Summer has passed; autumn begins Tuesday. For now we live in the gap between climate and astronomy. Here in Northern New England autumn jumps well ahead of the sun; spring usually lags behind. Fall is often a time of water, the autumn rains refilling the lakes and aquifers for winter. In the cycle of the Medicine Wheel it is the time of Water, Emotion, and Dreaming.
The fall has been dry so far, the gardens need rain. Many gardeners around the region will likely see the growing season end tomorrow night. Here, right up against the warmth of the lake, the killing frost is often much delayed. Our garden have some time before the first freeze comes sometime in October, and rain would be most welcome.
Seasons vary by place. Many years ago I lived on a small ranch in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The elevation rose several hundred feet from the pasture stream to the top of the canyon rim. Fall could ease its way into the meadow, while freezes visited the canyon rim at night. We identified six major biomes on 100 acres of the ranch, including alpine meadow, scrub oak forest, Ponderosa, forest, and high desert. Running through the meadow was a mountain river. In spring the river carried enormous quantities of water in its ten foot wide bed; by fall the flow was much reduced. Yet the stream remained the centerpiece of the ranch, providing drinking water for cattle and horses, trout for the table, and crucial habitat for a host of birds and mammals, including elk and bear.
Water is sacred to Indigenous people everywhere. For cultures in the semi-arid Southwest, it is precious, indeed. Nothing grows without water. Water is conserved, nurtured, and shared. Agriculture is shaped by the scarcity of water, planting strategies and ceremonies designed to assure Grandmother Water’s presence at each crucial moment of the growth cycle.
We swim in water in utero, proceeded into the world by a salty cascade. We are mostly water, sacks of life whose structural integrity is maintained by thin semi-permeable membranes. No wonder we are taught to respect sharp things!
As we approach the autumn equinox we are reminded that we owe our lives to Grandmother water. This year, as we have done for the last few years, we will conduct ceremony to express our gratitude to her, and to remind ourselves of our profound debt to her. We will also acknowledge the many people and creatures around the world who lack potable water, and the social forces that keep them thirsty. As has been prophesied, some people, dreaming of wealth, would capture water and clean air, and sell them to those who have none. They would hoard that which is the ancient birthrite of all beings, causing immense suffering.
We are, after all, ONE, our individuality an illusion. We and the lake are connected by the waters we share. Yet, we know that we are now polluting the Earth’s waters far faster than the water cycle can cleanse them.
Let us turn our thoughts to Grandmother Water, and the gift of life she bestows on us. May our actions honor her and the Creator, and may Grandmother fill our lives with beauty and pleasure for many generations.