That Sinking Feeling
(Published in Olympia Power & Light February 2016)



Olympia’s downtown has its issues.  It just cannot seem to fulfill its potential and become a place worthy of its title as state capital.  I’m constantly amazed at how many locals almost proudly remark that they never go downtown.  They might allude to the parking or the homeless but I get the distinct impression there’s something else at play in their automatic contempt.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Olympia and water lately.  Olympia’s city core was built amidst a lot of the wet stuff.  Not just Budd Inlet but the original Deschutes estuary that made the downtown look engulfed in mud or water most the time before a dam was built in the 1950’s.

But it’s not just the water sitting around us that’s remarkable.  What about all that water flowing beneath the streets of downtown?  A 1940 survey found that there were 96 artesian wells in the city bubbling up in a perpetual splash.  Along with the dam came further development and over the years nearly every one of these natural spring wells have been abandoned, capped or paved over.   But as anyone with a basement in low country during the rainy season knows, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the effects of water nearby.

And what is the hidden effect of all this water sloshing nearby and beneath us Olympians, despite our best efforts to control, ignore or hide it?  

There are those who believe what stretch of the earth you live on can have a significant effect on how well you thrive as a human.  Those who study geopathic stress, a form of ancient Feng Shui philosophy, believe underground water streams make those living above them miserable.  It’s got to do with how subterranean running water disturbs the earth’s natural magnetic fields which we as humans are accustomed to leaving near.  We evolved over time with these fields and we are suited to live most happily where they are unfettered, or so the theory goes.  If you give any of this credence then, with nearly 100 spots downtown where once you could effortlessly tap a potent well, we Olympians have got a lot of disturbance to contend with just below our fair city.

Is our city really built on an unstable foundation, or worse yet, one that is actually destabilizing and fundamentally off-putting to human activity?  Bummer.  All of this might just be a lot of woo woo, but if there’s any truth to it, it sure gives the phrase “It’s the Water” new meaning.