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Red Willow Spirit: Pooling Rain

Ripples Resized

The dominant culture talks much of “pooling talents” or “pooling resources.” It’s supposed to refer to teamwork in the service of a greater (corporate, capitalistic, commercial, colonial) goal.

Communitarianism without the community.

We are concerned at the moment with pooling of another sort: of resources, yes — perhaps the most valuable tangible resource of all in this place — but one that sustains our whole world irrespective of ideology, even in the face of the dominant culture’s increasing efforts to corporatize, capitalize, commercialize, and colonize it.


Here at Red Willow, it is the monsoon season, and our thoughts turn naturally to the pooling of water. Here, people excavate ponds on their land, put out rain barrels, reroute the ditching system — anything to capture and put to use our most precious resource before it can soak into unuseful places or evaporate into thin air.

We are already fortunate here to be a place, high desert geography notwithstanding, of watersheds, of lakes and rivers and ponds and streams and precipitation that normally falls in relative abundance. Relative to less lucky desert climes, that is. My own homelands see cloudy days some half the year, and rain or snow in a percentage not far off that number, but it is a very different place. In this part of Turtle Island, every drop of rain is a gift, even snowflake a blessing, every hailstone a sign of the love of the spirits.

Quartzite Landing

It’s easy to love the easy waters. They flow in a leisurely fashion, carrying the light upon their surface but little danger in their depths.

Running Hard and High

Of course, appearances are deceiving; the water is often much deeper than it looks, and riskier, too. Every year, rafters learn, or fail to learn, this lesson. But that which is capable of dashing us against the rocks is easily navigated by the other beings here.

Reflection - Sunflowers at Dusk

It’s simple, too, to love the still waters of pool and pond. They are the shallows, the small waters that are home to the sunflower’s reflection and the dragonfly’s song, the receptacle for the willow’s quiet tears. But small worlds live below their surface, too, and even at the top, grids and waves will have their due.


It’s water as crossroads and gathering place in a very real sense: After all, the pond is the place into which the winter runoff flows, thence to be pumped out upon the land, directed into the furrows that form their own grid across the fields.

Below the Wire Resized

Such waters are mild and minor for us, but for the wildlife who inhabit their landscape, they are as powerful as the flash floods that occasionally wipe out our roads this time of year. Prairie dogs, deer mice, voles, the occasional family of rabbits, all run the risk of seeing homes washed out by the waters of irrigation. Altered patterns of climate and weather have seen their numbers grow, along with those of the ants who aid the winds in eroding the topsoil, and here they all have gotten their revenge, tunneling so thoroughly through the subsurface layers that they have managed to reroute an entire spring.

Climate change will be the death of us all.

For now, however, the stormy season is here, and at this moment, we await the rain. It may be a sprinkle; it may be a shower; it may be a storm. This is the time of the tempest, of cloudburst and torrent.


We may have pooling rain on the land’s hot skin, or even pooling ice in the form of hail, a battering force that bends blade of grass and cornstalk alike to its will. No one knows when it will come: It has already made several overhead passes, always detouring around us in search of other targets.


And still, the thunderheads amass at the horizon, lining up to ride vanguard with their kin the Thunderbirds across the warring skies. They carry the lightning, the electrical power of a hundred million horses given life’s current at the feathertips of the greatest of the hawks. It is pinpoint illumination, a sudden bright flash that even in the middle of the storm has the power to set the whole world aflame.


But occasionally, the elements work together, collaboration rather than conflagration, and they produce a world renewed by the storm. Such events illuminate in other ways, via the cleansing rain and the purifying scent of sage, the arc of the rainbow and a clarity of air that gives new meaning to the idea that water is breath.

And now, as twilight falls, we may bear witness to a wedding, as pooling rain meets pooling light.

~ Aji




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