Over the last three summers, I've spent 17 days on the Water Walk—an Anishinabe ceremony to heal the water and ourselves—and I've been working with my belief that everything is sacred. Although supporting a dying person evokes a deep sense of reverence in me, seeing garbage and soil erosion in ditches do not. But, I want them to, because our world deserves more of my presence and care.
On the Water Walk, we are on the road for about 12 hours each day. It is a relay walk in pairs, so with four pairs of walkers, we walk one-fourth of the time. That leaves a lot of time on the side of the road for observation and introspection, for prayers and songs.
When I'm on the Walk, I see water as part of almost everything. While those of us reading this probably have drinking water in our taps at home, many First Nations reserves across what we call Canada continue to have boiling water advisories. Even so, drinking water in disposable plastic bottles is not a solution: much of that plastic does not get recycled and ends up in waterways—and, besides, the United Nations recognises water as a human right and it serves us well to treat water as a commons rather than a commodity.
Water is part of the hurricanes, storms, and floods that are occurring with increasing intensity as our climate continues to destabilise. Water—or rather, the lack thereof—is part of the years of droughts and wildfires on the West Coast of Turtle Island and the newer occurrence of wildfires in Northern Quebec and Ontario this year. Water is what carries excess fertilisers from industrial agricultural fields into waterways, causing algal blooms that deplete the water of oxygen and leave dead zones, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico that is about the size of New Jersey. Water, of course, is in the tears we shed as we witness these things from near or far.
When I walk, I'm often grieving all of this. Because I recognise all of this in the plastic bottles, the erosion, the murky water, and the algal blooms in ditches.
However, this year on the Water Walk, I chose to focus on healing. Because I realised that, if I want to keep being a force of healing and change, I cannot keep accumulating grief and anger about our ailing world. If I only add to the burden of injustices in my heart, I cannot sustain my calling to help support others and Mother Earth.
So I am learning to cultivate more lightness. Yes, I still grieve, and then I remind myself to intentionally connect with the care in my heart at the root of that grief—for it is love, compassion, and healing that I want to convey through my actions, words, and presence.
I am slowly learning to evoke a sense of sacredness anywhere; I do not have to be in the privacy of my garden or my home to pray. If you see me on the sidewalk with my hand on a tree or standing at a bridge with my eyes closed, I am surely praying. I am praying for healing. I am praying for the trees and the waters and all of life here on Mother Earth. I am praying that, when I meet with youth, when I lead workshops, or when I write, that I may offer some inspiration, some hope, or some peace that people can take with them.
We are bearing witness to our world unravelling—and, at the same time, we are healing and creating change. This path beckons us on a sacred walk of loss and love, of hope and action.
Photos in order of appearance, credits to: Dominique Goyette, Dominique Goyette, Michelle Davidson-Legere, Bonita Ford, and Kokum Francine Payer.