Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Deva of Sand Creek

My family and I had a picnic at a new little spot we discovered along Aurora's Sand Creek, a nook that actually has some sand and water that is safe (in terms of its depth and speed) to wade in. We brought aqua-socks, snacks, water, sand toys, and a couple of plastic bags in which to collect garbage. It's a lovely little spot with raccoon prints along the sandy bank and what I later identified as Bullock's Orioles playing in the trees. Well, there were red ants. And a leach (on a plastic bag, not a person). On the other side of the bank ran a chain link fence that my husband identified as belonging to the prison. But here on our side of the fence my daughter played in the water and we filled a grocery bag of trash to carry away. We left the garbage with some other trash on the truck of some volunteers planting cottonwoods along the banks of the creek. I felt proud of the lessons my daughter received about caring for the land and exploring natural areas.

I miss water. I grew up near Puget Sound in Washington State; my husband grew up on Green Bay in Wisconsin. When I told my daughter I was glad she was getting a chance to play in the water, that it was strange to her daddy and me that she doesn't have much water to play in, she said, "Why? That's not our home." I felt sad, but also interested at her sense of place and matter-of-fact perspective.

While she played with her dad, who wore the baby in an Ergo carrier, I sat in a little eddy of calm and tried to sense the spirit of the place. I couldn't. Usually I can tap into the deva or spirit of a place instantly. I closed my eyes and called out mentally to it. Finally, with a lot of concentration, I got the sense of a far-off being. It felt hard, cold, spiky. I felt the willow branches and the rocks, but also metal and sludge. It didn't want to converse.

Later we went over to Bluff Lake, a pond near Sand Creek with a trail and a boardwalk stretching out over the cattails. Volunteers run outdoor education programs here, and neighbors like to use the trails for jogging and dog walking. Swallows darted over the water, a grebe gave a scratchy call from the reeds, and red wing blackbirds swooped past. I wondered if maybe my difficulty in sensing the spirit of Sand Creek was merely due to my (maternal) exhaustion. But when I reached out to the deva of Bluff Lake, it came back strong and clear. I got a sense of how this basin of water serves wildlife. It feels calm, bright, an oasis. That it had done so for a long time.

When I got home I looked up the history of Sand Creek and Bluff Lake. I discovered that Sand Creek was an irrigation ditch and that part of it downstream from our little spot was once a Superfund site. That stray bullets used to be found in the creek behind Bluff Lake nature area from the prison. That the water contains lots of heavy metals. That Bluff Lake had been closed off when Stapleton was an airport, that part of it had been a dumping site for extra airport concrete, and that heavy rains washed de-icer from the airport into the lake. The lake is a natural wetland, not an irrigation reservoir (from what I could tell). The history explained to me the energy of the places. Bluff Lake is and has been for some time a respite for animals, if somewhat ignored and abused by humans. But Sand Creek feels like an embittered indigenous person because that's what it is. Shoved there, polluted, shot at, ignored. Only now is it being restored, slowly. I'll be curious to see how the energy of the place changes as the newly planted cottonwoods grow in, the garbage is picked up, and no more heavy metals are dumped into the water.

The feeling of the creek makes me sad, but I try to focus on what we are doing to restore a long-abused stretch of land. This creek feels like a key part of the restoration of Denver and Aurora, the waterways of which were mostly crafted by humans and abused, but that are now being restored as opportunities for valuable interactions with nature. The energy of Sand Creek and Bluff Lake reflect the energy of the whole area, which is awakening to the impact we humans have on the land (and water) and how we can make informed, respectful decisions about our interactions with them.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

I have hope for the Deva of Sand Creek. Your family's time there, others planting; she will rebound--she is probably rebounding now...because someone cares...