Texas Holy Water

by Angeliska on November 3, 2016

Is it November, or is it still August? It’s hard to tell honestly – hard to say that Fall has come here, because the earth is cracked and the leaves are crisped, but not with winter’s chill. Sweat still trickles down my backbone, bristles my brow, taints my bangs into wet swirls pasted to my forehead. Our recent local Halloween parade was a sweltering procession in damp costumes, flags and banners hanging limply as we wound our way through dark streets and overgrown alleyways. No hint of crisp in the air, no wind, no shiver – except for the internal shudder that we’re setting new and terrible records for the hottest days in recorded memory. For years, the summer doldrums would often keep me from writing, being unwilling to sit with a hot and whirring computer perched on my lap. I would always rather be doing something else in summer, getting outside, swimming or running around with my dogs. Autumn feels like the perfect time to curl up cozy with a cup of tea and write. So, for many years in a row, I would find myself sharing something I had started writing in the hottest days of summer, but never got around to posting until fall. I would warranting this oversight with the fact that it still in fact, felt like summer. I remember writing that in September, maybe a couple times in October. But never in November – until now. It’s hot, y’all. Hot enough that I want to still go jump in the springs, dive in the river. It feels wrong, and weird, and maybe like it’s our new normal. We had such a rainy spring and summer, and were blessed with sweet water in the creeks (though many were cursed here in Texas with flooding and downed trees). I think about water all the time – my heart’s element, blessed restorer, healer, mother essence. It is such a sacred substance.

Cypress magic at Pedernales Falls.

Some nights I lay awake and can’t sleep, thinking about the countless factories churning out countless plastic doodads to be sold in countless stores only to then be discarded and tossed aside to join the flood of garbage that clogs our waterways, our oceans, the bellies of our sea animal friends. How can I even can them my friends, when I do so little to protect them? When I sip my iced coffee from a disposable straw, out of a plastic cup, purchase my countless seemingly needful items encased in cellophane wrappers. It is so hard to effect real, radical change as one person, and even then – what? What then? Some days it feels too late. I started writing this as a happy piece – about the blessing of clear, clean water we enjoy in nature here in Austin. I’ve been thinking about how much we take it for granted, assume it will always be there. Lately, I’ve been thinking about this when I shower or take a bath – what a miracle it is to have hot water to wash in, clean water to drink, water to flush the toilet, to wash my dirty clothes. What luxury we live in, and how little we realize it.

Every day, my news feed (on social media) is rife with stories and videos about the water protectors protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. I listen to the news nearly every day, and so rarely hear any stories on what is happening there. Mainstream media isn’t taking much action to report the violence being committed against peaceful protestors who are putting their bodies on the line to protect this precious resource that we all require for our survival. It is time to have awareness about out world, and the ways it is irrevocably changing. It is time to realize that mere awareness is not enough. How will you contribute to making changes for the better, to fighting the good fight, to walking a path that honors the life-blood of the Earth? How will I?

This message came to my inbox while I was writing this, from one of our beloved local community groups here in Austin. Here’s one very easy way to offer your assistance:

Austin Stands With Standing Rock

As you all know by now, the world is watching the events unfold at the Standing Rock camp in South Dakota. This past weekend, friends of this community were arrested for doing their part in protecting the water. Cars were impounded, lives are placed on hold.

The work the native peoples and their supporters are doing in opposition to this pipeline is not just about protecting their families and their water, they are standing up for all of us, for our water and in defense of our Mother Earth. They are bravely standing strong in the face of armed resistance, fast approaching inclement weather and the general hardships of maintaining camp out in the open, round the clock.

Bob is headed up this week to help where he can. We are asking you, the community, to contribute any financial support that you can, along with your prayers, in this time of need. Any funds that you may have to share will go a long way and will be deeply appreciated.

The supply drives have been a huge success (thank you!) and now, one of the best ways to help is to directly support those on the front lines by donating funds to post bail which is averaging over $1500 per person, as well as impounded vehicle fees and upcoming legal fees.

Please send any donations that you can contribute to the following PayPal address:

austin4standingrock@icloud.com

Bob will take the donations up with him and help those arrested this past weekend. Please help where you can… Even small contributions from everyone could really add up. If you do not have a PayPal account or would like to support another way, please respond to this message.

Thank you for your support, prayers & solidarity.

- Sanctuary Council”

My favorite summer moments have been spent in the company of these two magical beings, down by the water. At least once a week, we try to get our butts down to the greenbelt to savor the sacred springs! It's heaven. (Just don't dump your purse in it, like
My favorite summer moments were spent in the company of these two magical beings (my dear friend Allyson, and her dog Neville) down by the water. At least once a week, we try to get our butts down to the greenbelt to savor the sacred springs! It’s heaven.

So yes. I wrote this months ago, but want to share now, even though it feels odd to. It feels like a good time to acknowledge the magic and beauty of what we have – so that we might be even more inspired to advocate for it.

When August finally comes in Texas, it feels like hitting the final stretch of a marathon – we’re exhausted but determined, almost totally spent, but somehow with a gritting of teeth we push on, knowing that the end is in sight. If we can just make it through August, school will start and the populations of students and teachers start buzzing as they fill the hives again with their studious industry. September will arrive eventually and usually not really be any cooler, but there’s a sense of hope in the air, instead of the blatant desperation rising up from the baked earth, the pitiful trod upon greenery crisping brown at the edges, the trees aching for rain.

We had a very rainy spring here, so the greenbelt has had plentiful water nearly all summer. Last week, when a surprise thunderstorm or two rolled through, the whole city sighed with relief. Earlier that day, I had embraced my ailing and much beloved lacebark elm, asking it silently, “What do you need? What will make you better?” The answer came quickly, a ragged sigh that echoed in my bones: WATER! Please, please, water. I looked up at the bright blue sky through its browning leaves and tattered branches and wished hard. Two hours later, fat drops pelted my grateful face – even though no storms had been predicted hours before. Weather witch’s water wishes, and likely not just mine.

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I started waking up earlier this summer, trying to shift from my usual nocturnal ways because it’s cooler in the mornings, and you can get down to the water before everyone else and their dogs and their kids clutter the air with barking and laughter. I don’t mind them really, but one of my dogs (not mentioning any names, MOON) likes to bark even more raucously at other dogs and children, and it can be stressful. We try to go about once a week, if not more – but last week, almost no one was there. The water had receded and was murkier than it had been all summer. Fat dragonflies skated over the slow ripples, while huge black turkey buzzards soared over the bluffs. A heavy knotted rope hung listlessly from an oak branch, bereft of the elated bodies, full of bravado, that normally swung from it into the green deep.

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Moon learned to swim recently, something I wasn’t sure she’d ever be capable of, having only three legs. She’s a very determined girl, though – and she’d follow me anywhere. At the beginning of the summer, she just barked frantically when I swam more than a few feet away from her. Grrizelda isn’t a huge fan of swimming, but is also the most loyal of beasts, and so will paddle out to me with a concerned expression on her seal-like face pushing out of the water, making little squeaks and whimpers, her black clawed paws scrabbling at me. I took Moon out of the shallows one day, with my arms supporting her belly, guiding and gliding her through the deeper water – the way you teach a little kid to swim. She seemed confused and freaked out, so I didn’t push her too much – but the next time we went to the river, she surprised me by swimming right past and making out for the far shore. I had to swim after and spin her around – but she did great. Only one front leg to paddle with, but the kid’s a natural. Talk about determined.

Moon can swim! I'm so proud of my little three-legged doggie for taking to the water like a true mermaid this year. I wasn't sure she would ever be able to really manage it, but recently she surprised and delighted me by learning to dog paddle with only o
Look at her go! I’m so proud of my little three-legged doggie for taking to the water like a true mermaid this year. I wasn’t sure she would ever be able to really manage it, but she has truly surprised and delighted me by learning to dog paddle!

Happy birthday to my darling Fiona! This woman teaches me so much about joy and freedom every day. I'm so lucky to have her as a friend and sister!
My sweet friend Fiona and our pups glorying in the springs.

First swim of the summer (crazy...
Barton Springs bliss.

When the greenbelt’s full of water, which it thankfully has been all summer, I wonder why anyone complains about summer in Texas. Every time I’ve gone down there and jumped in, I’ve just been in awe of how beautiful it is, how lovely the cool currents feel on my legs, how gorgeous the sycamore leaves fluttering against the sky and the silvery rapids flowing over the rocks are. It’s free, and there are so many different points on the trails you can get to, so even when it feels crowded, there’s always enough water, always enough shade and sky for everyone to enjoy. I meet people all the time who never, ever venture down into that glory, and I remember being one of those people. What a fool I was! Even when the greenbelt dries up, there’s still Barton Springs – which feels like heaven on earth on a blazing day. It’s paradise there, truly – 68 degrees year round and my favorite shade of nearly black teal at its deepest point. I spend plenty of time during the hottest parts of the day hunkered down in my dim living room, ceiling fan spinning overhead, and the air conditioning blasting. But the water calls to me, beckons me to dip and swirl like a mermaid, cooling down the white hot core of me, so that even a heavy summer night with no breeze feels tolerable. The only way to survive the hot weather down here is to get in the water, as often as you can. People complain of Austin changing (and I used to be one of those people, constantly and vociferously – but that’s really another story), but I say that as long as there’s water in the springs, grackles in the pecan trees, and fireflies in the springtime, I’ll know I’m home. What would happen if that changed, too? Our planet is changing. Surely you feel it? How will we continue to see those changes manifest? How long, really, will we all be able to continue this way? I wonder every day. I want to do more than wonder.

August

No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.

– Lizette Woodworth Reese, 1887

Back home, soaking up the water magic at Bull Creek today...

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