Our days begin with silent time alone and together, a daily listening circle to receive from each other’s experience, and plenty of time with the river to walk, listen, and sit in silence along its edges. We sense the grace of what comes from each encounter.
Today, on the northern edge of Jasper National Park, most of us hiked through boreal woods, through lush pastoral meadow and across the rails to reach the ever-widening Athabasca. On its shores animal tracks are plentiful and diverse – a place for watering – and a community of geese rest and communicate at the center. We walk, rest and meditate in this place.
This evening, around a campfire, our Metis hosts inform us of the large volume of fresh water continually drawn from local creeks and the river for the purpose of fracking for natural gas, and also for the ‘in situ’ method of extracting bitumen. We learn that this has been ongoing in this area for some years now. As I write at this day’s end I am reminded of a vision from St Hildegard of Bingen in the 1100’s: earth’s elements have a spiritual vocation to fulfill. If we interrupt or interfere with their deepest purpose for being, she noted that ‘Viriditas’ – or the greening energy of God, the cosmic circulation of wisdom (humility) – has dried up within us. We learned that some of the creeks have now been sucked dry by the industry in this region, and that the river’s volume is also diminishing. Are we witnessing what Hildegard saw in her visions as the ultimate ‘sin of drying up?’ – the outer landscape beginning to reflect the inner landscape of our culture?