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.