48 essays by Elizabeth Shé

Essay #17: water dance

In Love on June 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Last Saturday, I joined dancers in 60 cities around the world in a 24-hour performance event that rolled through the time zones from Australia to Hawaii: Global Water Dances.

We all started at 5pm, local time, on June 25. In Olympia, I lead the opening ceremony at Watershed Park. The night before I still didn’t know exactly how it would unfold. Saturday morning I prayed for help and — boom! — words came to me.

I dressed in blues and greens, stuck a sprig of sage behind one ear, adorned myself with jewelry from both sides of the family, and painted my face with blue ocean waves. I drove to the site early, walked down to Moxlie Springs and filled a jug, singing along the way. Trudging back up the hill with the bottle of water balanced on my head, I flashed on the multitudes of women doing the same thing throughout millennia – carrying water back to the clan.

I sat on a bench near Moxlie Springs Basin, where 27 springs jump out of the earth to meander down to the Salish Sea. A salmon run. The source of Olympia’s water decades ago, now protected in a city park.

In a big wooden bowl, I mixed waters from the springs, the Pacific Ocean, and an artesian well. Berd, the videographer, turned up, and soon after, the troupe of dancers, also dressed in shades of blue and green. Gorgeous.

Before the public arrived, we held hands and closed our eyes, listening to the springs. Then the dancers scattered along the path.

I sat on the bench and started humming. After awhile, I opened my mouth and let the sound out. Karen joined in, then Meg, then the others — all of us toning together, high notes, winding notes, low notes, loud, soft. The water carried our voices, our voices carried the water. We came to silence and I began reading the words to the gathering crowd:

Maori say, From nothing comes the begetting.

Wash away your belief that you are not necessary, connected, welcome, loved.

Make a wish, set an intention.
As you walk through the forest, meditate on this wish, this intention, this prayer, this dream for peace and clean water.

What’s water but the generated soul? asked the poet Yeats.

Listen to it, see it, feel it:
Under the freeway, in the air
On your skin as sweat and tears
In your mouth and salty blood

We are part water, not apart, not separate
Shall we treat each other with reverence and respect?

In this bowl are waters from Moxlie Springs, the Pacific Ocean, and a well blessed by the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.

I bless you with the waters of the world, as you in turn bless me.

Receive it. Give it.
Go in peace.

I handed the bowl to Karen, dipped my hands in the mixed waters, and anointed her head and shoulders. She then handed the bowl to Meg, dipped her hands in the water, and blessed Meg. Then Karen headed down the path, following the stream, while Meg handed the bowl to someone else and blessed him. In this way a chain of blessings wound its way through the crowd, then one by one they followed the stream through the forest. Everyone received a blessing, and everyone gave a blessing. Linda’s son, Yasha, blessed me last.

I skipped down the path to catch up with the quiet line of meditating people, winding our way to the sea. We would stop and release our wishes into Indian Creek, dance together at Yashiro Japanese Garden, then parade to Puget Sound to watch our wishes go out on the tide.

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