Moving From One Body of Water to Another Summary

Pam Houston


Pam Houston's "Moving From One Body of Water to Another" features one of the author's frequent protagonists, Lucy O'Rourke. While waiting to board her plane to the East Coast, Lucy meets Carlos Castaneda, the author of several books about shamanism. Lucy has just missed a flight to New York and is upset. Castaneda walks up to her, knows her name, and understands why she is angry. To remedy her anxious feelings, Castaneda tells Lucy that she needs to spend at least an hour a day in front of a large body of water as a meditation. He also tells her to look for a house to live in that has hardwood floors.

This serendipitous moment leads to others throughout the next few days. Lucy meets a taxi driver who relays another important message, and she has a chance encounter with a bike messenger who reinforces a lesson from one of Castaneda's shamanic philosophies. He tells her that if her beliefs are strong enough, anything can happen.

Because of these strange encounters, Lucy begins to believe that she has been dropped into some form of alternative reality in which she is receiving messages from the gods. Her senses are heightened as if she has taken a psychedelic drug, and she becomes lost in a dramatic sunset that lasts for hours as she flies back to the West Coast. She lands in Portland, Oregon, to one of that city's warmest February days on record. She walks along the beach, trying to figure out why the ocean waves appear taller there than at any other place on earth.

Carter, a man with whom she has recently begun a relationship, is the reason she is on the beach. He is an elusive man who describes his relationship with Lucy as being virtual, or not quite real. The two of them spend more time on the phone, as they both fly around the globe, than they do in physical contact with one another. While in Portland, Carter kisses Lucy for the first time, making their relationship a little more concrete. While kissing Carter, Lucy realizes that she loves him. But she also senses that her love will not last long.

In the meantime, her lawyer has informed Lucy that her deceased grandmother has left her a ranch in Colorado. The house sits sits at the edge of a wide river. Lucy's only question for the lawyer is if the house has wooden floors.

"Moving From One Body of Water to Another" was published in the collection Waltzing the Cat, which received rave reviews. Carolyn See, in her article in the Washington Post, referred to this collection of stories as being "fat with meaning."