Honoring Our Beautiful Earth
Palisade, Colorado, USA
This was a personal event in Palisade to honor the earth. I didn’t have the energy to invite a lot of friends to participate this year so did my own personal honoring of the earth. On our property is the stump of a very large tree that had to be cut down a number of years ago. I sat and talked to the tree stump and it represented all of the trees that are being cut down and we talked about how important trees are in providing oxygen for humans. I thanked the tree for all it did and told it how much I love trees. Before I talked to the tree I helped a toad out of our pool and noticed that it only had one eye. I thought that was significant somehow (although I still haven’t figured out exactly how) and decided to take a picture of me and the toad and the tree stump as we honored each other and our broken lives on this planet. Instead of making something at the actual site, I went inside and made a small quilt to continue to honor the earth. It isn’t quilted yet but I didn’t want to wait until it is finished to submit this. I did enjoy this process!
Kirby Misperton Protection Camp, Yorkshire, England
Hard times indeed, when the Earth is threatened with drills and big machinery, spewing her blood from veins deep within her body. Blood that will fuel industries and homes in a last-gasp attempt to eek out the last dregs of profit for those who laid claim to those blood riches. That is not your blood to spill, I hear, yet this cry has reverberated around the arenas of human-made slaughter for aeons and nobody has ever listened until the reckoning of peacetime.
Except that this anthropocene has bore witness to the spilling of all the blood in the world. Every single drop that wasn’t white, rich or comfortable to spill. This time it’s Earth Herself who is to keep sacrificing Her innards of shale gas to be offered upon the alter of money, of energy, of fuel, because dear girl, all this makes us happy in the long run. You like your life, don’t you? Surely you gave your silent consent long ago, when you were born into this world and you didn’t complain of the riches, the privilege, of the comfort?
Hard times indeed. I squirm in my skin of the lost chances to respond. Because I have blood on my hands too.
Yet, the rallying call went up and I’m listening now. I am rallied now. The comfort given to me for my silence can no longer numb me from the means used to stupify me.
As individuals it is easy at first to be overwhelmed by the enormity of what is needed to be done. But this is a LIE! have learned that this thought is directly caused by the habit of thinking that we are alone and separate from one another and from the Earth. Find others who agree and who will not collude with the all-too-easy return to sleep! Find those who too have heard the rallying call and who are turning towards the lines.
I found such a place at Kirby Misperton Protection Camp last week. I took the baby and we went for an hour to meet the residents and to learn a little about their days. Amid the practicalities of putting a kitchen together, rat-proofing their food stores by using filing cabinets, fixing clattering cabins and moving useful humans across the country, I heard of a deep and real connection to the Earth, I felt the power of place, the genius loci embracing all who come tumbling lost and grief-stricken through the gate. I watched as tears of protectiveness in the eyes of one, my own eyes welled up as I felt it too. Fixing me, I heard. This place is fixing us all. Bowled over, surely it is us who are fixing the Earth? Yet even in her cry for help, Mother still heals. Goddess eyes, woven with wool into birch twigs dot about the camp, homemade signs and placards, welcome home.
A week later and I return to offer a Global Earth Exchange: an offering of meditation, connection to place, of finding the wound of a place and then making beauty that was created by the inspiring Trebbe Johnson at Radical Joy for Hard Times charity in the USA. The sun beat down on us as we sat next to young willows in the camp. Nine participants plus me, my singing bowls and my drum, making a circle of stillness in the heart of the camp as others around us buzzed about, busy with the tasks of the day: kids making a tarp hide, kitchen goodies being prepared, cups of tea made and imbibed as actions were discussed. Our circle turned inward, to each other, to the group, to the Earth beneath our hearts.
We began with a quick introduction of each of us, why are we here? What brought us here? And this is the depth of the wound: grief, rage, how dare they? How dare they? Love, self-healing on a long journey, love, love, love, and a calling responded to. Time and again, the call.
Then a meditation, to feel the Earth, to open up to her as if she were a lover, to stand as equals with her and to find what she says to us as silent, still individuals. RadJoy has the term the Ground beneath our hearts and this was utterly perfect for this work. We envisaged the shale gas and we felt our own connection to that. We felt the Earth as our lover.
When we then went off to spend some time alone to connect more deeply to what we’d experienced. The drum and a bowl were taken, occasionally I could hear the drum as its player walked around the camp. The bowl turned up on Facebook: chill mofos.
To the couple of people who remained I played the other bowl, swaying into the bowl’s rhythm and vibrations, it took us deep into its sound and feel. To give vibrations of music back to the Earth.
When we returned we made the RadJoy bird; wings outstretched, made from twigs and straw, long grass, cast-off cricket bat ash, half a tennis ball for a beady eye, goose feathers given only the day before for some as-yet-unknown reason (until now) splayed along the tail. The bird took shape under our foraging eyes and the will to create grew and grew in us all as the joy of the making took over. Satisfied at last we stepped back to admire our creation. Beauty made with joy, she lies now in the meadow as a symbol of the kestrel who has frequently visited the camp.
Holding hands around the head, we close with a final grounding meditation and a reminder to give thanks to the Earth and to ourselves.
Suddenly, Kestrel swoops overhead. Absent for a couple of days this is a portentous moment, just as we finish the GEx. Has she come to check out the new bird? Or because she has been attracted by the love of the group? She glides above us and beyond. Transfixed, we are blessed.
Global Earth Exchange or GEx is a powerful thing. It’s a moment of reflection on every emotion that rises up when we notice that we are in the presence of a wounded place. Grief hangs over us like a weighted cloth that smothers our every move and the breath we so desperately need to live. The GEx offers us up to the grief, opens us up and makes us aware of it so that we can look beyond it and notice the radical joy that bubbles and sparkles with creative energy. Right at the edge of despair we find the strength to create joy. But we have to get to that edge, through the pain and the fear, through the grief and rage that hangs so ominously. It doesn’t engulf us because the joy is always felt, somewhere near, somewhere close, and GEx offers a gateway and an invitation to step into it.
We make the bird that was lying waiting within us all, waiting to be made by willing hands and open hearts.
For the Elm Trees
Crested Butte, Colorado, USA
We found our way to a site of 100s of disposed of metal cans from the mining era in an Aspen forest above Crested Butte, CO. We created a threshold and interacted with the site through noticing, sharing, and making temporary art. My friend moved fallen branches to create a circle of intention on the cans. I cut out paper hearts and placed them gently within the site. They were removed before we left. We sang a simple note of A, bowed to the lessons from the site and stepped back across the threshold.
For the town of Osceola and the river that was
Osceola, Missouri, USA
Lawrence (Larry) Lewis
On Global Earth Exchange Day June 17, 2017, a group of eleven gathered at a table in the Osceola, Missouri, park shelter house nearest the water of Truman Reservoir, Osage Arm. A few weeks earlier, water backed up from Truman Dam had risen high into the park. The benches where people were now sitting for their talking circle were under water then. Those present spoke about what the place had meant to them. Some remembered when the free-flowing Osage was the people’s river, where many town-folk moored their rowboats before the U.S. Congress, through the Army Corps of Engineers, made it a restricted area, before the Corps removed the 20% of the town below the “take line” for flood control.
One of the group members recalled practicing yoga poses on concrete slabs from a lower-elevation now-vanished shelter house. Another told of arrowhead collecting and fishing along the shore. One man remembered collecting Osage River water for the baptism of a son born before the lake filled behind the dam. One woman recounted a gathering at the lake shore to launch lights over the water to honor the memory of a younger brother recently deceased.
People recalled the “wounded place” left when the lake destroyed the breeding grounds of both vertebrate and invertebrate native species. One couple, in residence in Osceola less than a year, looked forward to accumulation of memories as time goes on.
After time for individual reflection, nine group members reconvened to work together to make the outline on the ground of a Radical Joy bird out of driftwood left behind by the recent high water, and also a nest from smaller wood debris. The participants’ ages ranged from 13 to 85. The 13-year-old group member, looking at the completed sculpture with its sharply angled head, said the work was more pterodactyl than bird.
Honor the Earth: Ceremony for the El Guique Gravel Mine
Española, New Mexico, USA
For decades, gravel mines have decimated traditional Hispanic villages and sites sacred to native peoples in northern New Mexico, causing habitat destruction, air and water pollution, and unsightly scarring in the foothills of the Jemez Mountains, along the Rio Grande. Moreover, ancient petroglyphs have been ground up and lost forever. In our Earth Exchange we visited one of those sites, the El Guique gravel mine, and created an act of beauty.
We planned to do the Earth Exchange near but not on mine property. However, some local people wanted to meet us just outside the gates to the mine. We were waiting there at 9 am when the enormos, noisy gravel trucks started rolling in, every couple of minutes, and then rolling back out full of dirt. We were parked out of their way, but we felt were experiencing the full woundedness of this place where the Earth is being scooped out by the truckful every few minutes.
As we were turning around our car to leave, one truck intentionally cut in extremely close, so we had to back up fast to avoid being hit. It was frightening. Perhaps the driver felt we were threatening his job, though we were just sitting in the car. We thought of the people at Standing Rock who faced aggression by truck drivers, and we thought of other people fighting for the Earth who have faced far worse. We tried to pray for the driver.
We drove down to a spot opposite the mine in the shade of two enormous cottonwood trees. Below us on one side stretched houses, farms, and green fields as far as we could see, in the ancient floodplain of the Rio Grande. They were fed by a lovely, wide, centuries-old acequia (irrigation canal) dug by hand by Hispanic villagers. It was difficult to square this beauty with the ugliness of the 300-acre mine we could not see, but knew was just below the small hills on the other side of the road.
As we sat, we noticed birds in the trees above us and wildflowers and medicinal plants all around us. We talked about the beautiful place and our feelings about what had happened to it. Then we crossed the road and made a RadJoy bird out of stones and twisted wood we found there, and flowers we’d brought. We scattered cornmeal, sacred dirt from the Santuario de Chimayó, and water from a sacred spring in Chimayó. We told the place we still loved it, no matter what other humans were doing to it. We thanked it for giving us jobs, roads, cement for building, and probably the gravel in our own driveway.
We also took water and poured it into the acequia, which had been damaged by the mine in the past, and prayed for healing for all the people and animals of El Guique. We then drove a little further and saw magnificent petroglyphs. We thanked the ancient ones with cornmeal.
We left with sadness but also joy in our hearts and gratitude for this way of connecting with each other and with this place.
Camp Disappointment, Washington, USA
Sisters of the Waters
Judy Todd, Deborah Milton, Tricia McGarrity, Christine Castigliano
Beautiful day celebrating the confluence of river and ocean! Making a water wheel mandala and Radical Joy Bird, symbol of playfully lifting spirits in hard times. with joy (noticing and appreciating what we love most, showing up with hearts minds and bodies) and grief (for the degradation and rising of the waters, the suffering of people, plants and animals, the unintended consequences of human progress) Making art from the heart to honor the world we love (water!!!) to be the change that we want to see. How do you enJOY this life, this planet?
Jamestown, Colorado, USA
Dying aspen trees
Standing by these Aspen trees in staggering beauty – I am saying goodbye to this place ever looking like it has before, because even in the three months since I was last here, it’s almost unrecognisable the tree die off is so fast. Broken boughs, snapped trunks, dead trees everywhere – I stood in this gorgeous Grove almost not able to let myself look at the signs that they too were on their way – dying from the bottom up in the same way that Aspen forests all over the mountains have already died. Would I come back to see them again to bare witness to their leaving? I don’t know that I would and yet I’m going back up there again today to complete some filming and I don’t even know if my heart can take it.
I didn’t know what to say to the trees, except ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t know how to be amongst this die off and not feel crazy, split and broken right along side the trees themselves. No one wants to look. No one wants to feel. Did we even deserve such majesty if we just turn away whilst our own lifestyles and ways of being cause their departure from this world?
Chicago, Illinois, USA
On Lake Michigan, where there was a chemical spill in April. Another opportunity to offer beauty and healing. And receive so much!
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Lisa McCall and Autumn VanOrd
Autumn and I did our exchange at Wyman Park on Saturday. We saw the shape of the woven material on the ground and it seemed to suggest a bird with wings, so we decorated from there to create our RadJoy Bird.
We had two mallards just leisurely swimming around and eating while we were there. What came to us was how different the sense of time is for us (humans) vs. for the earth. This place has only been wounded for such a short time in earth time, while in our brief time it feels like such a long time. And should humans somehow not exist, nature would just recover and go forth healing and adjusting. It felt humbling.
A Ceremony for Traumas Close to Home
Ewing, New Jersey, USA
I decided to do my 2017 GEE at home on the soothing moss that covers much of the yard. I have been sharing physical, emotional, and environmental traumas of people close to me in such rapid succession that it has felt like fireworks, and we need some soothing of our wounds.
I gathered up some twigs, broken ceramic garden ornaments, (my creations), our long departed old dog’s toy, bamboo husks, ferns, Kalmia blossoms, and a strip of plastic from the yard. I thought about how the earth provides solace as I laid the materials out on the soft moss.
This year I wanted to make my bird more like a phoenix, to rise above all the problems. I gave it a Kalmia flower crest and a long, cilantro-decorated fern tail. Lastly, I found some violet leaves, and they are heart-shaped, so I placed those on the wing tips and at the end of my bird’s tail, to symbolize that this project of living is all about loving, and expressing love.
I left my bird, thinking that a quilt made up of GEE bird images would be a wonderful thing to create sometime.
Ceremony for the Wounded Waters of Our World
Sebastopol, California, USA
About 15 of us gathered at the Laguna de Santa Rosa, (a wetland once damaged, degraded and now partially restored). This is the 6th year there has been a Ceremony for the Wounded Waters of Our World at the Laguna, as part of the annual Radical Joy Earth Exchange. This year, one of us offered a water blessing to each participant, pouring water over the hands of each person who passed over the threshold we created with bay leaves and Calendula flowers. Within the circle thus created, we gathered around an altar, decorated with ocean shells, and a large bowl of water at its center. This year, for the first time, we used hand-made rattles made from kelp bulbs, driftwood sticks and fine sea-rounded pebbles—the rattling creating a container in which each person could speak their sorrow and joy. When the words were complete, each person took some water from the bowl, using shells or handmade ceramic cups, and offered it to a tree, bush, flower or some part of nature nearby.
High Hope Ranch Sisterhood
Glen Rose, Texas, USA
Darlington, Pennsylvania, USA
Never in my life have I rejected nature, particularly the little ecosystems that I’ve lived within. When I moved to my now home 6 years ago the gas fracking boom was taking off. Now there is a petrochemical plant being built in our community to process the gas by-products with 4 more plants planned for the wider region. “Cancer alley” is our new name.
Even while joining with other activists to protest these events, somehow I also withdrew and closed myself off from the wild life happenings at my homestead. I hardened and closed my heart. This year, I chose to do a solo Earth Exchange feeling that I HAVE wounded my own eco-home here with my rejection.
I wandered allowing the wild happenings to call to me – the snake skin, the dark cool under the pines, the gnat at my ear, shadows, dew drops, the wind! There was nothing for me to do other than allow my heart to be touched. I wasn’t struck by a lightning bolt of wisdom, or hit on the head with a snapping branch of insight. I was gently reminded of the resilience and unjudging stance of nature – She does what She does with or without my attention. But Oh! Maybe my reverence, gratitude and love will be felt by Her and my heart wants to offer Her those gifts.
Moscow, Pennsylvania, USA
The woodlot behind our home it being developed. I have been to too many planning commission meetings and Borough council meetings to explain at this point. For the Earth exchange day I simply hung the t-shirt. We are planning a large scale environmental art work for the site once [Haitian ceramic artist] Lissa [Jeannot] arrives.
SCAN Global Earth Exchange
Hallstead, Pennsylvania, USA
Wayne Chumleigh, Paul Kelly, Shirley Kelly, Sara Chumleigh, Trebbe Johnson, Jake Rosen, Sue Pipetone, Victoria Roberge, Barbara Clifford, and Frank Finan (taking photo)
In the summer of 2016, a group of about 16-20 people in Susquehanna County formed SCAN, Susquehanna Clean Air Network, to support stringent clean air regulations in the face of a hazardous waste incinerator that was being planned for our poor, rural, beautiful county. The incinerator application was withdrawn in November, but we continue to face other possibly dangerous challenges from the industrialization resulting from the natural gas boom that began here in 2008.
SCAN is a wonderful, diverse group of people. We range in age from 18 to 80 and represent several religions, political ideologies, and backgrounds. We meet weekly, and we listen intently and respectfully to each person’s input and ideas. We all feel uplifted after our meetings.
For the Global Earth Exchange, Radical Joy for Hard Times founder Trebbe Johnson invited SCAN members to come to the Susquehanna River to celebrate what we love about our home place. Eleven of us sat in a circle on the grass on a sweltering hot day and talked for a while about what we appreciate about Susquehanna County. The reflections tended to focus on the natural beauty and the friendliness of the people. We had each brought flowers from home and we wove them into a wreath. Before giving our wreath to the river as a gift to the whole land here, we each shared our hopes, prayers, or wishes for this place. For example:
•I hope I will always be able to look up from my porch and see a fox walking across the lawn.
•I hope I will see my grandchildren rolling down the green hills without having to worry about ticks.
•I hope the hemlock and ash trees will recover from all the invasive insect pests.
•I pray that the quiet will return.
•I wish that there will always be people who love this place enough to fight for it.
•I hope neighbors will always wave to each other when they walk or drive past.
We placed our wreath in the pewter-colored water and watched the river take it away.
showing up in the midst of uncertainty
sagaponack, new york, usa
bird 2017 sagaponack, ny is in a state of flux, change. there is an edge to uncertainty that can put one in the way of fear or great love – Im choosing LOVE
showing up cultivating faith opening to wisdom, grace, wildness in deep-time of mother earth.
Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA
Each year we do the Global Earth Exchange to honor trees – all trees, around the world, that have been cut down, harmed, or maimed by human activity; we do so by focusing on one small, local area where we know trees used to stand. This year we honored the land where a grove of native trees had been cut and removed to make room for a horse barn. On this same property are ornamental trees, planted by the owner; one such tree is a well-established paulownia. I had collected the purple blossoms from the paulownia after they fell from the tree last month and laid them out to dry. Our RJ bird this year is constructed solely of these dried paulownia flowers. We constructed him atop the gravel that had been laid down as a pathway for the horses residing here. The most tragic thing is that the trees’ removal was for naught: a series of calamities in the past month has led to the decision to move the horses elsewhere and abandon the horse property project that began with the removal of alders and firs.
Ceremony for a Friend, Message from Spider
Corrales, New Mexico, USA
David Powless, Oneida
I was very depressed this morning. My best friend of 50 years died May 17, 2017. I got to see him for the last time 2 hours before he passed on to the spirit world. His name is A. Paul Ortega. He was 80 years old and was the lead Medicine man for the Mescalero Apache of New Mexico. He was a very special person and a real brother. He is the one who taught me how to pray to the Creator and to have some smoke from sage, tobacco, a fire or even a match during the prayer. The reason was that the smoke would take the prayers up to the Creator. This is the way I prayed to the creator in the story I told to Trebbe Johnson that inspired her to create “Radical Joy for Hard Times—finding and making beauty in wounded places”.
This was the day I was to do something for the Radical Joy annual Ceremony. I felt no motivation to do anything. I had been depressed about Paul’s death. Nothing seemed of value or important. Your born, live, and die. You talk and walk in between. It really isn’t worth anything. In my depressed state, I just sat down doing nothing. Then I remembered something Paul told me. It was a story.
Paul’s Mescalero Reservation is in southeastern New Mexico in an area of mountains. He told me that at one time the local governments and the federal government had developed legal cases to take water away from the Reservation and the Mescalero Tribe. These waters ran through the Reservation and provided life to trees, wild animals, tribal members and all the life of the Reservation. Paul said a recent court ruling against the tribe made it look like they would lose the battle for the water. He had been very involved in this battle. He told me that he went into a special place in the tribal forest. He was very sad and depressed and he felt that he and his small Tribal committee had lost this battle. As he sat there he heard a small voice. He looked around and saw no one. He heard the voice again. He was quiet and listened very closely. The voice said—“Hey big man what is wrong”. It came from a place near him on the ground. He looked at that place and he saw a spider. The spider said to him “Hey big man, I asked you what is wrong”. Paul said back to the spider “Oh you would not understand”. The spider said to Paul “Try me”. Paul said “Well, myself and a few tribal members are fighting the local governments to keep our water on the Reservation. We are a small group and looks like we will lose. There are too many of them against us.” The spider said” Isn’t this the same water that we in the forest drink to sustain our lives?”. Paul answered “Yes”. The spider said, “Wait a minute Big Man, I am a spider and I need water. We also have ants, butterflies, beetles, birds, raccoons, deer, eagles, bears, elk and many more. When you add us all up we number in the millions and we all need water. We will stand up with you. Don’t believe you are alone. We are with you”. The Tribe won the case and kept the water.
Well I feel much better. It is almost if Paul came to me to tell you this story to encourage you on your path honoring this earth and to remind you that you have millions of allies to help you.. I will now do my ceremony for the Radical Joy that we all share together this day. I will pray for all of you with encouraging words and a thanksgiving.
I did this in the Hogan that I have on my property. It is the place where I do all of my ceremonies. The bird is made of tobacco that was given to me by people in the last year who asked me to burn tobacco for them for their needs. There is some crushed corn that dot the inside of the bird’s body. This is the corn I feed to the crows that visit me each winter Both wings are made up from the two eagle fans that I have with a few single eagle feathers spiced in and one Canadian goose wing on one wing and one crow wing mixed into the other wing. The bird’s tail is made up of feathers from eagles, an owl, and a hawk.
Mural of Hope
Doniphan, Missouri, USA
We gathered at the Concession Stand of the Doniphan Ball Park which had been submerged during the flood. Due to the consequences of the flood, for awhile it wasn’t sure if the concession stand would need to be torn down or for how long the ball park would be unusable. It is an important place for community gatherings. It turns out that the damage is less permanent than originally feared. For the Earth Exchange, we created a Mural to signify the Hope that our community will grow like a tree with deep roots, and recover to a level higher than before the flood. At the event ,people of all ages enjoyed adding to the mural– the tree foliage was filled in, various animals and a swing were added to the mural. Glass gems and stone-washed pebbles were glued on to make it three-dimensional. Everyone seemed to get into the creation. The event was well attended by people who have access to information about the impact of the flood right now and good information was shared. The Doniphan Sheriff, Mike Barton, reported that the damage count is around 400 residences and 40 businesses flooded. Information was pooled on where FEMA meetings are taking place, and plans made for all meetings to be covered by people at the Earth Exchange. On hearing that there is no central location for information sharing, the city librarian, Rebecca Wilcox, offered the library as a place for the disbursement of information in hard copy form. Many participants shared their experiences during the flood. Rickie Maples, of Doniphan Vitality nonprofit, told about her eery walk around the courthouse when the flood waters were the highest. The power was off in the city and the silence was total, until a car alarm suddenly was activated perhaps jostled by rising waters. We all expressed gratitude that no lives had been lost, and very few medical issues had arisen. Gene Fox, local veterinarian read aloud an exercise to increase compassion in the world. The event ended as people disbursed to their community activities– some to a wedding, some home, some to the river to cool off. Life continues even as the long term recovery work goes on.
Duns Creek Rubbish Dump
Duns Creek, NSW, Australia
Native American Ceremony for the Ohio River
Huntington, West Virginia
Geri Lashley, Kashara Spaulding, Natasha Thomas, Autumn Genenahgehneh Lee, Alison Smith, Robin Blakeman, Matt Smith, and Janet Keating
On June 9, 2017, members of the Marshall University Native American Organization (MU-NASO) and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) gathered on the banks of the Ohio River in Huntington, West Virginia, as part of the Global Earth Exchange, a project of Radical Joy For Hard Times. The Ohio River, which is a water source for more than 3 million people, is the most polluted river in the United States. Throughout the many years of our country’s industrialization, the river, with headwaters in Pittsburgh, PA, unfortunately has served as a pollution spillway for countless tons industrial waste as well as residential sewage and solid waste. Local, state and federal officials monitor for only a minute fraction of the chemicals, heavy metals and other pollutants that are dumped there. When flooding occurs, tons of solid waste and debris from tributaries also pollute this major waterway.
For centuries, residents of the Ohio Valley, including Native Americans, fished these waters. To this day, some people supplement their diets (often by necessity), through fishing in the Ohio River. This is a risky proposition, health-wise. Many portions of the Ohio River are under a state fish advisory, in other words “Do Not Eat”. Before the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress, the Ohio River, like many rivers and streams throughout the nation, was already in trouble. Chemicals, such as DDT (its dangers highlighted in Rachel Carson’s seminal environmental book, “Silent Spring”) which ended up in the Ohio River via agricultural run-off, harmed aquatic and other wildlife which inhabited or depended on the river for sustenance, all a part of the web of life. Birds, such as the Osprey, which only eats fish, disappeared entirely for several decades. When the Osprey consumed fish from the Ohio River, chemicals which compromised their reproductive systems, caused thinning of eggs shells. Their eggs, no longer viable, would break when the female would sit on them.
In the late 80s and early 90s, the Osprey made a comeback, after DDT was banned in our nation. This was good news for the Osprey and especially our nation’s waterways.
In addition to current pollution, new threats are looming as states along the Ohio River, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, are under assault from the oil and gas industry. Water quality and aquatic life are now endangered by deep-shale gas hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) adjacent to the Ohio, natural gas storage, new petro-chemical plants, solid fracking waste disposal, liquid fracking waste injection, all with potential to pollute the river. Our local, state and national elected officials’ approval of “fracking” comes at great a risk to our water sources, at our own peril.
These threats to the Ohio River, and all its wounds, are why we chose to create beauty on the banks of this river, as an act of gratitude for all the river has given us.
Our event, on behalf the Global Earth Exchange had two very distinct parts, though 9 participants took part in both actions. Prior to sunset we lay many different flowers in the shape of a spiral on the ground beside the river. We know that without life-giving water, we would not enjoy the beauty of flowers. We chose the spiral to represent our growth and evolution as humans—a symbol of an evolutionary journey that begins with each of us. Children were invited to help us place the flowers since they will be impacted by our future efforts on behalf of the Ohio River.
Once our spiral was completed (a spiral is never really finished!), we sat in a circle around it. Each of us told a story of connection to the river, either from childhood, or the present. We talked about why we loved the river and our current concerns. We spoke of how the Ohio River played an important role in our family—whether it was gaining spiritual or actual sustenance from the river. After everyone had shared, we moved closer to the river for the second event—a Native American Water Ceremony.
Before the Water Ceremony began, elders told each of us what was expected during the ceremony. No negative words or thoughts were to be expressed. Once the ceremony for the Ohio River began, no one was to leave the circle. We would follow the lead of the elders.
To begin, we were purified as Vikki Lee, an elder, smudged each of us with sage. Each of us was given a small amount of ceremonial tobacco in our left hand, to hold throughout the ceremony until we were directed to offer it to the river. Native American drums or rattles were used to accompany each of the 4 water songs that were offered up to the river; our voices appropriately, were joined by the murmurs, honks and quacks of Canada Geese and Mallards.
Other people enjoying the river came closer, watching and listening with curiosity. The sky turned beautiful hues of pink, orchid and blue as sun-down approached. When the singing ended, one-by-one, each of us lifted our hand toward the 4 directions and then walked toward the river to offer a prayer where we sprinkled the sacred tobacco. To conclude this ceremony, we sang another Native American water song, and then a jar of pure water from a mountain stream was added to the Ohio River, as a hope for its future status.
We lingered and pledged to return, growing our numbers for a monthly Water Ceremony for the Ohio River. Before we left, we hugged and thanked each other feeling grateful for one another and the river.
You can learn more about MU NASO here.