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.

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