A few days ago after visiting Storm on the land, I was heading south to take part in a community grief ritual led by soul activist and grief worker Francis Weller when I stopped at the city of Weed to fill up my water bottle and started talking with a local woman about the town's water supply. She told me that the water that bubbles up from the Beaughan Spring on the edge of this small town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly into the homes that spread across the hills and valleys, but that their access to this water was now being threatened by the lumber company that owns the land where the spring is located, and who see the water as nothing more than a profitable resource.
Roseburg Forest Products, the Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring surfaces, have been charging the city only $1 a year for the use of this water for the past fifty years. Until last summer when they upped the annual costs to close to $100,000. Recently they told the city it would need to start looking for an alternative source as they are planning on selling their entire supply of this water to Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring, which had already been buying and bottling it in Weed for domestic supply but now planned to bottle more and ship it as far away as Japan. According to my new friend, during a visit to Weed several months ago, Pierre Papillaud, the founder of the company that owns Crystal Geyser, had told the mayor that if he didn’t get his own way, he would blow up the bottling plant. Later I found evidence of this incredible story in an article in the New York Times published last October.
So here we are again. Another David and Goliath battle where a wealthy corporation pays high-powered lawyers to steal the water from a relatively poor city of less than 3000 people. The local Native American tribe, the Winnemem Wintu, know of the sacredness of the slopes of Mount Shasta where this spring lives. According to their beliefs, one of the other springs on this mountain is the place where animals and mankind were first born into the world. Though six years ago this sacred spring of creation dried up for the first time in their oral history. They say this mountain, which is actually a dormant volcano, is starting to talk, and that if we don't want her to start shouting we better start listening.
As I continued on my journey south to Point Reyes in California, the storm clouds above me darkened. For more than four hours I drove through strong winds and torrential rain, crying with the sky as I shed my own tears of deep grief for our planet. How am I to offer protection to those I love - to Storm who now lives under the protective gaze of this very mountain and drinks from her sacred waters? To my niece and nephew whose future wellbeing on this planet is threatened? And to all my brothers and sisters, young and old, across this wide earth who are being denied access to the clean water that is their birthright? For those who have forgotten what is sacred, water is money. For those of us who can remember, water is life.
As the daily procession of social and ecological horrors and tragedies continue to flood in from our increasingly broken world, it seems clear that in order to avoid the depression, burnout, or numbness that can set it when we start to feel hopeless about protecting the world we love, we need to create safe and sacred spaces for our hearts to come together and grieve. As Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee said “If we can hear the cry of the Earth, feel this grief in our soul, then something in our heart opens. We are not separate from the Earth, her loss is our loss, her cry is our cry. Our heart becomes the Earth’s prayer that calls, and love the response to that call.”
This sacred mountain is holy, as are the skies above her, the ground below her, and all the humans, plants and animals that have relied on her healing waters for so many thousands of years. And our tears for this world are baptismal, as they are cleansing and renewing us for the difficult work ahead, and bringing us closer to our longing for peace, love and justice in what Michael Meade calls this time of impossible tasks. There is no room for blame, shame, or ideas of retribution in the raw truth, vulnerability, and open-hearted passion of grief. There is only our love for this world, and a deep emptiness where creative, heartfelt, regenerative action can be born.
In this time of fire and ashes, each of us is being called to undergo our own apprenticeship with sorrow, so that in our despair and outrage our hearts can be broken open, and our actions become firm but kind. After all, our grief is nothing more than Earth crying out to herself, shedding tears of love on her own holy ground.
Read more about the town of Weed's battle to retain access to this water on the link below: