In the summer of 2004, my health-conscious friend Janet Campbell died of cancer. She was an artist. I’ve been thinking of her a lot these days because of recent the news stories about red poison leaking into the Danube River.
When I spoke at Janet’s funeral, I asked when we were going to stop running in circles for a cure and start running to businesses that pollute water, air, soil and food and demand that they stop. I asked when governments will enforce environmental laws to protect us better. If the Earth is sick, how can we parasites be healthy?
Later, I asked a volunteer at a well-loved cancer charity why they didn’t throw their weight behind environmentalists and Aboriginal leaders to help prevent cancer in the first place. I received a cold, silent stare.
That summer, my husband and I drove through one territory, two provinces and 13 states. We stopped at each major river, including the Columbia, Decho, Athabasca, Peace, North Saskatchewan, Red, Assiniboine, Missouri and the Mississippi to pray. Praying was a small gesture of thanks and concern; rivers everywhere are under terrible stress from poison and overuse. The fact is that the amount of water on Earth has been the same forever. The dinosaurs drank the same water we do. I wonder, can we learn to see all water as holy?
Rochelle Strauss writes in her beautiful book, One Well: The Story of Water on Earth (Kids Can Press), “All water on Earth is connected, so there really is just one source — one global well — from which we all draw our water.” Holy and connecting.
After the summer of river praying, I wrote the poem Make Prayers for the Rivers. It was published in my husband Bill Phipps’ book Cause for Hope: Humanity at the Crossroads (CopperHouse Press).
Make prayers for the life of the rivers
Make prayers for the creeks and the streams
Make prayers to the Holy Myst’ry
Make prayers for Earth Mother’s dreams.
Pray for what lives in the water
Payer for what lives by the shore
Pray for whatever drinks water
Pray for all that and more:
Ask for courage to clean up the rivers
Ask for hope to heal shorelines and streams;
We are the ones called to action
To restore our Earth Mother’s dreams.
Fall down on your knees by the water
Fall down on the muck, sand or slate
Fall down in humility, hope and love
And pray that it’s not too late.
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