A Tule Boat on the King Tide

A King Tide came our way last week, giving us a glorious opportunity to launch a ceremonial tule reed boat at the edge of San Francisco Bay. Because of the drought we’re experiencing, it had special meaning, bringing with it a sharpened awareness of global warming and the life style changes immanent and necessary, and a deep appreciation for all the ways that water is present in our lives.

This lovely ceremony came from my travels over 25 years ago to Lake Titicaca, between Peru and Bolivia. Tule reeds are not new here to the Bay Area. For hundreds of years they lined much of San Francisco Bay; ignorant of the important role they play in bringing oxygen and in cleansing toxins, over decades most of the reeds were cut down. Now only isolated pockets of them still exist.

When they’re harvested for the boat, we ask permission of the plants themselves, explaining that we want to honor them with ceremony, and want to center ourselves in gratitude and respect for the life forms that are part of the ongoing web of life here at the edge of the Bay – the plants, the fish and other water creatures, the birds shorebirds and those who pass through on the Pacific Flyway, the human beings who are drawn to this special place of beauty and power.

With reeds gathered several weeks in advance, a group came together near the Bay’s shore; we did a ceremonial cleansing of the reeds and our intentions with them. Using raffia to tie them, bundling 15 or so reeds together, we assembled 3 bundles for the base of the boat.  Two bundles on each side created a “container ship”, about a yard long.  We sang water songs, told traditional water stories and personal experiences of water adventures, feasted on fishy things and other treats. Several ears of ceremonial corn were placed in the boat for struts, widening the container so that other biodegradable offerings would fit into it.  Corn meal, herbs, beautiful flower petals made a wonderful bed for origami boats and birds. We added personal offerings – gratitude for water’s presence, commitments to living in harmony with water’s moods and needs, and intentions to celebrate with poems, stories, songs, dance, drumming – being more conscious of this wonderful gift, and not taking it for granted!

Taking the boat to the shoreline, we reveled in the huge swell of water filling the channel – dallied while we watched it reach its peak, telling more stories of water adventures. Barbara sang a wonderful Lakota song, and when the water turned to go back toward the Bay, Roy and Eric got down on their bellies, and launched the boat on the outgoing tide.

That day, the rains began – at first a few days of dribbles. Now a week has passed, and the rain sporadically continues, with another storm on its way.  The agonizing weeks of no rain here were an important wake-up, and we have a chance to shape our water habits with greater appreciation for its marvelous and necessary presence in our lives.

The list below has the titles of a number of stories and songs.  It would be fun to include movies related to water – and if you can add other watery songs and stories, that could extend this source.   Keep tuned for other water events.

Water Stories
Little Mermaid
Descent into the Maelstrom
Bakkus and Philemon  (impending doom)
Poseidon
The Odyssey
Selkie
Balinese version – Heavenly Maiden
Moore’s Castle (from Patrick Ball)
River of Separations – what separates us from being whole

Water Stories involving Goddesses:
Kuan Yin
Yemaya
Sedna
Tefnut
Iris
Oshun

And Gods:
Neptune/Poseidon
Charon

Children’s Story

The cow who went to market

Water Songs
Father Sky Rainsong
Water Planet
The Oculam
The Ocean is the Beginning
Yemaya
I Draw the Rain
The Rain Song
She is Like a River Flowing
River Round
I Take Delight
Stormy Weather
You Never Miss the Water till the Well Runs Dry
Cruisin down the River
Asleep in the Deep
Suwannee River
Old Man River
Moody River – your muddy water took my baby’s life
Muddy River (???)
In the Evening by the Moonlight
Down by the Riverside
Old Mill Stream
Singing in the Rain
Row row row your boat
My Bonnie
How’re ya gonna wet your whistle when the whole darn world runs dry
On the Banks of the Wabash
Banks of the Ohio
Moonlight Bay
Down in the Meadow by the Itty Bitty Boo
The River is Wide
Blue Danube
Michael Row the Boat Ashore
Erie Canal
Water Boy
Sailing, sailing over the bounding main
Cool Water

From another Source
Babylon
Bridge over troubled waters
Cripple creek
Deep blue sea
Deep river blues
Dillan Bay
Dock of the bay
Early morning rain
Erie canal
Fire and rain
Foggy dew
Healing river
Many rivers to cross
Moon river
Ocean love
Peace like a river
Rain
Reedy River
River
Sailing down my golden river
Sail away
Skye boat song
Sloop John B
Soon it’s gonna rain
Spirit of God in the clear running water
Waist deep in the big muddy
Water is wide
We are the river
What have we done to the rain?

From Another Source
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Michael Row Your Boat Ashore
Wellmet–<traditional and mentions the sea>
High Calypso <I had to sound out the name. A John Denver song. Karen liked it a lot>
Fiddlers Green <Irish and about men dying at sea>
Running Bear <60-70′s country where lovers meet and die in the middle of a river…if I’m not mistaken>
Danny Boy <he crosses the sea>
Where the River Shannon Flows <Irish>
Feilin’s Little Boat Phelim’s <Irish>
Arthur McBride <Irish–takes place on a sea shore>
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough <Supremes–mentions river>
Dock of the Bay <Otis Redding>
My Love <Petula Clark? Mentions ocean>
Roll on Columbia
1840 <mentions the Mississippi river>
Ode to Billy Joe <suicide ‘sung’ by his lover>
Boots of Spanish Leather <Bob Dylan–ocean>
Theme to Red River Valley
Wash That Man Outa my Hair <Song from the musical South Pacific>
I fall to Pieces <Pasty Cline–mentions tears>
Singing in The Rain <from the movie of the same name>
Tom Dooley <I’ve run across one version that mentions throwing her into a river>
Raindrops Keep Fallin on My Head
Take me to the River – Talking Heads

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