page title icon Water runs cold, water runs deep…

The way things are going, teach kids love and respect for environment and they’ll end up branded as terrorists.

I’d heard tell of what happens when two differing ontologies clash, but witnessing those boys go down for protesting fracking in Lancashire; it became clear that the experience is far from academic.

Walking up the river barefoot on the stones.

This summer i made a trip to New Hampshire and, down by the old watching place, I paid my respect to the local River Sauhegan; watching it flash and flow over the contours of my skin. Later, as the young teens warmed their bones on the banks after a cold night in the wilderness using the sticks & leaves of the forest floor as their blanket; there I told a story of good news.

The story I told was of two representatives of a tribal grouping from South America, who have direct communication with water. They converse in ways in which we I can’t even begin to fathom. Often, water speaks to them of it’s sickness, but, on a recent visit to a certain well in a certain location in Scotland; they remarked that this particular body of water was of such vital health that it was like ‘placing your hands in electricity’, and; ‘the well water was so intact that it contained all of the ancestral knowledge since people first settled (t)here. All one had to do to access this, they enthused; was to begin to reconnect with it and all the knowledge they would need as a people to go forward in a good way was available to them.

Gratitude to the beauty and to all of the unknown,

My entry level journey with water has been pretty visceral, the open canoe affording plenty of trials in learning to work with this great & humbling force. In states of high concentration, senses alert, observations have seeped in, alongside the primal sounds of trickle & roar: spiraling eddies, frothing cauldrons, deep stillness, more than human visitations from the deep, phosphorescence, waves and a million ephemeral zoomorphic tracings of pole and paddle.

These days, as a father, I explore the various forms of water that flow through our landscape with my hands and feet each and every day. It’s become a core routine to hang out and say hello (and goodbye) to the springs, the sea, the streams, ditches, puddles, the watering can, the water bottle, polytunnel hosepipe, the shower & the kitchen tap. Observations leave impressions, water talks to us; we are learning to listen.

Bring us your stories to the fireside.

Not because, but certainly not in spite of this, the young people on our Souhegan journey were paying attention to the water that was running through their landscape in a way that piqued the curiosity of the leaders.

It’s fair to say of course that by this point, these adolescents had left Kansas, & had answered the call to adventure. Unbeknownst to them, they were embarking on their Souhegan Quest in an entirely elevated state, being skillfully guided in an optimal learning environment, held in a field of their own human potentiality, inhabiting an invisible initiatory institution; a cultural container co-created by chimerical coyotes. Rocking, it must be said… in the free world.

Notwithstanding, or entirely because of this, they were displaying what some might call an original instruction; exhibiting awe and reverence for the natural world they were encountering. All I remember is that as we walked into this specific part of the woods, the kids were spontaneously generating countless magic moments, spurred on by our spirited interest and questioning, inspired by their sensory impressions and they dubbed this trickling bit of tributary the ‘waterfall of eternal youth’… Here:

• Time stopped entirely.
• They insisted everybody wash their head and hands.
• They marveled at the silver streak of water free falling over black rock.
• They engaged in spontaneous, playful, imaginative origin stories.

They played, like joyful children- with the all the visceral, vibrant colours, smells & sounds of life on the forest floor. It didn’t stop there.

Bring them to the fireside

These kids care. They can’t help but care. I’m pretty sure, given enough reinforcement by their peers; they always will. Certainly, as the week progressed, their empathic relationship with the nature they were encountering was reinforced with story, song and the art of questioning. They were entirely receptive to the story I was asked to orate, which, one can only guess; was why I was asked to draw on this mythic moment in service to the kids journey. The ‘Call to Adventure’ was only one element of the arc of this camp, nonetheless the significant parts of it’s story orated around the fire to both ourselves and, as the week progressed, to the various visitors during the Integration phase known as ‘Family Camp.’ Thus, for those experiences that made the cut of being remembered, and the emergent metaphors that were successfully woven back into the fabric of the curriculum reinforced the significance of magic moments that would otherwise be overlooked or forgotten. Together, this process of reviewing became a kind of validation to the young folk that these things were indeed happening. Thus, the honoring and sanctity of water became a shared reality for us as a group of people.

Teach us your wisdom we hold deep inside.

As a mentor was only too keen to point about to me, without primary experience of this element, and bereft of a mileau where cultural associations and stories of the sanctity of water is orated and handed down- how can we expect people to possess the ontological & epistemological framework to be able to assert the sense of the immanent sanctity and innate intelligence of water? That holy element that is in itself a living thing and that which also flows both in, through, between and as part of living things?

I bear witness to the UK government to treat this element as a passive commodity, an inert ‘thing’ to do with what they will. Specifically, in this case, willfully adding thousands of tons of chemicals to blast bedrock. From my standpoint; this is absolute insanity. It’s effect appears catastrophic; a coffin nail. It’s act belies, at best, an acute amnesia, a lack of awareness of the fundamental force that sustains life. At worst, a wanton death wish, the ultimate act of self harm in the pursuit of capital. Either side of the coin… it amounts to suicide.  I watched the infrastructure bill go through at Westminster, even when all the experts at the environmental audit committee said it was a no go on economic, environmental, social licensing and, crucially, climate grounds.

Yet, without the ontological framework to witness the water as a living thing, where do you start in communicating? Can we stand by and witness whilst this happens? What do you do when your distant neighbours come to your back yard and start committing ecocide? I’m with the lads who climbed on the roof of the lorries, the one’s the judge said possess : ’an unshakeable belief that they are right’.

Are you?


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