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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Our Rivers, Our Kin

When I was growing up on our small farm in northeast, Ohio we had a creek that ran through our back woods. As kids, we often played in and around it. We fished for crayfish there, waded in it, built log bridges over it, and simply enjoyed the sound the water made as it flowed by.

As a child, I seldom wondered where the water came from or where it was going. But as an adult, I was more curious. I asked my brother Paul (he worked for years for the Northeast Ohio Sewer District and knows a lot about water) and I learned that our little creek began in a swale east of us and it eventually flowed west into Euclid Creek and then north into Lake Erie. This means the water in our creek flowed into Lake Erie, over Niagara Falls, into Lake Ontario, through the St. Lawrence Seaway and into the Atlantic Ocean. Wow! What an incredible journey.

This childhood memory connected me with a new term I came across recently: watershed discipleship. Watershed discipleship is a movement started by Ched Myers. It asks us to see what it means to be a disciple of Jesus within our watersheds, that is, within our naturally defined ecological region.

For example, when someone asks me where I live, I usually answer Chardon, Ohio or Geauga county. These terms designate social and political spaces. But if I say, “I live in the Chagrin River Watershed,” I am citing a geological and ecological reality much older than the place names we’re used to. I am saying that when it rains, the water that runs off my roof eventually runs into the Chagrin River on its way to Lake Erie. By identifying myself by where my water flows, I am connecting myself to all my neighbors geographically. Such an awareness of my watershed might also make me more attentive to the condition of my water and the creek, river, lake (and sewer structures) that bring me water and carry my used or excess water away.

Someone said we should look at rivers as our kin. In order to appreciate the the rivers in the USA, simply look at the map below. Every blue line is a river.


Our rivers are important for many reasons. Here are a few: They supply water, add fertility to the soil, drain the earth’s surface, are a means of transportation (notice how many major cities in this country were founded on rivers or lakes!) Rivers also provide habitat and food for many of earth’s organisms. Finally, they are a source of beauty and recreational fun.

Many of our rivers, however, are threatened by pollution often caused by industry, mining, farming, and development. But sometimes rivers are threatened by political decisions as well. Currently, the Lower Rio Grande River in Texas is threatened by the proposed “border wall.” As it is projected now, this wall would separate communities from the river, cut off the river from its flood plain, exacerbate flooding, and destroy wildlife habitat. If we think only politically and not ecologically, we risk harming or even destroying our natural habitat.

In the name of watershed discipleship, I suggest you reflect on the following:

What watershed do you live in? Where does your water come from? Where does the water from your roof go?

As you walk or drive around this week, pay attention to the creeks, rivers, or lakes you see. How healthy are they? Do they connect with each other?

Cleaning up our rivers can seem daunting. But reducing water pollution begins at home in simple ways like these:

1) Never pour oil, grease, medications, household chemicals or cleaning agents down your sink or toilet.

2) Avoid using the garbage disposal. Run the dishwasher and washer only when they are full.

3) Invest in a water efficient toilet or put a brick in your standard toilet to reduce the water used per flush.

Can you come up with other ways?

PS: Once again I ask your prayers for a retreat day I will be leading for the pastoral care ministers of the diocese of Albany, NY. The day is entitled “Walking with the Heart of Christ” and is Wednesday, June 13. About 170 pastoral care ministers will be in attendance. Thank you for your prayerful support!

ALSO: Special thanks to Sister Alex and the other pastoral care ministers at Mercy Medical Center in Lorain for inviting me to be a part of their “Quiet, Reflective Day Away” last Thursday. I really enjoyed our sharing on hope.

Our “song” today is a 4-minute video of the Verde River in Arizona. Filmed by Doug Von Gausig, the video is entitled “The Beauty of a Flowing River.” May this river’s “song” give us a greater appreciation of the creeks, streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans of our world.

So, what watershed do you live in? Are you near any creeks, rivers, wetlands, ponds, or lakes? Please share your answers below–or anything else you wish to say about this reflection or “song.” Thank you!


24 Responses

  1. Thanks for the reminders about water use Sr. Melannie! I live near Lake Erie and admire its beauty several times a week.

    God bless!


  2. Good morning, Melannie!
    I live in Whitman, MA and belong to the Taunton Watershed Alliance. Kerry and I do our best to conserve water (we were just talking about rain barrels yesterday!), and, yes, we have a water efficient toilet and concerning that toilet, we live by the motto, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown….” (you know the rest!) I will leave you with these beautiful words that come at the end of Norman Mclean’s “A River Runs Through It.”

    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

  3. Besides the political summit today, let us pray for the physical desert water in Arizona because as our native Americans proclaim “Water is life!”

  4. Thank you for opening an important and new way of being connected with and aware of water’s beauty and importance.

  5. Wonderful reflection. And you will find, in the Albany area, the confluence of both the Hudson and Mohawk rivers. And farther south, the Delaware watershed area, which waters the surrounding farm land, sources the reservoirs that serve New York City, is home to incredible trout fishing, and continues south into Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

  6. I’m in the Chicopee River Watershed in Warren MA but grew up in Three Rivers MA where the Chicopee, Ware and Swift Rivers meet!

  7. Never thought about this before. Living in New Bedford, MA we are in the Buzzards Bay Watershed. Good information about the TX border. This is my information initial posting from you and I look forward to more. Thank you and Peace be with you this day.

  8. As a native Nevadan, there is little if any water near where I lived. We did play in a “creek” which was the run-off from a copper mine. We got an occasional gully washer from a very welcomed rain downpour. Your blog today was very informative and I very much enjoyed it. Thank you.

  9. Good Monday Morning Sister Melannie,
    On this very rainy and stormy morning I watch the rain pour into our beautiful lake, one of the 10,000 treasured lakes of Minnesota.
    Thank you for all your thoughts and insights.

  10. I live close to the mighty and magnificent Hudson river in Dutchess County, New York. It has it’s pollution challenges but thanks to RFK, jr. and the Riverkeeper organization, there is an ongoing effort to address and resolve the many issues that arise

  11. Good morning! I thoroughly enjoyed you blog today! Water is so spiritual in its movement. Thank you so much.

  12. Thank you for this reminder. I like your list. What would be an alternative to #1 “Never pour oil, grease, medications, household chemicals or cleaning agents down your sink or toilet.” Do you have some suggestions as to how to dispose of these items?

  13. Thank you for your interest in the Rio Grande River. You are right in all that you said about it. I live 2 miles from the river on the US side and minister to our neighbors in Mexico. It will be a great shame to put a wall and cut of our neighbors to the South.
    I love the sounds of moving waters. It was very relaxing. I will be praying for you special on June 14th.

    Sister Maureen

  14. I live in Grapevine TX and live in the Grapevine Lake Watershed. I love the trails that go around the lake and all the birds and other animals I see when I am walking or riding my bike.
    I see the impact frequently of drought or a lot of rain………’s so amazing how drastic the differences can be!
    Thank you for everything you do for us!

  15. Good morning Sr. Melannie,
    Thank you for your Monday reflection on water, a commodity that we tend to take for granted, despite the fact that we are well aware that parts of the world lack fresh, clean water. I live on the Island of Montreal which is, of course, surrounded by water. My suburban home is very close to the Riviere des Prairies; the mighty St. Lawrence River is a hallmark of Montreal; and there are many lakes within easy driving distance. I attended a choral concert yesterday where the program featured reminders of aquatic blessings – “Let the River Run,” “Bring Me Little Water, Silvie,” and “Rain.” Water is, indeed, one of Creation’s greatest gifts! I will never again be tempted to say, “Oh no! Another rainy day!” I will be grateful for the awesome wonder of rainfall… and I will conserve water rather than waste it.

  16. Thank you for your suggestions, I will take heed. Your article reminds me of this quote: Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of your life.

  17. I have a little run-off that flows into a creek in the back of my property. The name of that creek is Salomon’s Run and it flows through the property of the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County. The creek flows into the Little Miami Fork which flows into the Ohio River. And that flows into the Mississippi River which flows south to the Gulf! Thank you for your thoughts today because I never really thought all of that through! It makes it exciting to see my little run-off as I did today and now think about how far it will travel.

  18. I loved the river “song” and the reflection at the end. Thank you for your creative selection of it and your words also!

  19. I have always lived near water; oceans, rivers, lakes and snowy mountains, the Pacific Northwest. I even exercise in a pool, where I can do exercises my arthritis won’t let me do on land. Thank you for reminding me how fortunate I am. And for all your other Monday morning articles I include as part of my morning prayers. Kathleen Cunningham

  20. We raised our children along Abner Creek in rural Hendricks County, Indiana. We waded in the small creek in the summer and skated on it during the winter. It was definitely a part of our daily lives but I never even wondered where it started or ended. Now I know that it’s origin is a spring about 15 miles north of where we lived. It empties into White Lick Creek which empties into White River before emptying into the Wabash. The Wabash empties into the Ohio which empties into the Mississippi and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. What an incredible journey for such a little creek! I also discovered that we were part of the Northern White River Basin.
    Our watershed district in central Florida is not as complex. We are in the Lake Jessup Watershed which empties into the St. John’s and flows north to the Atlantic.
    I loved the music and the the sound of the river. It reminded me of the little creek that meandered through Ellis Park in Danville, Indiana. There was a swinging foot bridge that spanned the creek which our children loved. The pebbles were large and the water was swift but shallow and oh, so clear and cool. It was perfect for wading. I never knew until today that it was called White Lick Creek.

  21. I lookd up the watershed where I used to live in Elyria. We are in the Black River/Rocky River Watershed. Of course in Lorain, the Black River empties into good old Lake Erie.
    Thanks for speaking about the “Wall” in Mexico that I hope doesn’t get built.
    Love your blogs!
    Joan Campagna

  22. Checking in from the East Branch Rocky River watershed here in Richfield, Ohio.
    I love to follow the course of rivers on maps. Rivers are wonderful symbols of life because they meander. We tend to want the shortest, straightest path in this life and on to the next. But, like a river that needs to follow the terrain it is passing through, our lives need to respect all the twists and turns that come along, each one adding to the mystery of it all.

    Regarding your location in the Chagrin River watershed, that is true at the Center. However, when you are in your “loft” in Chardon, you are in the Grand River watershed, via Big Creek, and when you cross Butternut Creek between the two, you are in the Cuyahoga River watershed. What a marvel of creation.

    Thanks for the best “song” ever.

  23. We lived near the South River which flooded 2 weeks ago. Our beautiful new walkway was damaged. It was quickly repaired as the river receded to its banks. People love to fly fish there. It is being cleaned up after mercury. poisoning from the DuPont manufacturing plant, which is now closed. We are a town in recovery, full of artists and music.

  24. I am very involved in environmental and watershed issues in Sonoma County. I need more spiritual support for my work. It is very difficult and painful work and I do not have a faith community. I loved your article about watershed and it made me wish that I could be more in touch with a person of faith as yourself to bring the the sacred more into my work. I grew up catholic but do not have a catholic or faith community I belong to except Buddhist meditation groups. If you have any ideas of catholics who care about watershed and how I could connect with them let me know.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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