Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fire and Water

I have a dirty secret to admit, a confession of sorts. I´ve been guilty of taking long showers my whole life. I grew up swimming in the pool, the river, the creek, the lake, whatever body of water I could get in, I would. When I was young I had this fantasy that if I spent enough time in the water I might actually become a mermaid or a dolphin. I´ve always loved the water, its cleansing and refreshing energy. The way gravity shifts when you´re inside it. They way you emerge from the water renewed after a good swim. So naturally as a good environmentalist, my guilty pleasure is taking long showers.

I have been here in Cordoba for over a week and I cant stop thinking about how many long showers I´ve taken in my life. There has been a drought here for over a year. It´s terrible, people don´t have potable water to drink, they can only buy drinkable water. And you can only buy drinkable water if you have the money to buy drinkable water. They say the water in the city coming out of the tap is drinkable but still expensive. In the outlying towns, water is being rationed. Many houses don’t have running water at all for days at a time.

This week I had the honor of attending a local indigenous ceremony to pray for rain and healing. The shaman leading the ceremony brought coals from the fire into a outdoor-indoor room and placed different plants on the fire. Each plant had a different medicine and as the smoke of the medicine permeated the room, I heard the fire crying. For as much as I could keep my eyes open, I looked into the fire and saw the faces of elders, old men. They were crying. The fire was crying. I couldn’t understand why but accepted the sadness and tried to listen deeper.

Elder Sister Dorothy Stang, I felt you in there too. I felt you crying with the fire. I tried to ask you, why the sadness, but was overwhelmed by the depth of grief and so I again leaned into it.

I emerged from the ceremony feeling for the first time truly connected to the land here. My feet planted on the ground, my roots beginning to spread their way through the hard dry dirt here in Cordoba Argentina, I felt my mind wander to why? Why is the earth suffering so much here? Why has father sky refused to share his water with the earth? Why have the creatures gone so long without water here? Why this drought? Why now?

On Friday night, the rain finally came. It began with a dust storm that swept across the land knocking things over, pushing the animals back into the earth and the people into their homes. The wind brought the smell of rain and I felt my spirits lift as the air became moist. I saw lightning on the horizon as the sun was setting sparking hope in my heart. When the rain began, I sat out on the porch and felt tears fill my eyes at the trickle slowly began. The rains came faster and stronger and I felt myself praying for more rain. Praying and crying I rocked on the porch and the rains came harder. That night I fell asleep to the soft gentle sound of rain on the roof. I slept like a baby and awoke with hope in my heart as I saw that the leaves on the tree behind the house had opened up. I felt connected to the earth and joy as I admired the trees new bright green color.

As I opened the paper today, the headlines made my heart drop. The rain, while a relief, was not enough. We need more rain if the rationing will end. Again this question of why and why now rang out in my heart? As I turned the pages of the paper, I read a report of the massive deforestation that has happened here in the state of Cordoba over the last 20 years. In 1990 there was original forest over a sweeping majority of the county. Today those numbers have dwindled to only 11% of the country. And how did those numbers dwindle? Not through logging, the ever popular method of forest destruction in North America, but through forest fires.

Chills ran up and down my body as I was reminded why the land owners paid to kill Elder Sister Dorothy Stang in 2003. She had recently reported one of the land owners as burning large swaths of the Amazon for his ranching business, which carries with it a very hefty fine. It was this action that put her organizing over the edge and many say was the reason he put the hit out on her life. These methods of slash and burn are the same tactics that ranchers are using here in Argentina to clear land.

Last year, 95% of the forest fires in Argentina were intentionally set. 95%!!!!

I now know why the fire was crying.

Please hold prayers for rain and for water here in Cordoba in your prayers. Please hold prayers for healing for the exploitation of fire in South America. ¨The death of the forest is the end of our lives¨ is the slogan of the movement for the forest in Brazil and was a belief that Sr. Dot held close to her heart. After my time here in Cordoba, I can see now how this is true.

In the words of an old pagan chant,

May we rise with the fire of freedom.
Truth is the fire that will burn our chains
And we can stop the fire of destruction
Healing is the fire running through our veins.
Healing is the fire running through our veins.
Healing is the fire running through our veins.

Blessed Be.

Landed....

I am writing you from an internet cafe in Cordoba Argentina! I´ve had an amazing journey thus far. I´ve been here a week and I´ve already marched in the streets of Buenos Aires with some union workers who were laid off, wandered all around a wildlife preserve in Buenos Aires, rode a Collectiva to BA and spent an amazing weekend with the family of my dear friend Karina (¡hola mi amor me encanta su familia!).
It´s been an amazing journey thus far. Buenos Aires is quite a city. Full of beautiful people and known for it´s activism. My second day I saw three different protests! How organized people are here! I can tell I´m going to learn alot from my time down here--I already have! I joined with the union workers to block traffic for a bit (totally not an issue with the cops here for blocking traffic here...it was like an everyday thing for them...the passers by were honking and waving in support!!) Employment is a big problem here and many don´t have work and many of those who do don´t have enough work. Later, I wandered over to the wildlife reserve and saw some of the most amazing birds! Totally new and I´m slowly through conversation figuring out the names for some. My time in the reserve reminded me how much i wanted to get out of the city.
So after a few days I rode a collectiva (a bus) to Cordoba Capìtal. I arrived late in the night because our bus broke down, but the breakdown landed me in a cafe with some loveley old ladies which included a firey discussion of the local politics! Cool huh? I could understand most of it, but my spanish isn´t quite good enough to really understand everything when they´re fired up about politics...yet. :) So I arrived at the house of a dear friend of Karina´s late in the evening and the next day we headed North to La Cumbre, the town that Karina and Clara are from (well clara´s from all over but she lived in La Cumbre for a bit) and had a beautiful weekend!!!!! I visited with Karinas family and heard all kinds of stories about her youth (que lindo!) and that evening we went to a peña, a folk musical performance. It was beautiful! The music was amazing...guitar from heaven and the voices of the musicians were so strong and full of emotion...reminded me of that record I used to listen to of yours dad...qulupayan i think they´re names were....??? Then I went out dancing with a friend until 5:30 in the morning in capilla del monte!!!! (that´s right, i was out til 5:30 AM!!!!) Many locals say there are lots of UFO sightings in Capilla but I didn´t see one :(
The next day I had a wonderful asado with Carmen and family and then we went to visit more family up on the mountain and see the trees that Karina planted when she visited a few months ago. The trees were more beautiful than i had imagined and they have a great view of the whole valley! SO beautiful!!!!
But my friends, I must ask you for a favor. Here there has been a drought for almost a year. The people are suffering because there is very little water and it´s turned off for days at a time to conserve. The animals don´t have enough to drink and the plants are suffering and dying because there is no water. ON Saturday, there was a fire that spread across a few mountains killing many plants. It´s very scary for folks because there isn´t water to put out a fire either. Please, if you´re the praying type, included prayers for rain in Cordoba and La Cumbre in your prayers because we need it bad! If you know any good rain spells or medicine, please let me know!!!!!
Today, I began my spanish class in Cordoba. It´s fun to be in school again and I just LOVE speaking spanish so I´m having a blast. It´s hard to understand the accent here and many of the words for things are different but I´m starting to get the hang of it. On Sunday, upon my arrival in Cordoba, Santiago, my friend´s son, who´s 7, told me my spanish had improved. I beleive it coming from him.
I´m here in Cordoba for the next two weeks and then I´m off to the mountains.
I hope things are going well on the homfront. I thought of you SFOP folks on Sunday as the wind blew through the trees, I realized that the Citywide action was at that very time. I hope it went well.
With love for yall and an open heart for the next step of the journey.....