What an amazing and beautiful time we had along Crooked Creek in rural Missouri. We gathered at Pat Tohulske’s Elemental Earthcamp (http://www.elementalearthcamp.com/Elemental_Earthcamp/ ) on Friday, setting up our tent sites between storms. Earthcamp is a magical place of 500 acres all off the grid where the Trail of Tears runs through just below the forested ridge. Across the meadow, which year by year is being reclaimed from old grass pasture land, is Crooked Creek which flows into the Upper Meramec River. The Meramec in turn flows into the great Mississippi just below St. Louis. On Friday night two of us taking a twilight dip in Crooked Creek had a mystical encounter with a lone white goose who was swimming up the creek toward us. She fairly shone in her white feathers on the darkening water as she swam up the current past us.. We stood with hour breath held in wonder at the sight of her. On Saturday morning we gathered for a Journey to ask what the land and the rivers needed from us by way of honoring the Beauty and the woundedness of our earth. Throughout the day the women spent time on the land, in the Creek alone discovering the particular ways they were each called to offer Beauty back. In the steamy evening we gathered at a place called the Blue Hole which is a sweet deep swimming hole just below a low weir of bed rock slabs where the water flows and sings. We built a fire. We created a Radical Joy Bird from stones and elements we found along the creek bank. We stacked small stones into sacred cairns of remembrance. We hung crimson prayer cloths from the trees. And in silence we each offered our unique prayers to the waters. Then we gathered with our shakers to sing back to the singing water. We chanted prayers to the Great Mother, to the River and to the Earth. And then many of the women tore off their clothes and let the cooling water wash them clean of the day’s heat, of the old wounds of their lives, of the grief we all share in the anguish of our earth. And, as women do, we laughed and talked and shouted with all our fierce hope and joy in the presence of such extraordinary Beauty.

In the middle of the night we were deluged under a fierce storm, lightning and thunder falling around us with the pelting rain, wind roaring and whipping the old oaks into a frenzy. The creek rose so as to be impassable and it wasn’t until late in the day we were able to cross her and get back to our cars and get home. It was as though the gentle Waters we had loved and honored the evening before, roared back at us with immense power. This wild earth is so much bigger, fiercer and more beautiful than we can grasp or imagine. I am attaching a few imperfect photos from our Earth Exchange.

And I want to share with you a poem I wrote after being in this place a year ago when we made ceremony along this Creek for the oil spill in the gulf. The poem has been chosen to be published in the Summer Edition of Written River, an online Journal of Eco-Poetics edited by Jason Kirkey:

Watershed Prayers

This bright water is flowing
down Crooked Creek
to the Meramec,
toward the great
brown wash
of Mississippi,
pouring over
the generous haunch
of this country
into the spread hand
of bayou and salt
where birds are calling,
the fish,
the tiny shrimp,
and the people.
Here the rain
sparkles with light,
with our wild flung
silver nets of prayer,
before reaching,
as it surely will,
the dark oil.

—Wendy Sarno