Early in the morning, I woke up listening to the pounding rain and thinking about the holy river Ganges, in India. Who decided that the Ganges was holy? If the Willamette is holy, does that automatically make the Clackamas River also holy? What about Johnson Creek? Who decides these things? And what does “holy” really mean, anyway? The Ganges is really, really long, and one of the top five most polluted rivers in the world, disgustingly so. Maybe it’s not such a good thing to be a holy river. One sip of the Ganges is supposed to Heal – if the ecoli doesn’t get you.
So I looked up ‘Holy’ in our enormous Webster’s Third International Dictionary. It’s from an Old English root, meaning ‘whole’. Worthy of complete devotion and trust, perfect in divine love. Spiritually whole, sound or perfect, pure in heart.
And then, with a tip of the hat to the truth of a river, for example, it also means ‘filled with mysterious, superhuman, and potentially fatal power. Dangerously powerful if violated.’ In other words, don’t fuck with the holy, or you could get hurt or killed. I think people in New Jersey and New Orleans and the polar bears are finding that out. And the dolphins now, dying in droves.
Mostly I think that everything on the planet is holy. All rivers, all mountains, all baby turtles, all beavers, all elephants. Maybe all planets in the universe, and the universe itself. I have a really hard time separating out what’s holy from what isn’t. If the Willamette is holy, but the Columbia is not, (or vice versa) then does that mean that we can pollute the hell out of the so called non-holy river? If no mountains are holy, then can’t we just blow them all up and steal their underground coal, and not risk facing the “potentially fatal power” of the holy One? Ha, that isn’t working.
Cows are holy in India, too. Think about that for awhile. Who decided that cows were holy, but horses aren’t. Or chickens. Capricious, in a way.
I walked down to the river to see what she had to say about all this. She’s kind of busy now, in the rising waters time of the year. For awhile, I watched her scurrying north.
And then I got it. I think it’s so simple. Love makes something holy. Love makes anything holy. Without love, it’s just ordinary. So, a lock of hair from someone I loved with all my heart becomes a holy relic. Or their ashes, in my medicine bag. If enough people love the Willamette, it becomes holy by non-verbal consensus, by all the love hovering over it. The Holy sparks, and it ignites us all in that mysterious communion.
For me, the Willamette is hereby a holy river. Ho!