“A more intimate relationship with nature offers the potential for us to develop a level of commitment that far surpasses actions motivated by moral concerns, ethics, guilt and fear, all of which can just as easily demoralize as motivate.”
“To save ourselves and this irreplaceable planet, we must embrace humility, receptivity and a willingness to learn from even the most humble creatures.”
– excerpted from upcoming book I Am Coming Home On the Wind by Deborah Frances.
Lately I’ve been going to pray by the lake. it’s odd finding myself there. it is not a place I have formerly ever chosen to go. Humanly created, the lake was formed when the creek was damned to create a reservoir for irrigation. When I first visited the place, over forty years ago, it was a desolate spot. I never felt entirely safe there and once, as if to confirm my queasy uneasiness about the place, a woman I know was abducted and held for three days while running out near the lake, not a coincidence where the wounds from abduction and rape of the land were still so raw.
But the lake is different now. A water slide draws people in who never visited much before and they’ve added a playground with slides and swings for the children, the swings serving children of all ages I’ve noticed. There are picnic tables and campgrounds and local folks come regularly now to row on the lake.
Interesting how the appreciation of the lake has shifted the energy of the place. The whole area has a different feel. The presence of humans actively caring for, appreciating and enjoying the lake and the land surrounding it has helped heal the violence once done to the land.
I keep writing of the natural world as if we humans are separate from Nature, but in actuality, the separation is artificial, no more than a manifestation of collective soul loss that has cut us off from the ability to recognize the sentience of other living beings, to see the vitality, the aliveness of the Earth and ALL her children.
As I sit at the edge of this lake, doing my ceremonies for the Water, I wonder how this Water feels about being blocked up, unable to flow and I wonder how the Earth feels, having been reshaped without her permission.
Irrigation draws water from the lake all summer so by fall, the water levels are way down, the shoreline retreated so far from where it was in spring that the lake looks contracted. The land surrounding the lake, the part covered in water in spring, is a barrier wasteland of odd prickly plants, a monoculture of weird vegetation I haven’t seen anywhere else in Southern Oregon. The lake begins to be slimy with algae, no longer so safe or inviting for swimming.
And I wonder again how the land feels about all this, and how the water feels about being contained and stagnant. So I ask.
I do my water ceremonies here. I set up my altar. I call in m helping spirits and I invite Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. I pray, I listen, I feel, I ask. I marvel at the regeneration that’s taken place even though there is this large span of barrenness surrounding the autumn sliminess of the emptied lake. I see how the influx of people using the lake in joy and for fun, receiving nourishment from her, appreciating her has helped heal something here. I feel the land and the lake soaking up the appreciation like an orphan child starved for love and I am struck by how forgiving the Water and the Earth are willing to be, despite the ignorant hubris and sense of entitlement that allowed for the damns to be built without ever asking the land, the Water, the trees, the plants or the microbes in the soil if they were willing to sacrifice their ways of living or their very lives so we humans could water our fields.
In the language of dreams, water is an aspect of the Feminine. Water is emotion cascading softly over rocks in creeks that delight or move powerfully as white water in rivers that rush to the sea. Water emotes in the pounding surf of the seas, gentle sprinkles of rain or torrential downpours that fill the land.
Mni wiconi waste, we say in Lakota. Water is life and life is good.
I don’t know that the Water always minds being damned or that the Earth necessarily objects to being reshaped in all times and places. After all beavers damn creeks and moles and voles constantly stir up the soil. But we need to ask. We need to re-member ourselves to remember that the Earth and the Water, the plants and the fish and the frogs are as sentient as we are. We need to learn, once again, how to listen and ask.