I’ve been thinking about Water these last weeks. But this past Tuesday was the Solstice. In Celtic traditions, the Summer Solstice is — like Samhain (our Halloween) in late autumn — a Fire festival associated with the lighting of great bonfires and the opening of thin places between worlds. Still I kept musing & wondering about Water. Then I found a story of the relationship between these two Elements as told by mythologist Michael Meade and quoted in Terri Windling’s blog https://www.terriwindling.com/blog/2021/08/water-wild-and-sacred.html:
“Of the elements (which some people count as four, and others count as five), water is the element for reconciliation. Water is the element of flow. When water goes missing, flow goes missing. The ancient Irish used to say that there are two suns in the world. One you see rise in the morning. The other is very deep in the earth, and it’s called the black sun or inner sun. It’s a hot fire in there; no one knows how hot. The earth is roughly seventy per cent water because of that hidden sun inside. When the water goes down, the earth heats up too much – part of the global warming that’s happening everywhere. It happens inside people also, because people are like the earth. People are seventy per cent water like the earth, and people have a hidden sun – or else we wouldn’t be ninety-six degrees when its forty degrees outside. Everyone in the world is burning, and the water in the body keeps that burning from becoming a fever. What happens literally also happens emotionally and spiritually, so when people forget how to carry water and how to use water to reconcile, you get an increasing amount of heated conflict, as we’re seeing around the world today.”
So — it is, as always, a matter of Balance. I was able to celebrate both Fire & Water at the Summer Solstice.
I was born in the U.S. Midwest & have visited but never lived on the NW coast of North America. My brother and two women I have known since our earliest childhoods in Iowa have long lived there. My niece & nephew were born there and stayed. My sister has lived in Oregon & is now a short ways south, near majestic (and perhaps mythical) Mount Shasta. And I often find my heart drawn to the great forests, beautiful island-studded coastline, and native arts & myths of British Columbia — the home of Raven and Salmon, who people my dreams.
Somehow, Raven and Salmon have both lodged more and more firmly in my heart over the years. I have, hanging in my studio, a set of prayer flags I made many years ago in a workshop with the eco-activist Julia Butterfly Hill. We were given 3 prompts for the flags:
The first is the picture of my inner self, who I really am.
The second is that which hinders me from manifesting my true self.
The third is a symbol of what it would feel like to come home to my self — and it surprised me by being a Salmon.
I recently came across a poem, written even further back, that intertwined Salmon & Language (and is used to close today’s post). While looking for that poem today, I came across another old poem of mine that I’d quite forgotten:
SALMON SINGS OF HER RETURN Suddenly I felt a change, a shift in the wide dark salt, narrowing my world from flash of chase and feast to strict path clenched by desire more ravenous for movement than for flesh. No longer consuming but consumed by some austere pulse, my every sense alert to the pulling and tugging steering me through vast and briny plain until at last — familiar somehow — the faintest of traces in the tide, then a new sweetness surging, insisting, freshening. A beautiful current presses my snout and I answer with thrust and plunge of tail, spine against the spate, channeled, bound, devoured now from within as my skin reddens, flesh flames. Let me swim higher up, deeper in. Let me leap past rock, talon, teeth. Let me dig nests in gravelly birthing bed. Let me pour out from my belly ten thousand fiery suns. Only then Let my body be given to raven, bear, river silt. Let ocean feed mountain. Let my next body be in this place a tree -- rising, rooted, and green. Let my roots inhale water to breathe out once more into this circling and radiant world. --- MCK
This week I’ve been weaving the doll I mentioned last time — curious to see what she would teach me about the colors I’d gathered and about myself. For such a small piece of weaving, I’ve been amazed and amused by how many missteps, lessons, and stories she contains!
When I took her off the loom, I saw not only the long warp ends but also the many many weft ends streaming off her body.
As I sewed in the ends, I found myself collecting even the smallest pieces of yarn I cut off, thinking “Not a drop should be wasted!” She is now filled, along with a water-worn stone & 5 seashells, with these bits of yarn — “drops of Water” from the weaving of her body.
As soon as I saw her, I knew what offering her arms would hold. Two or three years ago, I wove an amulet bag & placed inside it a long-treasured ceramic salmon button to which I had added her golden roe being laid in the river. Now, that salmon has swum into the arms of my prayer.
She is a Prayer for Earth's Waters & for the Salmon, messengers between sea and stream, saltwater and fresh
PRAYER What is prayer but the unbarring of the heart, the freeing of its rivers for return to the sea. Sometimes it is not enough to depend on seepage through the old hidden cracks. Sometimes it is not enough to let the concrete spillways do their job. Sometimes it is not enough to open the floodgates. Sometimes you must turn off turbines, abandon irrigation ditches, just dismantle the whole damned thing. Let the rivers run free: rainfall, snowmelt, even the ancient glacial ice from distant peaks. Flood, drought, the ups and downs of season upon season, heading always home. And after a long, long time, the sweet water may call back the salmon to spawn again in the furthest pools. Let them come in silvery leadings, insistently struggling upriver against all odds to the place they know is their own. Words are salmon, prayers returning. And if they are as certain to die in the safe pool of your page As salmon are to die in the riverine shallows, remember the fertile eggs they leave—minute, perhaps unnoticed, yet desiring life. Then, too, their flesh is in any case sweet. - - - MCK
There is a river trying to form here. I realize how needed it is.
Beautiful. The River is such a rich image. I wonder in what ways we are each rivers — receiving, flowing, giving….
Jude’s mention of the river trying to form reminded me of this message from the Hopi Nation which came shortly after September 11:
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.
And there are things to be considered…
Where are you living? What are you doing? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your garden.
It is time for you to speak your Truth. Create your community.
Be good to each other.”
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know that the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river,
keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate!
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do,
our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!’”
This week’s reading meanders like water finding its way through stones and trees and paths. The weaving of such beautiful and inspired past and present creations – whether doll or poem or flags or message – is stunning. Thank you for taking us on what feels like a contemplative walk. You’re a jewel.
I worried that I was trying to include too much. Thank you so much for the image of a Meandering stream!
Came over from CatherinE’s. Your words, images flow…so lovely. Plus, you’ve reminded me of river, woven dolls in my past…nice.
You may like this book:
Or even this children’s book, which is gorgeous
I love your water figure. An old friend once wove/made element dolls, which stood in small ceramic bowls (which she also made)
All of this reading and remembering was delightful.
Thank you, Nancy, for recommending these books. They both look interesting. The children’s book is lovely in both subject and illustrations. I grew up in a town through which a river ran. No rivers here in Greensboro. I miss the wonderful flow of water.
The ‘river’ here, L.A. area, is now made of cement in most (well many?) places. Hardly a natural experience. The river through my town has been dry for as long as I’ve lived here, since 1984. Thomas Locker is an amazing artist, for sure!
So many rivers are dying — diverted, caged, polluted, dammed — And what does that tell us about ourselves?
so much. the Water Being, carrying Salmon. In this city of Oroville, we have
a Celebration each year for Salmon that run this Feather River.as they have through
and finally….Prayer is here. Since i first read, i have printed it on the cover of the
stenographer’s notebooks i write in every morning. Soon i’ll begin a new one…and
again…Prayer will begin it all
The salmon have not been completely forgotten. I rejoice every time I hear of a celebration honoring them. And the work of dismantling the dams!