In late summer, I would swim and stream-walk a small section of the Raccoon River. While sedimented for decades now, the water was clear in the shallows. For a few years now, the water is pea-green from edge-to-edge. For decades and worse now, this water has strongly contributed to a vast hypoxia zone in the Gulf.

In the 1980s, I wrote about the wisdom of the river, focusing on the Des Moines River as a living, very open metaphor for the essential streaming dynamic of the universe that is within us as well in the streaming of our body metabolism and thought.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sacred Water, Part 3

See Sacred Water Part 2 12/15/16
See Sacred Water Part 1 10/13/16
See River-Keeping 12/5/16
See Flowing Wisdom 10/27/16
See A Praise Of Water 9/16/16

If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong. 
Masaru Emoto, The Secret Life of Water

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
Margaret Atwood - The Penelopiad

HAIL WATER, full of grace.  Water, wind and light are connection made visible in a very real way.  We don’t pray to these events to bring them into our lives.  We are these events.  We do not praise them in an effort to purify them, but rather to cleanse ourselves by bring our attention to them.

The mountains, rivers, earth, grasses, trees, and forests, are always emanating a subtle, precious light, day and night, always emanating a subtle, precious sound, demonstrating and expounding to all people the unsurpassed ultimate truth.
It is just because you miss it right where you are, or avoid it even as you face it, that you are unable to attain actual use of it.
Yuansou, from “Expedients and Reality,” in Thomas Cleary, Zen Essence

When water is “you” and life itself, everyday actions can transform.  Value changes so that water becomes prioritized rather than being a secondary commodity.  And this “spiritual reality” is practical rather than esoteric.  Respect for water optimizes its economic contributions to daily life.  Not respecting water adds major financial costs to clarify and also increases public health costs.

(After Devon Pena, Aceqia [“A-see-key-ah”], on water democracy):
Spirit is essentially a dissolution of boundaries of things and self into other selves AND
attentiveness to the activity of primal order.  Such a perception is not fantasy or even esoteric reality; it is practical and optimal living.  Water, for example, reaches from ocean to rainfall, to stream to riparian edge and extends seamlessly into human life. 


Landscape is infused with spirit, every tree, stone, and even things that humans make.  And yet, in modern life, such a sense of spirit doesn’t exist.

in the garden of beauty
the intensity of our use introduces a shadow.
Because of this shadow
the commonness of water equates unimportance

do not pass by
listen and see

Water is present throughout the cosmos
yet rare are conditions that permit liquid water

Liquid water is the ground of life

Deep wellsprings of human culture--the sacred forest, the
 tree as a landscape with spirit, and so, too, water and stone--can inform modernity. 
A “modernity” that will soon add a billion people to the Earth and that favors electricity, autos, water, soil, food safety, can decimate human health.  An ecological civilization can optimize human life and is at the pinnacle of human development.  

Inhabitation is “place-based” where “self-care,” when healthy and sustaining, prioritizes the landscape down to the smallest details.  Inhabitation values the smallest details--a particular bird, snail, bee or butterfly as a valuable aspect of self.  This has an optimizing aspect upon water, atmosphere, food sources.  The human community acts as a “keystone species” that melds new forms as an extension of primal forms, giving standing to primal forms and non-human otherness as primal, essential rather than separate and secondary..”

Sustainability is not stewardship.  Sustainability is habitation that follows the primal instructions. Primal” does not reference ancient or archaic or primitive in the sense of being simple and less complex.  Primal is “foundational”  or “core”  and “first.”  The “eternal” is not past, but rather references the “enduring,” and as such is in the present moment.  

How is “sacred Earth” not a reach?  

Increasingly urbanized and spending the majority of time alive inside buildings, it is to be recollected that most of human development has been spent in unbuilt landscapes.  The landscape has a healing capacity--wind, fragrance, wild plants, bird-song, light and colors in water, wind song in high tree branches, sunrises and sunsets, stars, insect chants, and even space itself both sheltering and wide open.  It can be felt as “homeland.”  In The Outermost House, Henry Beston suggests  that, in fact, we “hunger” for the elemental before the senses.  There is a sense of shinrin-yoko or “forest-bathing” as Earth-healing, both from mental calmness and the role of natural materials as medicine for immunity.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Water: Far More Than We Allow Ourselves To Imagine

Lance Kinseth, The Color Of Water 1 & 2, 2017

OUR POSTMODERN, postindustrial, cybernetic sense of water is still primitive.  We are so very limited in our perception.  We are so homocentric, self-entered,where water is sill sensed to be an external, inanimate commodity.  For all our intelligence, we are so ignorant, even self-ignorant.  We base our lives on economics, but we cannot see the deep economy of water, and it is costing us dearly.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

EARTH DAY 2017!!!: Iowa Agriculture: A Mining Mentality / High Yield Extraction

[Iowa Water Post Number 10, selections from Your 2 Cents Worth, & Letters To Editor, Des Moines Register]

It was wonderful to read about thousands of acres of farm buffer strips next to creeks and lakes, and how, very soon, all the waterways in the state will be protected. Unfortunately, I was reading about Minnesota, which requires buffer strips. Iowa doesn't.

Iowa farmers are switching form corn to soybeans to search for more profit this year.  Here’s a novel idea.  How about adding a third, fourth or fifth option?  Try planting oats, wheat, sorghum or anything else but row crops.  Plant a crop that actually holds the soil and takes less inputs (fertilizer, chemicals).  Oops, silly me.  You would lose your row crop welfare checks.

I’d like my taxes to help the farmer down the road who raises veggies and uses compost to improve his soil.
Instead, my taxes help the corn farmer next door who sends lots of soil and nitrates into the creek via tillage and tiling.


[letter to editor: Selden Spencer, Water is still polluted]
Despite the recent legal decision against the Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s water is still polluted and getting worse. How do we fix this problem?  Who is responsible?

Each of us can help. but the bulk of the problem is from industrial agriculture.  It is the owner of an “operation” that must accept final responsibility for the pollution of Iowa waters.  Whether the owners are on the farm, in a condo in Arizona or in some boardroom in Chicago. The owners, through persuasion or legislative rules must be brought to a conservation mentality and practice--a mindset that would value increased biomass as much as increased yield. 

The obsession with maximal yield will never allow for practices that might preserve or even enhance our gift of topsoil.

A mining mentality will continue to tear, destroy, pollute and wash away our topsoil into our waters and thereby foul them.  With carrot or stick we must try to promote and elevate the best practices of soil and water conservation to all landowners if we want to restore our water quality.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Editorial: Pulitzer Winner Took Brave Stand

Editorial: Pulitzer winner took brave stand
The Register's editorial Published 5:16 p.m. CT April 11, 2017 

Art Cullen, 59, editor of the twice-weekly Storm Lake Times, won a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for his editorial writing. Kelly McGowan/The Register

Art Cullen may have lost friends over his powerful editorials, but he’s no “enemy of the people.” So it’s inspiring to see the colorful editor of a small-town, family-owned newspaper honored with the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

The editor and co-owner of the Storm Lake Times won for 10 editorials he wrote last year on Iowa’s water quality, including the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit against drainage districts in northwest Iowa. His work no doubt offended local officials, farmers and advertisers.

Cullen, however, was fighting for taxpayers in Buena Vista County. He worked with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council to obtain public records disclosing how his home county and two others financed the defense of the lawsuit.

“Regardless of your opinion about the merits of the water works’ lawsuit, the public deserves to know who is paying law firms in Des Moines and Washington, D.C., and under what terms,” he wrote in one of the editorials.

A few excerpts from those winning editorials:

On challenging those lawyers: "To use a barnyard euphemism, every once in awhile even a blind pig finds a nut. We are not so polished, but our snout smells something that is being hidden. We can’t see very well right now. But we can smell it."

On Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposal to redirect schools' sales tax revenue for water quality: “So, the workers at Tyson who buy school supplies for their children would find their sales tax payments going to agland owners who install bioreactors while living in California and paying no sales tax in Iowa. And Storm Lake (schools) could not build the size of facility it needs to accommodate the children of food processors woven into the supply chain that pollutes the Raccoon directly and indirectly.”

On why regulation is needed: “The truth is that we can’t dump a barrel of ink down the drain without impunity. Why should a farmer be allowed to dump a couple tons of phosphorous-laden soil into the Raccoon?”

Congratulations, Art.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Misguided Iowa State And Federal Policies Impacting Water Quality

Your 2 Cents’ Worth excerpts, Part 9 [various readers submissions/ Des Moines Register]:
Letters To The Editor


An indisputable truth: Des Moines water is polluted
Patricia Prijatel, Des Moines, Letter to the Editor, 3/25/017

Des Moines water is polluted, requiring millions of dollars of treatment before it is drinkable. That’s an indisputable truth. And hog confinement lots and cattle operations upriver are major causes of our unhealthy water, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

It was a brilliant political move by a hog farmer in Keota to draw our attention away from the real problem through his heavy-handed legislation dissolving the Des Moines Water Works. Mean-spirited and short-sighted and not in the overall interest of Des Moines or the state of Iowa, but darn clever. And it punishes the one agency that is actually serving citizens by cleaning up our water.

So can we regain our focus and remember that one fact: Our water is polluted. And dirty water is a health hazard, period. It’s linked to, among other things, cancer, infant deaths, miscarriages and nervous system problems.

Stop the diversions and the finger pointing and the rhetoric and the bogus legislation and the ineffective Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. It’s past time to take measurable and meaningful action upstream to clean up our water. Somebody show some spine and leadership here and make those who are causing the problem accountable for their destruction.

The EPA saves lives
Karen Johnson, Fairfield, Letter to the Editor, 3/23/2017

My father was a foreman at General Electric Co. in Massachusetts from the 1940s to the '70s. He was told to clean out a vat of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) with another man. The other man was overcome by the fumes, fell into the vat and died. My father got skin cancer. Luckily, he eventually beat it.

A few years later GE buried the PCBs under the ground. People built houses there. Many got cancer and died. GE said they were innocent since they did not know PCBs were toxic. How many people have to die before we know something is toxic? There was no Environmental Protection Agency then.

When GE pulled out of the area, most of the city was employed by GE. They all lost their jobs.

I need to know President Donald Trump cares about all, not just the wealthy. If the president feels the EPA is wrong, then he should then make changes to fix the problems, not dismantle the EPA.

The environment needs to be regulated on the federal level, as the problems are bigger than the state level.

A job is not as important as health. Without health, you have nothing of value.