Trailing through Santa Barbara’s infamous Jesusita Trail today, delivered a bittersweet experience. The smell of trees, dirt splashed up against my legs, and the magnificent rays of sunshine all over and around me; was some sweetness. Bitterness was to follow.
After trekking to the top of the trail, as far as a hiker could go, we decided to make our way back using an alternate route to the one we used to get there; we walked through the creek bed.
Ponder that image for a moment.
Then, ponder it, some more.
There was no water left in the creek, which made walking on and through the creek bed, possible.
The eerie feeling that crept up in me was similar to how I feel when I visit or see photographs of desolate towns, or decrepit buildings. There’s a sinking in my heart, yet, I don’t know what’s sunk: is it my own sense of mortality, in wait for a similar fate, or, a discouragement, resulting from seeing the consequences of neglect and disregard?
The remnants of debris, normally pushed into nooks formed by rocks, by the stream’s bottom currents, were like the tumbleweeds of an abandoned ghost town – signifying the last activity, or breath, of this river.
Continuing our hike down stream, its story began to emerge. As I touched and embodied the variety of rocks, their shapes, sizes, and positionality, I became a witness to the story of nature’s interdependence, her dialogue.
It was as if I had stumbled upon a private conversation, in someone else’s house – I wasn’t unwelcomed, but my presence interfered with the flow of things. How could I begin to even comprehend the life force and brilliance that once transpired, before she lost her soul, before the water was gone?
I could have spent hours combing through the story lines, and plot twists offered by this riverbed, finding ways in which my own life’s experience resonated with it; but time became of the essence in light of the dark that was beginning to settle it.
Scurrying along, we made our way back. A sense of helplessness settled in; there was nothing I could do to return the water, the soul, back to this river. It was the river’s dark night of the soul, and she was in desperate need of water.
My heart is heavy; it aches for the waterless streams, whose condition is not a reflection of her own behavior, or performance; which has been impeccable for eons.
My heart also aches for humans, whose acquired taste for convenience and overindulgence has caused them, us, we, and me – to bite the hand that feeds us.
Our neglect and disregard for our own water source, is, our neglect and disregard for our own human race. To add salt to the wound, we leave evidence at the crime scene, our carbon print, as we trek through water’s genocide, with bottled water in hand, to ensure our own hydration.
We walk with plastic water bottles in hand, to make sure we stay hydrated as we visit our waterless, soulless, river beds.
I won’t take away from the river bed’s need to be understood, by climbing the soap box, tossing my finger, whilst I hypocritically spew social activist dogma, in hopes of instilling the kind of consideration and conviction necessary to make the kind of changes that would bring soul back to our streams – there’s plenty of that to go around. It hasn’t been too effective.
What we all need is to make time for independent, self-reflection. Then, we need to step it up for some reflexivity –visiting, embodying, and dialoguing with our depleted water sources, and find that groove between nature and ourselves, where we begin to understand each other’s wounds. An empathic approach will prove to create shifts in us necessary to change our consumption habits; to the point shifts are made in our environment.
My heart aches as I write this, tears streaming down my face. How did this happen, and how did we get here? Whatever answer suffices the reader is less important than the solutions that will sustain our earth.
As you do whatever it is you do, on Earth Day, consider her soul. Consider her plight. Consider her wounds. They’re yours, too.
Let the humming, frequency, and dialogue that emerge when you embody the interdependence of the earth’s soul, and yours, inform you. All dogma aside, if you let its resonance lead the way, you will be concerned enough to do what it takes to see to it that the both of you stay hydrated.