It’s June and in our small part of the world, Vermont, the landscape is rich in blossom. Everywhere one looks there is color and shape, great burstings of early summer passion, a vast flood of liquiod desire. Beyond the blooms lies an infinity of green, grass growing by the hour, bushes shaking in their leafing, the forest almost impenetrable in a vastness of viridian.
The garden has risen from its winter brown, some beds literally covered in green; the cress in the lettuce bed fills every free cranny with sweetness. There will be more planting I am sure as some seeds have perished in the cool dampness of the prolonged spring.
Rain has fallen for weeks. Even now the sky seems to hold back a torrent, although there are thinnesses in the cloud, places where there is less threat of storm. Even as we good naturedly complain we know the rain enables the blossoms and the green; without it there would be nothing.
We, too, are blossoms, requiring water, although we may last for years rather than days. These eyes are water, and the brains behind them. When we kiss someone we exchange water, and the taste of the beloved comes through a mist of mouth. Even the minerals in our bones are carried into place by water; when our blooming has ended water will slowly erode the bone, turning it into water borne mineral to nourish more blossoms.
In our passion hardness inevitably dissipates into soft wetness and intimacy. As we explore we learn that sometimes hardness allows closeness of the most profound kind, and that very hardness is filled with water. When we make children our very cells swim toward one another through the damp and wet we cherish.
On the family farm, in summer, growing up, there was a creek running through the back pasture and a pond in the apple orchard. Both held fish and sometimes yielded dinner, or on a slow day, lunch. I often wonder how often my cousins and their beloveds made love by the pond, not far from the kitchen window, swimming together in summer sweat, ignoring the chiggers and mosquitoes.
We seldom needed to water the farm’s large kitchen garden. Living a few miles from the Ohio river summer meant frequent storms and live giving rain. Drought was the exception; we worried more that hail would shred the tobacco leaves that in autumn provided more income than all the rest of the farm together. Break a tobacco leaf and water oozed out; fracture a membrane and the fragility of structures made of water became clear even to those who had their doubts water might support the world.
Life depends on water here, on this tiny planet, circling an insignificant sun in a far corner of one galaxy among hundreds of millions of galaxies. Water is quite simply life, and is, therefore, inherently sacred, and what we do with water is inevitably spiritual and moral. I am confident that when we return to spirit the Grandmothers will ask us what we did with our precious lives, and with the water that makes them possible. May we say we stood with many courageous persons to honor and protect the sacred water.
Nearly forty years ago my girlfriend at the time, Janice, and I lived on, and ran, a small ranch in the mountains of northeastern New Mexico. The last year we were there, the summer I graduated from graduate school, was dry, even by New Mexico standards. When the monsoon came the almost daily torrential downpours struggled to make up the deficit.
Our ranch was at the top of the watershed, meaning even in the worst of the drought we had water to feed the two large ponds in which we raised trout, the one crop that made money. Unfortunately, in dry weather the ponds evaporated nearly as much water as the river brought in. The ranches below us also took their share of water, so by the time the river arrived in the village a few miles downstream the mountain torrent was reduced to a trickle that was insufficient for drinking, let alone irrigating the village gardens and fields. It was, as is so often the case in the arid southwest, a matter of water rights versus cultural survival.
The weather was so dry for most of that summer that the cattle could not find adequate pasture; they kept breaking through the barbed wire fences that usually held them in place, making much work for us as they did so. The man who owned the ranch did not want to bring in additional feed for the cattle, although he did supplement the horses’ feed. He also did not seem to care much that folks down river were hurting. His lack of empathy and concern resulted in my girlfriend and I catching parasites from our drinking water, and very nearly lead to an all out water war with live ammunition.
That summer, when I was in my mid-twenties and exploring the intersection between art and ecology, taught me that we humans, like all biological beings, are water. Every day I was viscerally reminded that how we farm, ranch, and share water really does matter. That summer I discovered that winter snow and summer rain are indeed the sacred, shared source of all life, something my friends at the Taos Pueblo reminded us the katchinas have known all along, and a lesson I now hold close to my heart.
© 2017, Michael Watson