After being left to explore, I couldn’t help but notice many things that characterized this “place,” Westhampton Lake. I looked at the water itself, in the shallow portion of the stream after the waterfall near the road. It was not terribly polluted or discolored in any way; it was the familiar color of countless other bodies of water that I had seen throughout my life. As I walked along the stream nearing the lake, I noticed a solitary Styrofoam cup floating near the opposite bank. Perhaps dumped by a passing car, maybe blown by the wind? As I walked further I saw the stream feed into the lake. This small stream became this expansive body of water. I noticed the hue of the water from a distance, now somewhat browner, maybe a bit murkier. Standing in the parking lot, looking through the trees I spotted a few more bits of litter in the water; they were nothing more than amorphous blobs of debris from that distance, but I noticed that they seemed to be all piled together in the center of the lake.
After scrounging the area of the lake for the little details I started to think, but not about the litter or any sense of pollution that I felt the lake was characteristic of. Instead, I looked back, back to the beginning of my “exploration” of the lake: the concrete waterfall. That portion of the stream was clearly built, manufactured by humans. I thought then about the opposite side of the lake, where the dam is behind the Commons. That was manufactured too. After this point, I began to think of Westhampton Lake as a project, an experiment, maybe. A project by human beings, seeing whether or not they could control such a large amount of water in a single place. The waterfall and the dam were both means to achieve the goal of that project. Whoever wanted to control all that water obviously succeeded in their project. They birthed Westhampton Lake as it is today.
Does this mean that the water in the lake has any less importance or necessity to the surrounding watershed, simply because it has been diverted, corralled? No. Maybe the effects of the water’s control are noticeable on the watershed, but the water is still the same. We can still recognize where the water is, how it behaves, and where it flows. But our sense of the water as a whole, not just the lake with a name, is also greatly shaped by the ways we find to control it.