All the Water Is One Water, #4

In honor of World Water Day, I am sharing the fourth part of my chapter, “All the Water Is One Water,” from Finding Our Way Home.

Some Indigenous stories of North America say we are like a younger sibling on this earth. The other beings and species are more acclimated to their purpose and their relationship to the whole. And so, when we are feeling overwhelmed by the ecological messes we have created, we might turn to our older relatives on the earth to find wisdom for our journey. Permaculture follows this practice by using the wisdom developed by millions of years of evolution, to find solutions for the problems we are facing today.

Water is such a teacher. According to my friend, gkisedtanamoogk, the Wampanoag people consider water a Manito, a mysterious life force that has its own life. His people know fresh water as Nipinapizek, and regard her as a grandmother. He wrote to me, “i think that we humans only exist because there is a significant number of people who remember to Give Thanks to all Those Ones who are the Keepers of Life, one of Those being, NIPINAPIZEK. May we continue to Give Thanks….”

When I was growing up Catholic, we used to bless ourselves by touching our fingers in holy water. I associated it with purifying ourselves because we were in some way unclean. But now, the blessing of water feels more like remembering our heritage. We come from water. All water is holy, and we are holy too. We are washed by water, we are restored by water, we are nourished by water.

Each of us faces a choice. Will we approach water as a commodity to be bought and sold, or as a blessing, a teacher to be honored and protected? Water is the mother of all life. There is no life without water. Whether we view it scientifically or spiritually, water is the womb from which all living beings have been born. We are made of water and we need the constant flowing through of water to remain alive in this world. Thankfulness can be the beginning of restoring our relationship with water. If I can remember to be thankful to water, then I have the capacity to take action on its behalf as well. I can join with the many other people who are working for water as a human right, or who work to restore the flow of rivers or clean up pollution in the sea.

Meandering BrookThe path forward will not be a straight line. I find hope in that. A river or stream meanders on its way to the sea. [Thank you Starhawk for teaching me about this!]  Because of the friction of the river bed, the water on the bottom of the river moves more slowly than the water on the top. So it creates a spiraling current that wears down one bank and deposits sediment on the other, and then vice versa, as it moves around and around in sweeping curves. Just so, our journey into a new relationship with all life on earth will meander—I imagine in this case, there is more movement at the bottom of our culture, while the top is going much slower. But since we are all connected, movement in any segment has a ripple effect on the whole.

We must keep taking steps, even small steps, in the direction of living in balance with the rest of our interdependent web. We must work our magic and offer thanks and take action in practical and political ways. We must meander in the direction of wholeness, of earth community. Each creative step forward will ripple out into a spiral momentum toward greater balance.

PRACTICE

When I made the conscious choice to regard water as a blessing, I decided to stop using plastic bottled water as much as possible. I like to carry water with me, so now I carry tap water in a special reusable metal or glass bottle. Anytime I drink water, I am reminded to offer thanks for the blessing. I invite you to give up plastic bottled water, and to start carrying water in a reusable container. Each time you fill or drink from the container, give thanks to Water for giving us life.

 

We Are a Part of the Watershed

Photo by Margy Dowzer

Photo by Margy Dowzer

Analysts are predicting that water will be the number one political issue in the coming years. Just as wars are being fought over oil, so increasingly there are conflicts over access to water. The business solution is to introduce the “privatization” of water: the theory is that if water is a scarce resource, then the market should determine its price, and price will regulate its use. But citizen’s groups are fighting back to say that water cannot be commodified, because it is an absolute necessity for life. Rather, water must be recognized as a fundamental right and provided equitably to all.

The danger in the privatization of water is that it takes water out of its relationship to all living beings, and into the hands of a system which is set up to think only in terms of profit. Water is not something separate from us, something we have made, that we might think of it in terms of selling and buying. Water is in us and we are in water. We must think of ourselves as part of the watershed.

The water we drink passes through us, and is returned to the earth. When we open our hearts to the wonder of this cycle, we can begin to heal from the out-of-balance patterns we all have learned in our society. Weeping is a part of it too. The water of tears moves our grief, heals and cleanses, as water does, moves us on the journey. The cycles of water teach us that we are all related.

Each of us has a choice. Will we approach water as a commodity to be used, or as a blessing to be honored? If we acknowledge water as a blessing, we recognize its essential importance. Water is the mother of all life. There is no life without water. Whether we view it scientifically or spiritually, water is the womb from which all living beings have been born. We are made of water and we need the constant flowing through of water to remain alive in this world. When I made the conscious choice to regard water as a blessing, I decided to stop using plastic bottled water as much as I was able. I like to carry water with me, so now I carry tap water in a special reusable metal bottle. Anytime I drink water, I am reminded to offer thanks for the blessing.

All religious traditions have recognized the sacredness of water in some way. The old earth religions always revered a god or goddess of the waters—usually certain spirits were associated with salt water and others with fresh water. I learned about some of these water spirits from Mandaza, a healer from Zimbabwe who visited my previous congregation. According to Mandaza, the water spirits offer us healing and peacemaking. There are rituals for people to go into the water when they desire to be restored to wholeness or to find guidance for their spiritual journey.

According to my friend, gkisedtanamoogk, water is considered a Manito, a mysterious life force that has its own life. Water is also medicine, the most important medicine in Creation. The Wampanoag people know fresh water as Nipinapizek, and regard her as a grandmother. He wrote to me, “i think that we humans only exist because there is a significant number of people who remember to Give Thanks to all Those Ones who are the Keepers of Life, one of Those being, NIPINAPIZEK. May we continue to Give Thanks…..”

When I was growing up as a Catholic, we used to bless ourselves by touching our fingers in holy water. I associated it with purifying ourselves because we were in some way unclean. But now, the blessing of water feels more like remembering our heritage. We come from water. Since all water is holy, we are holy too. We are washed by water, we are restored by water, we are nourished by water. 

The Magic of Dawn

CardinalI was sitting on a blanket in a screen tent in the back yard, honoring the earth and all her creatures, when during my prayers, a cardinal started singing, and came to perch on the ground right near the tent. I felt so thankful for that visit.

I was pondering the big questions of my heart. I was asking, What is my greatest hope? And my heart answered, I hope that we find a way to live in harmony with all life on the earth, that our spirits wake up to experience the unity of all life, that we might join in that beautiful dance. But I also asked, What is my greatest fear? My heart answered, I am afraid that the greedy and powerful will kill all the trees, pollute the oceans, and destroy the animals and the people. I am afraid that humankind is broken beyond restoration, so cut off that we cannot find our way back to the unity.

And so my prayer was a prayer to find wholeness, to find joy. When the cardinal started to sing so close by, it reminded me of the magic of being outside, the place where my hope is restored. It also reminded me of the magic of waking up at dawn, the time when the cardinal and a host of other birds sing their most beautiful songs. They create together a dawn chorus.

I first learned about the magic of dawn from my Wampanoag friend gkisedtanamoogk. He had told me that the eastern peoples, called the Wabanaki, believed that dawn was the most sacred time of the day—the name Wabanaki means people of the first light, the first light of the sky before the sun rises over the horizon. This time was considered the best time to pray, to commune with the earth and the spirits within the earth.

A few days later, I woke early, and heard a cardinal singing outside my window, and that called me outside again. So I went out and sat on my blanket and tried again to open my heart to the world all around me. When I look at any writing in English, even the tag on the edge of the screen tent, I cannot help but read the writing there. Yet when I look at the plants or the mushrooms in our yard, I realize I do not know how to read the earth. I don’t know the names of many plants or their characteristics. Our species has become so isolated, so alone in our own thoughts and works. I wish I had a guide to teach me how to read the earth.

Slug in grassI saw a small slug moving slowly through the grass. As I was watching it, I wondered what it was reading about the earth, what chemical messages it found in the small trails through the grass. It was on its way toward a mushroom. I took photos of its small golden body, tried to pay attention to its slowness and intention as it climbed the mushroom stem. Even a slug can be a teacher.Slug on Mushroom

Listening to the cardinal singing, these words came into my heart: Whatever you do there is beauty in it: the work, the rest, the prayer, the play, the listening. Awaken to beauty, be present to it, the hidden beauty of the ordinary is like the muted beauty of the female cardinal. Dispel sadness, awaken to beauty and joy.