The third HOLY WATERS homemade video fest

Kai Lan's Chinese Dragon Parade

January 23, 2012, marked the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Water Dragon. Dragons are auspicious creatures in Chinese culture, symbolizing nobility, royalty and good fortune. They are also associated with water: “In Chinese belief, dragons rule over moving bodies of water and are considered to be the givers of rain,” writes Amy Huang on the blog Shape of Good Fortune (a visually rich Chinese New Year’s exhibition curated by Brown University art history students). As Huang explains:

This connection between dragons and water is especially important for this 2012—the Year of the Water Dragon. This year’s energy is said to favor expansion and growth, in a calmer way than that of the dragons associated with other of the Five Elements, or Wuxing 五行 (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth). The water dragon represents the flow and the overcoming of obstacles, as the water element is said to nourish new beginnings, innovation and successful growth. While all five dragons are known for their ability to magnify both the successes and failures of the year, the water dragon is known above all for its constancy—a celebration of balance between logic and creativity.

Since actual dragons are rare these days, you might want to build your own. Remember how fun it was to make arts ‘n’ crafts out of toilet paper rolls? You have lots of time to experiment–the Year of the Dragon runs till February 9, 2013, after which we’ll be thinking about snakes.  Here are my favorite dragon-making tutorials, ranging from papier-mâché to origami to nail art. I’m especially inspired by the “Dragon Chino,” who takes kind of crazy flight on a Canary Island beach about one minute into the video. 

All videos embedded from and are the property of the artists. “Kai Lan’s Chinese Dragon Parade” is from
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Spiritual sustenance

Annette Kellerman as a mermaid (ca. 1915-25)

How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean. ~ Arthur C. Clarke

We have just swum back to our wintry high desert home after a holiday visit to the glorious Pacific Ocean. Our eyes have remembered the golden sunlight glinting off the waters; our lungs have been filled with hearty salt air. Thus fortified, we will excitedly resume blogging very, very soon. Happy 2012!

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) is best known for authoring the novel “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which he developed in collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick. Vintage photographic postcard is from the collection of the State Library of New South Wales and is reproduced from the library’s photostream, which also states: “Annette Kellerman (1886-1975), swimmer, aquatic performer and film actress, was born on 6 July 1886 at Marrickville, Sydney. She became a long distance swimmer and made a career of her swimming and diving show on stage and later in films. Her arrest in Boston in 1907 for wearing an ‘indecent’ one-piece swimming costume helped change the law for swimwear. Esther Williams later made a film based on her life called ‘Million Dollar Mermaid.’” 
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Guest artist: Melissa Crabtree

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Water Canyon

Launch the canoe at Mineral Bottom, northwest of Moab, Utah, in Canyonlands National Park. The Green River runs through Stillwater Canyon on this remarkable flat-water journey. It takes at least six days to paddle to Water Canyon, which is on river right. This trip was a silent retreat. Not one word was spoken for days. I brought a small guitar and stashed it in the bottom of my canoe. For the six days of silence, all I heard was the paddle gliding through the water and my mind’s chatter starting to clear another relationship that ended in sadness. I eddied out on river right and hiked up Water Canyon over huge boulders, through the prickly pear cacti and yucca plants to a turquoise waterfall. An oasis in the desert and a paradise for a broken heart and healing…a love song to Water Canyon.  ~ Melissa Crabtree

Click to listen: 


I’m so glad to see you again
I forgot about you or that I was ever here
I was so hot I swam in your water
Cooled me off for about one year
And now you surprised me again in this desert
This time it’s nearing autumn cold
The water’s shallow but the creek’s still running
Someone tried to buy my heart but I never sold

So cool me off in that clean water
Let me rest in what I know is true
Never did I want to harm anybody
Just feel the joy in finding you

Swirling, ancient marks of time
Again the veins of solid rock
Can you contain me one more time?
I became so mad that I forgot


I won’t ever forget you again
I can find you down by the cottonwood trees
Flowing through the ledges of stone
Cool me off and set me free


Melissa Crabtree is a wilderness guide and a singer-songwriter whose music transports listeners to the wild, natural places she loves most. Crabtree has received songwriting awards at numerous festivals, including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival, and she has been a finalist in the Songwriter’s Showcase at both the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and the Tucson Folk Festival. She has shared the stage with many leading performers, including Joan Osborne, Ani DiFranco and Michele Shocked. Her CDs are available at iTunes and CD Baby.
“Water Canyon” © Melissa Crabtree and is used by permission of the artist. “Water Canyon” will be featured on Crabtree’s upcoming CD “The Day I Fell in the Water,” which she is raising funds for through Learn more about her new CD project and how you can support it here. For permission to reuse her music and lyrics, contact the artist at oceanmelissa [AT] gmail [DOT] com. 
The photographic series “Canyons of Green River” was taken for the U.S. Geological Survey in Canyonlands, Utah, ca. 1871, and is in the public domain.
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“Under me, rivers ran…”

The Standard Oil heiress, arts patron and fashion icon Millicent Rogers left behind a life of East Coast high society to settle in a rustic adobe home in Taos, New Mexico, in 1947. The following is an excerpt from a letter she wrote to her son Paul Peralta-Ramos in January 1951, two years before she died at age 50.

"Winter Funeral" (1932) by Victor Higgins

“Did I ever tell you about the feeling I had a little while ago? We were driving with Dixie and John; suddenly passing Sandia Mountain [near Albuquerque] I felt that I was part of the Earth, so that I felt the sun on my surface and the rain. I felt the stars and the growth of the moon; under me, rivers ran. And against me were the tides. The waters of rain sank into me. And I thought if I stretched out my hand[s] they would be earth and green would grow from me. And I knew that there was no reason to be lonely, that one was everything, and Death was so easy as the rising sun and as calm and natural–that to be infolded in Earth was not the end but part of oneself, part of every day and night that we lived, so that Being part of the Earth one was never alone. And all fear went out of me–with a great good stillness and strength.

“If anything should happen to me now, ever, just remember all this. I want to be buried in Taos with the wide sky…. One has so little time to be still, to lie still and look at the Earth and the changing colours and the tones–and [listen to] the voices of people. And cloud and light on water, smells and sounds and music and the taste of woodsmoke in the air. Life is absolutely beautiful if one will disassociate oneself from noise and talk and live it according to one’s inner light.”

~ Millicent Rogers

The excerpt above is from Cherie Burns’ new book Searching for Beauty: The Life of Millicent Rogers (St. Martin’s Press). As many had been before her, Millicent Rogers (1902-1953) was enchanted by the mystical power and beauty of the rugged New Mexican landscape, and she lived out the last six years of her fragile life in Taos, becoming involved with Indian causes and collecting artifacts from the region. Her excellent collections of Native American jewelry and pottery, Hopi kachinas, Hispanic santos and Rio Grande textiles can be seen at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos. 
Indianapolis-born painter Victor Higgins (1874-1960) migrated west to Taos in 1914 and was one of the early members of the influential Taos Society of Artists. His award-winning painting “Winter Funeral,” set at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos, was influenced by both his mother’s death and the funeral of a Taos boy who was killed in a car accident. 
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“Los Nadies”/”The Nobodies” by Eduardo Galeano

These days I am swooning over “The Book of Embraces” by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano (whose “Memory of Fire,” a trilogy poetically chronicling the history of Latin America, I earlier swallowed in great, swift gulps). Here is a video by Caleb González of a poem from “The Book of Embraces,” with music by the great Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucia. Below is the English translation by Galeano’s longtime translator, Cedric Belfrage, followed by the original Spanish. ~ Diana Rico

The Nobodies

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that one magical day good luck will suddenly rain down on them–will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn’t rain down yesterday, today, tomorrow, or ever. Good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day with their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.

The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way.

Who are not, but could be.
Who don’t speak languages, but dialects.
Who don’t have religions, but superstitions.
Who don’t create art, but handicrafts.
Who don’t have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have faces, but arms.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the police blotter of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.

Los Nadies

Sueñan las pulgas con comprarse un perro y sueñan los nadies con salir de pobres, que algún mágico día llueva de pronto la buena suerte, que llueva a cántaros la buena suerte; pero la buena suerte no llueve ayer, ni hoy, ni mañana, ni nunca, ni en llovizna cae del cielo la buena suerte, por mucho que los nadies la llamen y aunque les pique la mano izquierda, o se levanten con el pie derecho, o empiecen el año cambiando de escoba.

Los nadies: los hijos de nadie, los dueños de nada. Los nadies: los ningunos, los niguneados, corriendo la liebre, muriendo la vida, jodidos, rejodidos.

Que no son, aunque sean.
Que no hablan idiomas, sino dialectos.
Que no profesan religiones, sino supersticiones.
Que no hacen arte, sino artesanías.
Que no practican cultura, sino folklore.
Que no son seres humanos, sino recursos humanos.
Que no tienen cara, sino brazos.
Que no tienen nombre, sino número.
Que no figuran en la historia universal, sino en la crónica roja de la prensa local.
Los nadies, que cuestan menos que la bala que los mata.

Video from
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The memory of water

Does water have memory? Can it retain an “imprint” of energies to which it has been exposed? This theory was first proposed by the late French immunologist Dr. Jacques Benveniste, in a controversial article published in 1988 in Nature, as a way of explaining how homeopathy works. Benveniste’s theory has continued to be championed by some and disputed by others. The video clip above, from the Oasis HD Channel, shows some fascinating recent experiments with water “memory” from the Aerospace Institute of the University of Stuttgart in Germany. The results with the different types of flowers immersed in water are particularly evocative.

If Benveniste is right, just think what that might mean. More than 70 percent of our planet is covered in water. The human body is made of 60 percent water; the brain, 70 percent; the lungs, nearly 90 percent.  Our energies might be traveling out of our brains and bodies and into those of other living beings of all kinds through imprints on this magical substance. The oceans and rivers and rains might be transporting all manner of information throughout the world.

I like to believe that the good doctor was correct–if for no other reason, because the phrase “the memory of water” makes my heart leap up and spin.

Video clip © Oasis HD Channel and embedded from 
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An ancient Gaelic prayer

"Iona Cross" by rompus

May it be so for you,

Deep peace of the running wave to you.

Deep peace of the flowing air to you.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

Deep peace of the gentle night to you.

Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.

Deep peace of the Light of the World to you.

There are various versions of this ancient Gaelic prayer, including one translated by Caitlin Matthews and sung by Donovan; this beautiful one came to me via poet Robert McDowell. “Iona Cross” © 2010 by rompus; the photograph is from the website and is used under a Creative Commons license. It depicts a Celtic cross at the cemetery in the Gaelic chapel ruins in Cromarty, Black Isle, Scotland.

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Overcome obstacles with the gentleness of water

A reprint of a popular post. 

Water's edge, Whidbey Island, Washington, August 2005.

Nothing in the world is more gentle than water, yet nothing is stronger. Water nurtures life, yet cuts through solid rock. Overcome obstacles with the strength of gentleness. The Book of Tao, 78

I’m lying down in my Ashtanga yoga class, knees up, feet firmly planted on the purple sticky mat. My yoga teacher, Jennifer Ammann, kneels down next to me and asks how I’m doing. She’s been nurturing me through healing an injury, and for weeks she’s had me do very little more than lay on my back like this or stand in mountain pose and do intense Ujjayi Pranayama breathing, inhaling all the way up through the top of my heart, exhaling all the way down to my perineum, over and over and over again. Being still for an hour and a half, I’m discovering, is much harder than moving.

I tell her the pain is worse today, point out where, and add, “Of course there’s emotional pain coming up too.” The more acutely I’ve been tuning into my body and soul, the more the divide between the two keeps melting away. She nods knowingly.

Jennifer says, “The purpose of all the movement is to stir things up. Once they’re stirred up, you get to be still.” So she instructs me to continue breathing on my back, and to do some bridge poses “only when you’re ready to,” and then to rest and breathe some more. “Don’t even stand unless you feel an overwhelming urge to. Today, it’s all about restorative.”

So I do. It’s a challenge, because buff, athletic Richard next to me is engaging in some kind of super-Ashtanga routine that just keeps getting more energetic by the minute. I concentrate on entering into the pain in my hip and notice, as I breathe into it, that it has the quality of water. With each breath, the slightest shift happens–internal movements so subtle, I would not normally perceive them. “This is going to change your relationship to suffering,” Jennifer had told me when I’d first come back to yoga class after hurting myself. Indeed, it is. I am learning that the only way out is through. I expand my ribcage and melt into the pain, diving deeply into it with my breath.  I remember the words of a guided pain meditation by Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young that I’ve been using at home: “Left to its own resources, with time, the body knows what to do with discomfort. It will spontaneously enter into a state of equanimity, of openness.”

Shinzen Young is right: Finally, after an hour of focused attention, the constricted muscles in the hip suddenly open. I breathe some more and allow, more and more. The relief is incredible. Then, four blankets piled under my knees, I go into a long Savasana, corpse pose.

As I’m breathing in corpse pose, I sense a tender pain in my heart. “Go into it,” I think. To my surprise, it blossoms into a glowing jewel-light, radiant and free. It is still the pain–it hasn’t transmuted into something else–but I am bathing in the holy, astonishing beauty of it.

I abide in this glory as long as I can. I can still feel the radiance in the center of my chest when Jennifer has us stretch our arms over our heads, sit up, and come into a seated posture to close the class. When I fold myself forward and say, “Namaste,” to salute my teacher, my eyes fill with tears.

Translation from The Book of Tao by Diane Dreher, from her book “The Tao of Womanhood: Ten Lessons for Power and Peace.”
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Giving thanks

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“To have abundance in Soul does not mean having lots of things; it means having access to, and communication with, the essence of all things.

“Once you are in touch with that, you have all things inside you. You don’t feel any lack. You have fullness and gratitude, and you walk free, knowing that whatever you need will come to you.”

~ John-Roger

All photographs © Diana Rico and may be reproduced, with attribution, under a Creative Commons license.

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Waging peace


For the past 24 hours, I have been making a fierce prayer. This is what I’ve been saying over and over again in my heart:

May the nonviolent, peaceful components of the worldwide social-change movements continue to strengthen and grow. May this commitment to creating peace be the deep grounding of all our actions. May the Shadow of the societies we have created continue to be revealed and healed by the light of Love.

My prayer is inspired by two actions taken by students from the Occupy movement who responded to blatant police brutality with remarkably gentle, imaginative actions of peace.

By now the infamous video of the UC Davis cop pepper-spraying a row of passively kneeling students has gone viral. What some people may not have seen is what happens six minutes into the clip. Suddenly the students (several of whom we’ve seen dragged away) say to the police, en masse,

We are willing to give you a brief moment of peace. You may take your weapons and our friends and go. Please do not return. We are giving you a moment of peace. We give you a moment of peace. We give you a moment of peace.

The police, decked out in Darth Vader riot gear, look around in confusion; there is no resistance, nothing for them to fight.  Slowly, as the students all around them chant, “You can go! We will not follow you! You can go! You can go!” they back away in a cluster, their faces looking a little lost, their batons loosening in their hands. It is as if the very force field of the students’ firm goodwill is pushing them off the quad. The shift in the energy is astonishing and palpable.

The other student action I’m moved by is described by UC Berkeley poetry professor Robert Hass in a recent New York Times article. Hass, the former poet laureate of the United States, decided to go check out reports of police brutality at Occupy Berkeley. He and his wife got caught up in an unprovoked melee:

The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down….

I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me—it must be a generational reaction—was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines. None of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning.

After the attack and numerous arrests, the cops took down the Occupiers’ tents. Hass returned a few days later to see how the students had responded and found that “the air was full of…helium balloons to which tents had been attached, and attached to the tents was kite string. And they hovered over the plaza, large and awkward, almost lyrical, occupying the air.”

I am in enchanted by this image of tents floating over Sproul Hall, the place where the Free Speech Movement was born in 1964 and an area that the university has designated a permanent free speech zone for students. You can see news footage of the floating tents here.

‎These two actions brought home to me the absolute necessity for those of us who are passionate about creating social change to walk our walk and talk our talk. I believe we need widespread nonviolent-action training of the sort that was given in the Civil Rights era, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s great Indian liberation movement. (Paul K. Chapell of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation writes thoughtfully about this issue in his recent article “How to Destroy the Occupy Movement and How to Prevent it from Failing.”) And, closer to home, I must scrupulously and continuously examine my own actions. If I am promoting peace and love in my words, how do I bring that into my daily life–especially when it’s challenging to do so?  If I say I believe in unity consciousness–that we are all one–how does that translate when I am talking to someone virulently opposed to my views? Can I maintain kindness in my speech and softness in my heart? Can I open my ears truly, can I stretch far enough to see things from their perspective, can I actively seek common ground?

The answer is, I must. If I want to see a world grounded in unconditional humanitarianism, I must practice this myself in all circumstances. I believe the choice comes down to something as simple as this observation from Pema Chodron, the Tibetan Buddhist nun, in her book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times:

All over the world, everybody always strikes out at the enemy, and the pain escalates forever. Every day we could reflect on this and ask ourselves, “Am I going to add to the aggression in the world?” Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves, “Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?”

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