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

Charged Magical Armor: Creating Breastplates of Protection

In sacred space, in a place of light and beauty, we met on a sunny fall day to explore an important issue – protection from unexpected events that might come our way in the future.  The questions we posed: what’s come your way to give you the chance to learn how to turn straw into gold? What has your path taught you?

Looking at personal protection from three perspectives, we lay the groundwork for the creation of the “magical armor”. We journeyed, asking three questions: what am I protecting? what do I need protection from? and what does my protection look like? Pooling the wisdom of the group, people shared their journeys; coupled with tactile play with symbols and natural materials, they were able to refine their own needs and strengths, and begin to envision what a visual representation of protection might look like. What you’ve learned about yourself and the world around you deepens your experience of being fully alive in the world.

Once breastplates designated high priests and priestesses who possessed capacities for wise judgment, clear vision, and divination.  In these times, we need to come into our own power. Exploring personal power through drum journeys, through an ancient Norse story of the Goddess of Love, as well as hands-on involvement with the use of tangible symbols made the very act of creating the Breastplates an empowerment itself.

Meeting the shadow thrusts us forward, searching for the doorway into light.  Tangible involvement with symbols and images sharpens the awareness of strengths, of important directions, of both external and internal sources to draw upon.

Natural materials, beads, ribbons, paint, milagros, and an assortment of surprising materials were incorporated into personal visions of empowerment and protection. Wood-working artisan Eric DuPraw was on hand to drum, and to guide the use of materials.

A Wetlands Ceremony

Drummers and banners dotted the pathway leading to the hillside overlooking Redwood City’s salt ponds, where we gathered around a cheerful hand-made boat destined to be part of the ceremony.

Making our Offerrings to the Wetlands

We’d come to reclaim a vision of the wetlands once present here, a vision for the same kind of transformation that has succeeded in restoring thousands of acres of wetlands along the shore of the Bay. Sites in Newark, in Alviso, in Petaluma and elsewhere form a necklace of wetlands, affording habitat for migrating birds and other wetlands life forms. Human beings, too, enjoy canoeing, walking, birding, kite flying at those sites.

Looking northwest, the hibernating wetlands sparkled with bright white salt; what some have called a wasteland can emerge as it has elsewhere along the Bay, and life WILL return.

Salt Ponds

Salt ponds that Cargill sold in 2002 became a place of refuge as the levees were breached, and the mud of the bay brought with it the seeds of returning life.  Now, when you canoe along the shoreline, cat-tails and tules rustle overhead; hidden nesting sites bustle with activity and melody.  It’s a visible a visible reminder that people with strong intention and deep caring have the power and the pleasure to return balance to the life we share with all beings. Helplessness gives way to hope that we can make a difference.

Revisioning the Wetlands

How do we begin? We tap into the deep will to survive that exists in all creatures.  The will to live is everywhere around us, and all of nature takes part in the invitation to procreate. Nature weaves a beautiful design, one life form calling to another to sustain life on earth.  We’ve come to take part in that intricate dance of life.

Our songs, our open hearts, our dancing feet are part of the seduction we’re extending to life returning. We welcome the lives that have long shared the wetlands at the edge of the Bay near Redwood City; we begin to dissolve the barriers to life returning.

We’ve come to restore and take part in the web of life. We’re here to honor and celebrate the plant people, the fish people, the animal and bird people, welcome their return to their homes in wetlands, where Earth and Water intertwine, where the water surges toward the shore, and returns to the Ocean.

We honored first the elemental powers that sustain all life – calling on air, fire, water, and earth.  Susie reminded us of the Bay’s beginning.  Cynthia shared a traditional blessing of the land.  Inspired by a traditional Haida story of raven discovering the first people emerging from a clam shell, Carol created a story of life emerging in the complexity of cultures coming together at the edge of San Francisco Bay.

Taking up rattles, we joined the drumming of Eric, Jonathan, Penny, and Patter in waking the earth, heard Herb’s delicate flute calling the birds.   We began to envision a restored wetlands. Singing out our invitations to the birds, the fish, the animals, to the muddy waters full of seeds and pregnant with new life, we danced, our feet waking the earth and opening our hearts.  Weaving the songs of life, we let them intertwine, just as they will be involved with one another when they return.

Offerings Placed on the Boat

We gravitated toward the small gaily decorated wicker boat in the center of our circle, and filled it with welcoming feasts from the natural world.  Maya blessed the boat; Robin reminded us of the pond salt dissolving as we placed small fragments among the offerings. Walking toward the shore, Peggy and Holly led songs honoring the earth and the water; Eric carried the boat to the water’s edge, and we sent our invitations to the waiting World of Spirit.

The Procession to the Water

Over the next months, we’ll be engaging with life at the wetlands that have already been restored – canoeing, birding, using magnifying glasses and walking on paths along the water.  We’ll be renewing relationships with the gifts of life on the edge.  We’ll re-member our places in the web of life – filling our eyes and hearts with beauty, pleasure, compassion  and care for the fragile existence of which we are a part.

Doing this, we’ll prepare the way for the return of these precious life forms to the Redwood City wetlands area. Our own capacity to envision the renewal of their habitat will offer them a filament of light to travel back to their homes here.

The Boat Launched on the Salt Ponds

Enjoy your sense experiences at the edges of the Bay to expand your vision of the Redwood City Wetlands returning. Dream it.  Bring it about.

The Salt Ponds

The Wetlands Series

The Wetlands series has been flowing along with wonderful mini-events, and will culminate with a ceremony this Sunday, Sept. 25, 11:00 AM at Bayfront Park in Menlo Park. It’s a community project to re-imagine what the Redwood City wetlands might be if returned to their natural state. The most recent addition to the necklace of restored wetlands around San Francisco Bay took place a week ago, when Chronicle Staff writer Carolyn Jones reported that the waters from the old Alameda Creek flowed into the “bone-dry moonscape” of a salt flat for the first time since the 1850’s. The 630 acres will eventually be connected directly to San Francisco Bay.

It could be Redwood City’s turn next! The dialogue about the Cargill Saltworks project building homes for over 30,000 people on the 1400 acres of salt ponds has helped point up the potential for this important part of the Bay’s edge to become reconnected to the Bay. Similar projects include the most recent addition of Alameda Creek.

(Take a peek at the great mapping of these projects on www.virtualsaltworks.org) USGS has produced a film about salt marsh restoration,, and the Redwood City salt ponds have already been acknowledged as appropriate to become part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

So we’ve begun to re-imagine its future with that in mind and heart. You might want to visit some of the restored areas – for example, walk or canoe at Alivso, where the tall reeds of cattails and tules tower over your head, and help you envision a time not so long ago when these plants were crucial to the daily lives of the Ohlone people.

San Francisco Bay Wetlands

San Francisco Bay Wetlands

Several weeks ago, we began that visioning with an evening of rattling and singing, letting songs emerge that would honor and greet the long-gone birds, plants, and animals who make their homes in other nearby wetlands. It was a magical evening – and we followed it with a more mundane visit to the area in question, next to Seaport Blvd. Later, we scoped out a crest of land at nearby Bayfront Park; at this vista, which overlooks several areas of salt flats, we’ll do our visioning ceremony this Sunday, Sept. 25.

A week later, Eric DuPraw guided us in making rainsticks; their sound of falling rain can inspire our visions of water at Sunday’s ceremony. And finally, last Sunday Robin Mankey, doll-maker and teacher of body tales, led us in creating images of good habitat for the wildlife we look forward to hosting.

You’re invited to join us at Bayfront Park, creating ceremony to welcome the restoration of the salt ponds to wetlands. At the park, you can walk among tall grasses that rustle in the wind, hear the birds who call to one another, see the vistas of the area that can become the restored wetlands. This return to natural habitat can offer a ray of hope for the future of our children, reminding us and reassuring the next generation that all of nature has not been abandoned. Hear drumming, and stories of water; listen to spirited chants that members of the community have created to reflect he nature of these wetlands features. Come celebrate the wild beauty that is right in our own backyard.

You’re invited to bring children, rattles, and something to sit on.