“Goose Creek. Pass it back.”
Rick turned to face forward again and we passed the words back along the line of walkers. Goose Creek. Goose Creek. Goose Creek. I looked down at the muddy water running under our feet as we walked where the road crossed – apparently – Goose Creek. That’s what that bit of water is called, here in occupied Haudenosauneega Confederacy, Miami, Osage, and Shawnee land, in the state of Indiana, in the Ohio River watershed.
Every night in worship we name aloud the people groups who lived here for years before “civilization” arrived with violence, striving to honor them as we face the complicity of Christianity (particularly U.S. Christianity) in the colonization of this land and genocide of its people. In our pursuit of justice, we have to acknowledge how badly we’ve gotten it wrong – the confession of sins en route to the promised assurance of pardon.
In this same confessional ritual we also name the watershed through which we walk. For most of this 150 mile trek, it will be the Ohio River Basin. Walkers leading worship urge us to note the rivers, streams, and rivulets we cross, and to reflect on the precious nature of this water that sustains us.
This is the land flowing with water and sweat. Everything is green, except the grey-brown water and the blacktop road. Coming from Tucson, my eyes still haven’t adjusted. The color is shocking. The ease of just looking down at water underfoot is shocking, too, so far removed from the experience of crossing the dry bed of the Santa Cruz River on my bike. I want to fill my pockets with water, siphon Goose Creek into my backpack, twine honeysuckle vines around my arms and carry all this life back to the desert with me.
In our teach-in tonight, New Jersey State Climatologist Dr. David Robinson gives us a layperson’s intro to the climate system and climate science. He shows us maps of the U.S. with projected climate and precipitation change into 2070, and my eyes go straight to the Southwest: there’s Arizona, headed for even hotter and drier days.
We're walking with hope of a pardon, some kind of reprieve, something world-changing. And/and yet, the truth is that climate change is here. Not coming, come. “We’re not gonna mitigate ourselves out of this,” Dr. Robinson says, “—the train has left the station. We’re gonna have to learn how to adapt.”
I don’t know what that means for my life personally, or even for our populated world over the next decades and centuries. I hope I’ll learn more about that in the coming days, as we continue to walk and to listen. I’m pretty sure, though, that draining other rivers (like we have the Santa Cruz) to water our desert golf courses and cotton fields is not the way to go. The water will have to stay in Goose Creek, and at home we’ll have to continue to learn to function in the desert as it is – and as it changes.
21 miles down, is 151 to go.
Author, Alison Wood
queer, white, cisgender, U.S. passport-holding, Presbyterian, church-employed, challenged by faith, imagining something better.
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