Gift of Water

By Nancy Irish

~Dedicated to kindred spirits Uncle Billy,

Dinnie Irish, and Wendell Berry~

Like the meandering creek that flows through the wooded valley that I call home, the course of this piece has twisted and turned on its way to you, gentle reader. It began as an essay about the gift of water as metaphor—a powerful tool for conveying elusive truths in wisdom texts and in the common speech of my well-grounded older relations as they leaned across fences or kitchen tables when it was time to talk.

Water is an ancient metaphor for the Feminine. I began weaving the poisoning of our waters with the poisoning of the Feminine Spirit. Water, like the Feminine aspect contained in us all, is receptive, and flows; what enters permeates. I wanted to express how this fourth generation woodswoman of Norwegian-Yooper descent feels—viscerally—about the magnitude of suffering that our Earth and countless beings are enduring in these times. I feel the poisoning of our waters and the spirit of life coursing through my own veins. Life on Earth will die without clean water. Life on Earth will die without human compassion born of understanding.

But my essay got as heavy as creekbottom mud. With silvering hair I have become paradoxically bolder but also more cautious about speaking strong words; and the more words, the trickier it is to keep them in line. My desire is to build bridges of commonality across the troubled waters that we all swim in together. I want to use language that a broad range of Yoopers might read, including my own relations. I could have continued writing what might end up a convoluted, heady essay aimed at those who think and feel mostly as I do.  Or, I could try to reach all of us with, simply, a rhyming poem…

To read the full story, please pick up a copy of this months Marquette Monthly at one of our distribution outlets.

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