Michael Blackstock (Ama Goodim Gyet) RPF, C.Med. MA

 

Blue Ecology

        My exuberance for fresh water runs wide and deep. Elder Mildred Michell passed on her water-torch to me on October 2, 2000; a scholar's research interest transformed into a thirsty personal passion of inquiry. It took a year before Mildred agreed to my request for an ethnographic interview with her, a highly respected Nlaka’pamux Elder, about First Nations' (North American Indian) ecological perspectives on fresh water; she checked me out first before she deciding to trust me.  I arrived at her house, located on the Siska Indian Band Reserve situated along the bank of British Columbia's (Canada) Fraser River, accompanied with my interpreter.  Mildred’s family greeted us as we sat down for tea with her.  She immediately began a rapid and poignant soliloquy about the spirit of water. Thirty minutes into the interview, she had a stroke and died. My interpreter and her family shared with me that day what she said.

        Since then, I have written journal papers and poetry on First Nations perspectives on blue ecology, and I have also created visual art pieces depicting the spirit of water. Each medium attracts its own audience; cumulatively, I will reach a wider audience.  I am trying to help fix the problem Mildred identified: we need to teach our children to respect fresh water, else we as humans will not survive. 

        Our world is becoming very complex.  Are we, this generation, well equipped to deal with the emerging ecological problems? I believe that Western science's foundation of ecology serves us well, but Elders have pointed out a potentially fatal flaw.  The definition of an ecosystem relegates water to a subservient role, rather than the central functional role Elders observe.  How resilient is the human understanding of humans' impact on Earth Mother? Do we need to examine the foundations of science - kick the tires - and check the durability as we approach the year 2050 when there are 9 billion people inhabiting earth?  Convergence of thinking and human expression, across cultures, needs to occur in the next four decades; we need to interweave cross-cultural thinking.  The arts interwoven with science; sacred with profane; reductionism with elementalism (earth, water, wind and fire etc.); indigenous peoples with Academia; Elders with youth; and urban with rural - you see my trend.

        Do I "walk the talk"?  Humbly so, I hope.  For instance, I share below web links to my journal papers on blue ecology, and my poem entitled Blue Ecology, from my book Salmon Run: A Florilegium of Aboriginal Ecological Poetry. These fiction and non-fiction works deal with the concept of blue ecology, which emerged from my research on First Nations epistemology.  Blue ecology (water-based ecology) has the potential to provide a critical focus to ecosystem based management – lets look after fresh water first.  Water is the life blood of an ecosystem; if it is healthy then likely the rest of the ecosystem will be resilient enough to deal with change. Blue ecology also demonstrates how to interweave cross-cultural thinking in order to resolve conflict. Let's take care of this planet, because the others are fixer-uppers.

Water: A First Nations’ spiritual and ecological perspective 

Water-based Ecology: A First Nations’ proposal to repair the definition of a forest ecosystem

Blue ecology: A cross-cultural approach to reconciling forest-related conflicts

 

Blue Ecology

 

Water, where did it come from?

Where is it going?

The power to heal.  The power to kill.

Oh, which will it be?

 

Water, shape shifting; Wyget what shape were you in

when you left the particle party?

I forgot the hydrogen Molly Carbon, please oxygenate

and rehydrate my hung-over brain.

 

Water, peace in its pleasure

pleasure in its circular will.

When I drink it

I feel like I was just born.

 

Drip drop drip

Spruce’s nocturnal hydraulic redistribution springs forth

from aquiferial underworlds, up the reed through sipapu, into the gourd. Hope I can farm without it.

 

Drip drop drip

Capillary rise among dirty disguises

mycorrhizal taxi’s race on turgor sugar rooted byways.

Sponge effect: moss and rotten logs hold drought sought water.

 

Drip pop dripping

Rain’s meditative roof metal pop-pop-poppin’

tinny tympanic membrane; aqua-rollin’ rhythm

on hydrophobic drought-dried soil.

 

Drip pop drip

In the drip zone of the forested percussion café.

Rim shot jazz; drip bidip dop pop pop sploosh splash

a leaf ditty ba-boom bang ping. Oh, cool cat kitty.

 

Drip drop drip

That one made a ripple swaying from her nipple

At the tip, a life-giving drop of liquid emerges from

the hardness of sensuous ice.

 

Drip drop dripping

Rainwater, groundwater: pool and swirl with the gravity girl

get dizzy with Big Eddy. Miso’o, go with the flow, reverse and endure the pain. Rivers erode and make a deposit. You can bank on it.

 

Drip drop drip

Holy baptise Robin you’re right; sunrise go to it.

Immerse, rinse, splash in meditative healing power;

leap tall buildings or run the rush-hour dash.

 

Drip drop drip

I sink I need a new washer. Attention! Health advisory:  Boil it!

It’s a bidet day. Piss on it. Tinkling, gurgling, sludge gooping

out the sewage pipe. Hello sockeye make a run for it!

 

Drip drop dripping

I sea, therefore I swam, my briny friend.

Swimming in ocean underwater; a wingless flying sensation

above natant whales playing flute-jazz to a fluke beat.

 

Drip drop drip

Midnight breakers march on BC’s Long Beach; 

luminosity sheds from sea otters frolicking in the frothy ocean peaks.

Water-born fireworks burst and fade in marine phosphorescence.

 

Drip drop drip

Ride the thermal.

Droplets vaporize and board the white dirigible.

Steam wafts on cloud-covered stratospheric cloths.

 

Drip drop dripping

Rain, wetlands? No one knows!  

Rainshine in the pleasuredome, and back we go again,

always going to where it is coming from. 

 

Drippety-drop drippety-drop drippety-drop

A tear from heaven, where did it come from?

Where did it go? Earth Mother’s lifeblood

connecting all, to sacred all.

 

Drip drop patterin’

Glenn Gould’s keyboard rain, it has a primal rhythm.

Watery flows of Ernst Toch’s Shaping Forces in Music

trickling with pleasure and crescendoing in pain.

Blue ecology, there’s a ting to it, in this age of Aquarious.

 

Michael Blackstock (Ama Goodim Gyet) RPF, C.Med. MA, is a Canadian author, artist, forester and mediator of Gitxsan heritage.  He has published two books: Faces in the Forest (McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press, 2001), and Salmon Run: A Florilegium of Aboriginal Ecological Poetry (Wyget Books, 2005, www.salmonrun.ca). He is an independent scholar who lives in Kamloops, BC, Canada.

 

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