Sunday, July 13, 2008

River Spirits, Mountain Gods

In the past several days we have reported on three drownings in our rivers near Portland. Yesterday it was a five year old boy in the Columbia River; today officials rounded up a teenager who went under a couple weeks ago in the Sandy. Last weekend it was a 19-year old, and about a month ago, an 11-year old Boy Scout in the Clackamas. With lots of snow making rivers run high, it's been a deadly year.

It seems the water spirits are angry, and there are lots of reasons why.

My friend Mik is from the Dine Nation. She tells me she's heard the elders say that very thing about this year. The elders say the river spirits are angry because we are not respecting them, and they say they are not done taking the young just yet. So the elders have a directive -- don't go near the water until later this summer. It's serious enough that some native gatherings have been canceled near rivers this summer, or greatly reduced in numbers. Mik has three young relatives in her care right now, so she's taking the advice seriously. I knew i got a weird feeling about the river this year too -- last week the kiddo and i went to High Rocks on the Clackamas River, and i didn't push her to go in when she said she did not want to take a dip.

Meanwhile, our angry mountain is no longer so angry. Mt. Saint Helens is apparently quiet these days, after rumbling slightly for the past few years. But from 1857 to 1980 she was quiet too -- until she blew her top in May 1980. So you never know. She might start demanding respect again too.

*Coincidentally enough, as i was writing this this afternoon, a fire broke out around Mt. Adams -- which sits a bit north and east of Mt. Saint Helens. It made it look like Helens was blowing up again -- and we've been getting a string of calls about it all afternoon.
pic courtesy: Forest Strauss, Trout Lake

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