughterSigridur Tómasdóttir, later became one of the champions of this waterfall, and Iceland’s first environmentalist. She was born in Brattholt, and grew up on her family’s sheep farm which contained the lands of Gullfoss. Tourism of this amazing waterfall has been dated back to 1875, as Sigridur and her sisters would guide visitors to the falls. Even building the first trails. By the beginning of the 20th century, financiers began leasing Gullfoss from her father, and ultimately, had plans to exploit the falls. When it appeared the investors were going to purchase the falls, Sigridur began her fight. She used her savings to hire a lawyer, who later became Iceland’s first president. She planned protests, and made several walking treks to the capital of Reykjavik (76 miles, 122 km away) to speak with government officials. She even walked barefoot in protest! She fought against some powerful and wealthy businessmen. And, when things got rough, she even threatened to throw herself over the falls if construction began. Though it ultimately failed in the legal system, her plan to save what she loved, gained positive attention. The lease contracts were cancelled and the area was eventually sold to the Icelandic government and officially protected in 1979.

The water transformed her. She grew up with it, it was her friend. She couldn’t stand to see her beautiful friend being taken advantage of. It was a part of her childhood, a part of her life, a part of her. So she took a stand. Like water - she persevered, sometimes just as a slow trickle to make her point. And the point she made. That of caring for her friend, the water and falls she loved.

She is now memorialized at the top of the falls for all to enjoy.

Be Water, My Friend

Our next tale of water is an EPIC quote from Bruce Lee that shows us a bit about his philosophy towards life, and self. It’s deep, and it poetically addresses the power of water in its ability to take on any shape and always be moving in its beautiful dance.  

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.  Be water, my friend.”

Do yourselves a favor and watch the video of Bruce Lee saying this quote. His charisma gives this quote its own life! 

Water is open and adaptable, and that’s where its power lies. Water is not stuck in one form. It makes its own way, forms its own path. Sometimes slowly, persevering and breaking through little by little. Sometimes crashing, like in the glorious waterfall we talked about earlier, Gullfoss. It’s all water. We are water. Ever-changing, ever-present, ever-growing…even from the smallest trickle or drop, water is moving.

According to the podcast about Bruce Lee, “Be Water, My Friend” his daughter, Shannon, tells the story of Bruce Lee finding his own way and learning what he needed from water. Though he did some acting as a child, he also studied and trained other disciplines...martial arts (obviously), fencing, even ballroom dance! Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco, and raised in Hong Kong. At age 18 he moved back to the US, to Seattle, Washington, where he obtained a degree in philosophy and continued his training and practice. After Green Hornet and a few other roles in Hollywood, he was told an Asian man could never be a leading part in that industry. So he flowed around it, and found another way. He returned to Hong Kong where he starred in a few major films, gained clout as an actor, and later returned to Hollywood a star where he would continue his acting career.

His daughter told of an important moment, early on in his martial arts training, where Bruce Lee connected with water. Bruce began his martial arts training with Wing Chun master, Yip Man, in Hong Kong, at age 13.  In his training, his master would constantly remind him not to be too rigid, to connect with movement, to flow. He told him that as a martial artist he should incorporate that into what he was doing. Bruce Lee didn’t get it, he didn’t understand, and he was angry. Drifting in a boat in the Hong Kong harbor, and feeling frustrated with himself, he smacked the water with his hand. The water moved out of the way. It emptied through his fingers. He couldn’t hurt it, he couldn’t grasp it. It was incredibly powerful, yet soft and supple.

And then he got it. Water was dangerous, powerful, and strong. But it wasn’t strong from being rigid, it was strong in its adaptability, in it's quiet awareness and reaction to its surroundings. So he incorporated that movement, and flow, to form his incredible style.  

Life is a flowing process, always active, always moving. In that, water can be a metaphor for our lives. Though sometimes trickling, and sometimes smashing, water gets to where it needs to go. In life, our ability to be open, to adapt, to move and change - that’s where our power lies.  

What We Learn

We learn so much from water, in all its forms. It moves slowly when needed, persevering to get where it needs to go. Crashes through walls to break down barriers. Bubbles like the sweet brook through the days. We, like water, need to embrace the movement. Allowing ourselves – our thoughts, our loves and passions, our actions, our bodies, to move like water. It’s not formed by where it once was, but by where it is now, by where it is going. It’s powerful in its perseverance, in its quietness. Water is strong in its ability to move. To give life and take life. Water is a vital part of our world, of our humanness, of our bodies. Without water we cannot survive. Water is you, water is me. Water is our world. Water is our friend. 

 Be a good friend! Be my friend, be your friend, be a friend to the earth, the rocks, the oceans, the streams, lakes and rivers, the trees, and to the animals. 

Tips to Care for Yourself and Water

  • Find what drives you - what will get you moving. Find passionate interests and hobbies.
  • Set your goals in caring for your whole being - physical, mental, educational, emotional - include them all!
  • Check into some new organizations, ones that care for the environment. Earth Overshoot Day


The Merging Of These Two Tales

The merging of these two tales of water teaches us to be determined, to be flexible, to be strong yet agile and graceful.  

Be like Sigridur Tómasdóttir - follow your course of strength to save what will benefit us all. Save and preserve the beauty and power of your natural surroundings. Be like her when there is change coming, and when care for the environment needs your voice.  

Be like Bruce Lee - move and flow with agile love of humanity and self. Trust in yourself. Drift around injustices. Be unburdened and adaptable.  

Be kind to yourself, to the environment. Allow the waters of existence to infuse you, as you shift through your life – with comfort and ease. Don’t sell yourself, be true to your inner being. Though these are two different concepts from different times and countries, water has the capacity to merge them all. We are all connected through time, through different geographical locations, as we marvel at the pure potentiality of water in our lives, in our bodies, and in our surroundings. We thrive.

 By caring for ourselves, we are caring for the planet. So, care for yourself! Care for the lands and seas. Care for Gaia. Care for each other. Do it without the violence, fear and greed that has led us to where we are now. Do it with conviction and ferocity, with love and balance for all.

Walk lightly with strength my friends. Walk in integrity, walk with love and kindness for injustice. Have a voice for those in need. Walk, and drink in the waters of well being for yourself, for your family, and for your community. 

As a side note. 

I am honoured to thank Keiri Elmore for her helping me in writing this piece. 10,000 Thank You's, Keiri. As I was standing at the top of Gullfoss, freezing cold, I was struck by not only the power of the falls, but by the story told of saving the falls from exploitation.

I had always known of the Bruce Lee quote. The powerful truth has molded me throughout life.

When I returned home from Iceland, I re-read the quote.  

Feeling the power of the quote with the memory of the falls, and the story of Sigridur Tómasdóttir in my mind, I saw the experiences merging into a deep connection. A deep connection of water, the world and of self. A moment where many worlds collided in my mind.

As happens when times like these occur in my life, I have the idea, and it is exploding, swirling around in my mind. My freight train of creativity, is a bitch of a blessing. The thoughts just need some guidance, from my mind, to paper.

It is an honour to call Keiri a friend, and I am very thankful for her support.

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