Monday, September 10, 2018

Indra's Wet Net

One night in a dream, near Rum Island Spring where I make offerings to the naga, I am given the gift of a vision.
I am lifted high up into blackest space where I am allowed to hover with no visible support. When I look down, I can see the whole upper part of the Florida peninsula from Orlando to the Georgia line. Like the Technicolor animation in an old Disney movie, exquisitely hand-drawn in the finest detail, I can see beneath the topsoil and into the holey limestone of the Floridan aquifer, that huge storage tank for one of the world’s largest supplies of freshwater.
I watch in awe as groundwater bubbles through porous bedrock, rising here in springs and rivers as rain falls, falling there as water is pumped out for people and farms—a dynamic, percolating system with limestone rendered in grey, beige, and brown, water in every color of blue from ultramarine to turquoise to aquamarine.
As I watch, I don’t just observe but understand how rainfall and withdrawals at one place on the peninsula can change groundwater levels even hundreds of miles away as that water alternately seeps, flows and rushes through limestone conduits that range in size from pinholes to underground rivers.
This net of bubbling springs connected by strands of flowing water reminds me of another vision I had years ago, a vision of Indra's Net.
According to Wikipedia, Indra's Net "is a metaphor used to illustrate the concepts of Sunyata (emptiness), pratityasamutpada (dependent origination) and interpenetration in Buddhist philosophy." Alan Watts wrote, "Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image."
Watts so perfectly describes what I was shown so many years ago that I wonder if this image of Indra’s Net is something that is hard-wired, somehow, into human consciousness.
I think of my vision of Florida's springs as Indra's wet net, where each spring is a reflection of the causes and conditions that have formed it and all the other springs—and I believe that we humans are reflected in that wet net, too, because of the harm we cause or the help we offer to this beautiful, complicated, life-giving water system.
Many years ago now, I wrote that the way we treat each other is reflected in the way we treat the environment that is our home, and vice versa. The vision of Indra's wet net is yet another example of that idea.
I woke from my dream of the living aquifer with the vision firmly and vividly implanted in my mind. I would love to find someone who could animate what I saw, so others could see it too.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

My Florida Water Lineage

Photos:  Wikimedia Commons

On this Earth Day weekend, I’m thinking about my water lineage.

Lineage is an important concept in the Vajrayana, the form of Buddhism that’s practiced in Tibet and, increasingly, worldwide since many of the Tibetan Buddhist teachers were driven from their homeland by the Chinese Communist invasion in the 1950s.

Lineage in Tibetan Buddhism is like a highway, but it’s a highway of people instead of asphalt. Depending upon which particular teaching you’re referring to, there was a starting point—a Buddha, bodhisattva or person—from whom the teaching originated. Then there were successive lineage holders who were authorized (by virtue of empowerment, learning, practice and realization) to pass that teaching on to others. The transmission goes from the teacher’s mouth to students’ ears. The individual student is the end point of that person’s particular lineage highway, although of course the same teaching can be transmitted to many more people.

My water lineage is similar except it doesn’t flow in a straight line like a highway; it meanders like a river according to people I’ve met who have influenced my love for, and increased my knowledge about, Florida’s waters.

I can trace my water lineage back through various people I’ve known, but I cannot trace it forward. Here’s how it looks to me right now.

My parents

From the writers Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and from her own lived experience, my mother developed a strong love for Florida and the state’s history. She also loved swimming and she passed all those loves on to me.

From his love of fishing Florida’s waters, my father developed a similar love for Florida that he passed on to me. “They won’t be happy ’til they’ve paved over the whole state,” I remember him grumbling about developers.

My parents made sure I had swimming lessons and when we visited Florida before we actually moved here, they took me to Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs.

When we lived in Miami Springs, my parents took me to the beach at Crandon Park and to Miami Beach.

When we lived in Orlando, my parents took me to New Smyrna Beach and Rock Springs at Kelly Park in Apopka. Later, they made sure we had a membership in a neighborhood pool so I could swim whenever I wanted.

My parents also took me on my first visits to Cross Creek and St. Augustine.

My peers

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, I learned the locations of springs from people who had already been there. These secrets were passed from mouth to ear, much like the Vajrayana teachings.

On a school picnic at age 13, I visited Sanlando Springs.

With my peers when I was in high school and college, I discovered Wekiwa Springs in Apopka, Poe Springs on the Santa Fe River, Ichetucknee Springs, Manatee Springs and Cross Creek/Lake Lochloosa.

My teachers

It was my community college creative writing teacher, Cissy Arena Wood, who told me how to get to Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River.

It was my community college geology teacher, Jean Klein, who stood with me on the banks of Ginnie Springs on a class field trip and said, “If these springs ever get polluted, it will take hundreds of years to clean them up.”

I believe that it was through the blessings of my Buddhist teachers that I came to be involved in my current water work, trying to save Florida’s freshwater springs. Homage to His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa; to Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and Ven. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche; to Lama Yeshe Gyamtso and the other interpreters who so skillfully rendered Tibetan into English; and to Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal and Machik Labdron, who all continue to inspire me.

Homage, too, to the following people:

  • Gil Kushner, my major professor in anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who helped me to understand—even many years after my classes—that saving Florida’s springs is actually an exercise in culture change.
  • Cynthia Barnett, the Gainesville writer whose work with developing guidelines for a Florida water ethic “is how we win,” according to a flash of insight I had when I first heard about her ideas.
  • Sister Patricia Siemen and Jane Durocher of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University Law School in Orlando, whose thinking about the rights of nature inspired another “how we win” insight.
  • Maya van Rossum, whose book “The Green Amendment” expands the rights of nature dialogue to include the rights of human beings to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment.
  • Annie Pais and Stewart Thomas of Florida’s Eden, who gave me my start in water work when they hired me to coordinate their Blue Path programs.
  • The Gainesville water writers Margaret Tolbert, Jack E. Davis and Lola Haskins, who with Cynthia Barnett enthusiastically participated in the reading event I organized for Florida’s Eden at Santa Fe College, “Of Thirst and Beauty.”
  • The scientists, lawyers, citizen activists and water managers who continually deepen my understanding of Florida’s hydrologic system and water history through detailed yet wide-ranging conversations, in particular:  Jim Stevenson; Bob Knight; Jim Gross; Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson; Heather Obara; Traci Deen; Margaret Stewart; Bob Palmer; Bob Ulanowicz; Loye Barnard; Charles Maxwell; Wendy Graham; David Kaplan; the folks at the Suwannee River Water Management District and others too numerous to mention!
  • The past and present members of the board of directors of the Ichetucknee Alliance.
  • The explorers and photographers who have revealed a whole new world under our feet through documenting their ventures into the depths of the Floridan aquifer and into our springs: Jill Heinerth; Wes Skiles; Mark and Annette Long; Tom Morris; Travis Marques and Joe Cruz and all the members of the Spring Hunters Facebook page.
  • And finally, to all the artists, musicians, writers and graphic designers who have paid their own homage to water through their magnificent and inspiring works, some of which grace my home:  Will McLean; Dale Crider; Whitey Markle; Margaret Tolbert (again); Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (again); Rick Kilby; John Moran; Lesley Gamble; Johnny Dame; Steven Earl; Richard Eberhart; Harriet Huss; Nancy Vogler. And—full circle completed!—Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Who are the members of an environmental lineage that you honor on Earth Day?