I feel a little tug on my heart, as i find this creek running into the sea in Tathra today. It is the first time it has made it this far since i started staying here regularly a few years ago. Today is exactly one year since the devastating bushfires in this seaside community, so there was a lot of resilience and reconnection to celebrate, as well as a lot to remember in mourning. Recently it was also the 10 year anniversary of the Kinglake bushfires, which at the time shocked the world with their unassailable ferocity and loss of life, both human and non-human. My brother lost his property that day, but he narrowly escaped with his life, along with his wife and 1-year old son. Life is creation and destruction, birth and death, shut down and break through all the time.
But today, seeing this little creek making its way out to sea made my heart glad. So often it’s the subtle touches of nature connection that can make a difference to the way we feel; and, more importantly, to the way we act. Continuing to work with this foundation of ecopsychology (or ecospirituality) enables us to tune in to our part in the more-than-human life that we are part of. We’ve changed the world and damaged its fabric in this new era of the Anthropocene and, as a race, we haven’t yet proven able to pull out of the slippery slope of materialistic capitalism and take better care of our planetary home.
So why celebrate such a small matter today? Because the stream made it, the flow created breakthrough, and some days our hearts hurt and we need to be reminded that this is the ancient way of life. We take what we think we need and sometimes this is too much and we do damage. Then, we need to let the waters flow, to give away and to give back. Sure, it is natural for us to want to draw fresh water from a sparkling stream; to be refreshed by its soothing qualities and to give thanks for its gifts. But this is not what the military/industrial complex is doing. It offers engineering infrastructure to suck the rivers dry, to create mega-dams and turn the taps onto crops of cotton and rice and whatever else are doused in the chemicals designed and pushed by Big Pharma, to be sold and controlled according to the machinations of predatory capitalism. We all know this, but it is proving to be a ‘wicked problem’, to dislodge the machine and allow the earth to regrow from beneath such withering machinations and their shadow.
I grew up in Port Adelaide, which meant that my school holidays were spent on local beaches, in the desert fringes of the Flinders Ranges, down the Fleurieu Peninsula and along the Might Murray River. I always felt deep kinship with the salty sands and gentle dunes along my friendly beachfronts, and was never quite so much at home along the river, with its spooky dead trees in places, and its steady one-way flow. But then i visited the Coorong for the first time, and my heart sang for the river and the sea at the same time.
Here, when i was a kid, a mighty river flowed into the sea, with much of its overflow captured in salty lakes and lagoons surrounded by my favourite landscape feature of all, the sand dune. There were mysteriously quiet coves, dead flat crystalline beds of salt, endless blue skies and crashing oceanic waves on the other side of a fragile dune system. It was many years before i would learn why the Murray stopped flowing into the sea, how the river mouth was closed up and the inland lake system dying. The story of criminal irrigators stealing vast quantities of fresh water upstream, in other states of Australia, is now coming further into the light, as the tragedy of millions of dead native fish hits the headlines and the public become outraged at the stupidity and recklessness of the ‘system’ again. It’s no coincidence that the remote communities mostly affected are largely Aboriginal, while it is wealthy industrial farmers (not the caring smaller scale ones) that profit. Again.
The fish death phenomenon is largely out of the 24/7 spectacle of news media already, although it has just hit home (albeit on a smaller scale, thank goodness) in our local area. Since then, we have enjoyed a dense bank of rain such as we haven’t seen around here in ages. It’s been sweet to fall asleep to the sound of raindrops on the roof – and maybe even to wake up to it too. And so, this little creek flows into the sea. Something seems right about this; something we have missed. Like so many of the symptoms of the runaway climate destruction we are now witnessing, it’s as if part of our souls have been splintered away, as the earth groans under the weight of modern industrial capital and its inevitable commodification and degradation of every ‘resource’ it can get its greedy hands on.
In ancient Mesopotamia, the place where the two waters – fresh and salty – mingled was renowned as a place of fertility. Many Aboriginal Australians know the same truth; that such places are rich and should be protected. Rivers are meant to run and we should take their fresh water for use and not for greed. If they don’t make it to the sea for too long a period, death follows. It’s just another ancient law we ignore at our peril. Long live the spirit of flow and letting go and allowing for breakthrough, both in our fragile environment and in our souls – which end up being the same place, when we open our minds and bodies to our place in nature.