Tag Archives: Water

Water Wars

Water Wars: Coming Soon to a Planet Near You.

Know what Enron was attempting to commoditize just before it went bankrupt? Starts with an “H” and ends with “2o.” If you think that permanently stopped the move to privatize the world’s water resources, I have a few Great Lakes that I’d like to sell you.

My friend, the ever brilliant Atrios, occasionally puts up a post saying he just can’t imagine what will happen when a major city runs out of water. And I keep telling him what will happen: poor people will first riot, will then become willing slaves in return for minimal water rations, and will then die in large numbers. Rich people will keep watering their lawns and golf courses will truck in water stolen from some poor area. Christian preachers will insist that the lack of water is their god’s sign that he’s angry about gay marriage, abortion, women’s rights, etc., etc., etc. Eventually, only the very rich, and then only the uber rich, and then only the ultra rich will have water and, then, well, we all know what happened to the Mayans, the Pueblo people of Chaco canyon, the Bronze Age Aegean.

There are too many people and not enough planet. Nicely done, Catholic Church. I’m blaming Sao Paulo all on you.

hat tip to the Greenman for encouraging me to write about this.

Element: Water

Kayden + Rain from Nicole Byon on Vimeo.

I think I’ve found a kindred spirit. There’s little that I like as much as to go outside and just “be” in a warm Summer rain. Sometimes, my fox and some of the birds come out too, but even all alone, I love to celebrate the rain. Now that I’m an old woman who doesn’t care what anyone thinks and who has her own, secluded backyard, I do it every chance that I get. It’s such an “ordinary miracle.”

California, sadly, has been experiencing a serious drought. Sylvia writes beautifully about some welcome rain:

I went walking in Point Reyes, along the Muddy Hollow trail, to visit with the red alders, and the new nettles—I had feared there would be none!—and a special grove of alders that grow close and pale, where the tule elk pass, rubbing their antlers on the bark, where the bobcat moves, out of sight of human trails, coming down from the scrubby hills where she hunts the voles, the gophers, the small birds, like this darling fox-sparrow above, of whom I’ve been seeing much recently—it is a subspecies known as the Sooty Fox Sparrow that winters in the Bay Area from farther north, and what a sweet gift it is to get to meet them! (For beautiful photos of this bird, see here. I can’t seem to quite get over the sweetness of those speckles.) Once, last winter, a wildlife camera (which I helped set up with Felidae and a tracking group called Catscapes, since we tracked bobcats and cougars) near this special grove of alders caught a shot of a lone mountain lion, passing gracefully at dawn. This is a special place, a place of old magic. When I visited it last, it was so brown and gray and dead I felt tight and a little sick in my stomach, a panic beginning to rise in the back of my throat at the hot sky, only blue, empty of clouds, desert dry. But after even two days of scattered rain—so little, in fact, that I heard people joking that the poor clouds were trying hard, but they’d quite forgotten what it meant, to rain— the land began to move, like my own spirit did, and throw its whole heart up toward that water.

You should go read the whole thing.

So there we are, at different times and in different places, but all engaged in the same act of worship, the same ritual of the Goddess — Kayden, Sylvia, and me. We shan’t be gone long, you come too.

Water Poetry Blogging



~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

Picture found here.

Wednesday Poetry Blogging


The Wild Swans at Coole

~ William Butler Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

(You can find a lovely audio of the poem at the Poetry Foundation if you like to listen to your poetry.)

No one knows for sure (and that’s enough, alone, to make me cry), but there’s some indication that the word “Potomac” means “River of Swans.” It’s what I like to believe. I drive every morning and every evening past the beautiful Potomac, past the Three Sisters — three tiny islands that sit just between Teddy Roosevelt Island and the Virginia shore — just before the river turns a large, lovely, lazy bend. I’ve never seen a swan there. I’ve seen an eagle, sea gulls, ducks, many Canada geese, and hawks, but no swans. I’m jealous of Yeats.

What’s Autumn like in your watershed?

Thursday Evening PotPourri


* Oh, this would be lovely to listen to on the way to and from work. Most anything by David Whyte is good. Here he is on Rest:

The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving which is the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world; we are rested when we let things alone and let ourselves alone, to do what we do best, breathe as the body intended us to breathe. When we give and take in this foundational way we are closest to the authentic self, and closest to that self when we are most rested. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given.

Excerpt From Readers’ Circle Essay, ‘REST’
©2011 David Whyte

* Yoga can be a lot like ballet.

hat tip: D.

The Sackler Gallery is about to host what looks like a spectacular exhibit on Yoga: The Art of Transformation and the National Gallery of Art is in the final weeks of a brilliant exhibit on the Ballets Russes: When Art Danced with Music. I slipped out at lunch one day this week to see this exhibit and hope I’ll get over to the Sackler for the one on yoga. What art is inspiring you these days?

* Here’s a bit of inspiration for the next time you call the Element of Water.

* You have to read Terri Windling today. Here’s a taste:

“Perhaps we are born knowing the tales, for our grandmothers and all their ancestral kin continually run about in our blood repeating them endlessly, and the shock they give us when we first hear them is not of surprise but of recognition. Things long unknowingly known have suddenly been remembered. Later, like streams, they run underground. For a while they disappear and we lose them. We are busy, instead, with our personal myth in which the real is turned to dream and the dream becomes the real. Sifting this is a long process. It may perhaps take a lifetime and the few who come around to the tales again are those who are in luck.”

The subsequent discussion of Sleeping Beauty reminded me of one of my favorite Dorothy Parker poems:


The day that I was christened-
It’s a hundred years, and more!-
A hag came and listened
At the white church door,
A-hearing her that bore me
And all my kith and kin
Considerately, for me,
Renouncing sin.
While some gave me corals,
And some gave me gold,
And porringers, with morals
Agreeably scrolled,
The hag stood, buckled
In a dim gray cloak;
Stood there and chuckled,
Spat, and spoke:
“There’s few enough in life’ll
Be needing my help,
But I’ve got a trifle
For your fine young whelp.
I give her sadness,
And the gift of pain,
The new-moon madness,
And the love of rain.”
And little good to lave me
In their holy silver bowl
After what she gave me-
Rest her soul!

Picture found here.

The Condition of Quiet that Is the Condition of Vision


Some French writer that I read when I was a boy, said that the desert went into the heart of the Jews in their wanderings and made them what they are. I cannot remember by what argument he proved them to be even yet the indestructible children of earth, but it may well bet hat the elements have their children. If we knew the Fire Worshipers better we might find that their centuries of pious observance have been rewarded, and that the fire has given them a little of its nature; and I am certain that the water, the water of the seas and of lakes and of mist and rain, has all but made the Irish after its image. Images form themselves in our minds perpetually as if they were reflected in some pool. We gave ourselves up in old times to mythology, and saw the Gods everywhere. We talked to them face to face, and the stories of that communion are so many that I think they outnumber all the like stories of all the rest of Europe. Even today our country people speak with the dead and with some who perhaps have never died as we understand death; and even our educated people pass without great difficulty into the condition of quiet that is the condition of vision. We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet. Did not the wise Porphyry think that all souls come to be born because of water, and that “even the generation of images in the mind is from water”?

From The Celtic Twilight by William Butler Yeats

Picture found here.

Elements: Water

When you call the Element of Water, do you call salt or fresh? Frozen, liquid, or steam? Hot or cold?

Here Comes the Rain, Again



So, this may sound odd, but I spent a lot of today waiting for rain.

The weather guys have been saying for a few days that we’d get heavy rain today, rain that would really soak the ground following the light showers that we’ve gotten several evenings this week. I’ve been reveling in sleeping with the windows open, snuggled under blankets and comforters against the cool breezes, and waking up to the gentle sound of rain on my wisteria.

But there was no rain as I drove into work alongside Spout Run and the Potomac River, noting how dandelions have overtaken the purple deadnettle and how the bleached skeletons of sycamore trees have leafed out into that color of light Spring green that really can’t be described.

There was no rain when I walked to Rasika for lunch.

When I started back to my office, it was dark and windy, but I made it back without having to pull out my umbrella or call Uber.

When I drove home from work, the sky was dark and the radio was full of tornado watches, but there was no rain. I sat out on my porch for hours, feeling the ground and the roots longing for the rain the way one longs for a lover’s touch, or for a drink of cold water on a very hot day, or for a hot bath when your muscles are sore.

Finally, a bit after 6:30, there was a crack of thunder and the rain began. I went out to sit in it — my first time this year.

All late Autumn and all Winter, when it rains, or sleets, or snows, I can only participate in it as the bit of my landbase that stays warm inside, mug of tea in hand, watching out the window. And I know that my landbase needs that, as much as it needs the water level below the Earth filling up, as much as it needs the spaces between the tiny pebbles and the huge tree roots that provide air pockets even in the rain, as much as it needs the squirrels who go out in any weather.

But once it warms up, in late Spring, I can go sit outside and be rained upon, just like my magnolias, my altar rock, my ferns, and my Japanese Temple pines. I can anticipate the rain just as my iris and arisaemas do. I love that.

May it be so for you.

Picture found here.

Friday Night Poetry Blogging

[She goes, she is, she wakes the waters]
She goes, she is, she wakes the waters
primed in their wave-form, a flux of urge
struck into oneness, the solid surge
seeking completion, and strikes and shatters

and is its fragments, distinction’s daughters
and now, unholding, the cleave and merge
the hew and fusing, plundering the verge
and substance is the scheme it scatters

and what it numbers in substantial sun.
Her hands hold many or her hands hold none.
And diving the salt will kiss a convex eye

and be salt fact and be the bodied sky
and that gray weight is both or beggared one,
a dead dimensional, or blue begun.

Picture found here.

Water Temples en Plein Air

We Witches love the Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Water is the Element of life, emotion, movement, flow, erosion and change, immersion, quenching.

I’ve always identified quite strongly with, Cress, a character in The Fifth Sacred Thing who declares, “Water is my religion! Water is my politics and water is my strategy.” I live almost on the banks of the Potomac River and I’m a gardener; water is a huge part of my religion.

And as a Witch whose practice centers on a relationship with my landbase, I was particularly delighted to see Chas Clifton‘s post about Water Temples of California. You absolutely must click through and look at all the pictures and read the fascinating history. I have to admit that it made me think, all at once, of a scene from Chinatown outside some lovely pillars (the story of water and the American West is one of THE most fascinating and still-not-well-told-from-a-magical-standpoint stories, ever) and of John Michael Greer‘s talks this past Spring at Sacred Space Conference concerning how our American ancestors, while imagining themselves good Christians all the while, engaged in mad and prolific acts of Nature magic. They were certainly happy to invoke Pagan architecture. And, of course, I was reminded of that Pagan warrior queen, Califia.

San Francisco has some amazingly lovely old buildings, built when civic pride was high and California was eager to show the folks “back East” that it was as cultured as anyplace. The Ninth Circuit courthouse in San Francisco is one of the loveliest courtrooms in the country (and I’ve been to SCOTUS, the Fifth Circuit, and the D.C. Circuit, all grand, in their own way, but, to my eye, less lovely inside), although it’s in a part of town that is, now, not too wonderful. I see it as a temple to Columbia and, of course, to Lady Justice, and I’ve practiced some of Their esoteric and arcane rituals there from time to time (always to good result — so far). The Fine Arts Palace is another spot just begging for people to do ritual there. I’ve stood on the compass inside the Compass Rose restaurant and done some of the most heartfelt magic of my life. And then there’s that bridge. And the woods beyond it. It’s not happenstance that much of the modern Pagan movement is centered on this spot.

The next time that I’m in California, I will make it a point to visit these temples and leave my offerings.

Here in my own shining City on a Swamp, there are a number of places where one could do water magic. Just outside the National Gallery of Art is a Zodiac Fountain. I’ve been doing Wheel-of-the-Year magic there for decades. We also have a park dedicated to aquatic plants (and, from my trips there, to beaver dams). DC has several reflecting pools and I’ve done magic with the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. I’ve thrown magically-charged bundles into the Potomac off the bridge to Teddy Roosevelt Island and experienced magic so old and so deep that I needed Brigid to pull me out of it just along the banks of the Potomac (either the River Where Swans Gather or the River Where People Trade, depending upon your interpretation of a language now lost with the First Peoples).

Are there water temples in your landbase? Where can you do magic in plein air?

Picture found here.