I’m laughing at my stubborn refusal to post again until I have finished the salmon prayer painting for August.
I have just finished the painting and now I will finish the story of our traipsing through the wood along the banks of the lake that died a long time ago. Immediately we begin noticing the quiet. I mention that in Part 1, but it is worth mentioning it again because the silence worms into me. I am muffled by the silent world, feel like I’m wrapped in a shroud. The extreme silence may be exaggerated a little by my own projections, since I notice the next day that birds are relatively quiet in my “own” forest at this endofsummer time of year. There is, however, no lack of chatter and activity in the woodland near my home: insects, squirrels, deer, both young and old, coyote, racoon and even beaver in the pond.
Walking by the lake, shades of gray are brightened by the sunflowers that Victoria and James have brought along, by our day packs and tote bags loaded with ceremonial gear and our gamboling dogs tethered to their leashes. We chat about when to stop and decide we’ll know intuitively when we’ve reached the right spot. And we do. All three of us recognize the bend in the trail and the brushy bank where we are meant to land.
We unwrap our drums, rattles, a bit of sage and a candle. Victoria has brought her ceremonial kit from Peru. I’ve brought a little Buddha to leave behind in a hidden spot. We begin by sitting in silence simply witnessing what lies around us. The sky is leaden. The lake shimmers with dark ripples interspersed with silver and grey. A bug a bug a bug. We thrill with signs of life. A dragonfly has found us and graces our spirits with several fly-bys. Then I spot a big bird with white breast swooping at the far end of the lake into the trees. Then Victoria sees a small bird. James wonders if they know not to drink the water.
We begin to rattle and drum and that eventually carries us into giving voice. Someone suggests that we pray out loud one by one and place our prayers into the sunflower. Tenderly, we pass the flower and bathe it with our heartfelt words. Momentum builds and we begin to drum again as James hurls the sunflower into the water. A few petals fly off and it feels to me as if our prayers are spinning out beyond this place. I’m not sure who begins singing – but all three of us raise our voices in free form song. The song grows and grows and becomes a chant channeled through Victoria: Get out of her way. Let the earth heal herself. Get out of her way. Get out of her way. GET OUT OF HER WAY.
The radical importance of this edict brings tears to my eyes. Tears for the beauty of this notion/tears because I know how tightly humans hold to their hubris. Science can find the antidote, technology can make an alternative. We keep thinking we can wiggle ourselves out of the messes we’ve already made but often make bigger messes with the solutions. David Suzuki says it well in his book titled: The BIG Picture. “ If we truly hope to ever live in balance with the natural world that sustains us, we really have to get over ourselves. Forces bigger than humanity are at work – forces that we mess with at our own peril.” P74
Salmon prayers in August enlivened me in ways I hadn’t expected. While still sitting on the bank, James reflected on how alive he felt, how sharing our anguish and our willingness to engage deeply with a natural world out of whack brought companionship and resiliency. Together we can weather any storm.
I am grateful.