One feature and legacy of colonization is objectification of everything: humans, land, animals, trees, air, etc. They all are seen by the colonizer as objects or “resources” to be capitalized. These are all inanimate objects put on Earth for the colonizer to exploit. Resources do not have conscience, therefore it makes no sense to consult or discuss with them your intentions. As a person of European descent, this is something of which I am very aware. Its my default habit to see everything for its utilitarian value. “What use is this to me?” “Is this valuable?” I am consciously trying to unlearn this and to value all just as they are (including myself), but it’s a conscious effort, not my default state – at all.
The importance of protecting watersheds has been widely publicized recently, especially with the Dakota Access Pipeline being so heavily in the news. But what does it mean as an individual to protect a watershed? If someone wants to run a gas pipeline through the farm, or open a toxic waste factory in this vicinity, obviously I’ll resist it. I’ll avoid clear cutting, especially on sloped land. But what else? I recently had several experiences that showed me that I can start by developing a relationship with water. Rather than seeing water as a scarce resource to be protected, what if I developed a personal relationship with it? What if I could see it as a conscious being?
There are 3 lakes on the farm. Cláudio and I always referred to them as “the first lake”, “the second lake” and “the third lake”. One day, I overheard some of our employees referring to them by name. I asked more about the names. It turns out that they call each lake after the name of the rivermaid who lives in and takes care of the respective lake and the creek which feeds that lake. I have a completely different feeling when I call a lake by a random name which some person gave to it, versus speaking to the lake by the name of the rivermaid taking care of it. It feels more relational, more intimate, more motivation to treat it with respect.
The “first lake” is Mofile.
View of Mofile
View of Mofile
View of Kangonga
View of Kangonga
Smooshed Grass next to Kangonga – could a crocodile have slept here?
View of Banda Makaiwa from the East looking West
Dry stream bed where Banda Makawa was not flowing
Our wine selection for the rivermaid
The morning before the ceremony, Cláudio and I stopped at the gas station to buy the wine. Standing in front of the wine display we were discussing, “Does Banda Makawa like expensive wine? Portuguese wine? South African wine?” The clerk approached us to offer his recommendations. Cláudio shyly stopped him to explain what the purpose of the wine was. Before he even finished, the clerk understood and said, “Oh! Its an offering to a rivermaid? You can get the cheap box wine then!” But neither Cláudio nor I felt comfortable with that. We bought a mid-range Portuguese wine.
Albino speaking to the rivermaids
Albino offering wine to Banda Makawa
Albino joining the rivermaids for a cup
Completed work to make water flow in Banda Makawa
The work plan was to fill the holes with stones and put concrete over them. Then they would also rebuild and expand the brick walls which were built by the colonists to hold the water in its channel, to avoid further erosion. But first, the request was made to Banda Makawa and Kibobo to sort out their differences. Albino started by making a sign of the cross “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. He proceeded to speak to Banda Makawa and Kibobo, explained the situation and made our humble request. He ended again with the sign of the cross. He then poured wine and rice in each of the holes. The employees all then proceeded with the work. I asked Albino if Banda Makawa minded that I was present for the ceremony. He replied that she recognized my energy as that of the colonists which moved her in the first place. Apparently the water used to all just flow to Kibobo, but the colonists created this channel and a dam which now forms Banda Makawa. (Banda Makawa was seasonal previously, but now is perennial.) I assume the colonists were simply looking for a way to have more access to water on the farm and I wonder whether they considered conversing with the rivermaids about this? Its doubtful that they did. Did Banda Makawa feel heard then? Does she feel heard now? Even though we talked to them and offered wine and rice, does it make sense to continue to force Banda Makawa to flow where she did not before?
Water flowing past the completed work on Banda Makawa
View of Banda Makaiwa from the West looking East
Lotus flowers on Banda Makawa