At first we thought there would only be two of us, my friend Michael and myself, Dianne, in the same place where so many people had gathered in previous years. We walked to that place in the Laguna de Santa Rosa, the largest freshwater wetlands in Northern California, whose waters flow into the Russian River, and then to the sea. There we created an altar to the Wounded Waters of the World, using handmade bulb kelp rattles and abalone shells (both of which are now endangered due to human-created climate change). We began drumming and rattling, speaking our sorrow and love to the waters of the world, and especially the Pacific Ocean. Gradually we noticed that we were not alone. Egrets joined us, flying overhead, then Vulture and Heron, Hawk and songbirds. A woodpecker beat a rapid staccato rhythm that blended with the steady beat of our drum. Tiny white butterflies and golden honeybees fluttered and buzzed around us. Trees waved their branches in greeting, and swayed in a dance with the wind. Clouds, themselves frozen droplets of water, stretched themselves across the sky and reached downward to join us. Looking around, we realized we were encircled and held by this place, embedded in the web of life. We were not “only two of us”, but part of an animate world that had joined us in our ceremony. We each took turns pouring water into a large ceramic bowl we had brought for that purpose, as we spoke our sorrow and love and joy, pouring our words into the water as it filled the bowl. Then we carried the bowl to a footbridge that crosses a river that is part of the Laguna. We poured the water, carrying our sorrow and love and joy, into the river, knowing it would flow with the river into the larger Russian River that flows into the ocean.
In closing, my friend Michael read a blessing he prepared, a few lines of which I share below:
We offer this blessing for the waters and the relatives of water as a calling forth of protection, strength, courage and peace.
We offer praise to the ones who are now leaving, some for a time and some forever, to the ones who will stay and the ones who must change and adapt to new conditions.
We know in our hearts the loss of each irreplaceable strand of our native community. For all of us are bound together in an ancient circle of relationship dependent on each other.