The Water is Wide

“The water is wide, I cannot cross over, and neither have I wings to fly. Give me a boat that can carry two, and both shall row – my love and I.”
~The Water is Wide, as sung by Pete Seeger

I knew it had been raining all day but I wasn’t prepared for the extreme flooding that took place in southeast Michigan this past Monday night. As I left the American Indian Health Center in southwest Detroit and drove to stay with my good friends Janet and Cindy in that same part of the city, I quickly understood that this was no ordinary rainstorm.

I had to turn my car around and adjust my route as I realized that an underpass I was approaching had become a lake, with water up to the windshield of several cars. Streets turned to rivers and basements were transformed into holding ponds. Freeways were closed and cars were stranded.

As I ventured into the watery street with Janet to try and clear out the storm drains in front of her home (they were clear by the way, there was just no where for the water to go), I was surprised to see that the water reached up to my knees.

The downpour was torrential, powerful, beautiful, and dangerous. Truly water has the power to give and sustain life and also to take it away. Thankfully Allison and I and my generous friends Janet and Cindy are just fine. I pray for those who have not been so fortunate, that they may find the help and support of friends, family, and strangers in their time of need.

Although I do not want to read too much into it, I find the symbolism of this flood profound. Many poor residents of the city have been experiencing water shutoffs recently due to unpaid bills. The city water department has faced intense criticism for these harsh actions, and has temporarily put a hold on the shutoffs. Yet many in the city remain without water, one of the essential needs for all people and for all living beings.

Monday’s storm reminded me that there is a greater power in control here, a Great Mystery that does not discriminate based on money. When it rains, it rains on everyone and everything. The water is a right and responsibility of all of us. This storm reminds me that we are all deeply connected and interconnected, and that we need to respect the water as well as one another’s basic human needs.

Tomorrow (Thursday) I have the privilege of being able to sing on the shore of the Detroit River as part of the wonderful childhood literacy program Reading and Rhythm on the Riverfront, sponsored by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. Later this month I get to return to the Detroit Zoo with the Community Gardeners for a fun evening family concert. I even get to perform in Riley Park this month!

 
Allison and I are gearing up for more Spirits Rising sets at Hollerfest and Harvest Gathering. (You can watch a video of our performance at Native Fest here, our set starts at 1:52:00)

I am also helping to organize An Evening of Music and Mindfulness in Ann Arbor on September 5th with many musical and spiritual friends, including some monastic students of Thich Nhat Hanh who will be visiting from New York. 
 
These will truly be special events and I hope that you can join us, and that we keep singing for the water, the people, and for the Great Mystery that connects us all.Love,

Joe

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