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!