by Gabriel Horn
It is dawn, and it is dark. Out my windows, west and southeast, more storms approach. This is third week of them. Every day. Every night. The tightly suited and smiling weatherman, and blonde wearing a pretty dress and smiling weatherwoman, on TV saying, it is soggy and sloppy and damp and conceding that there is street flooding and higher tides that may cause beach erosion, but they have stopped using the words to describe this weather system as highly unusual. They have stopped saying, not normal for this time of year. They have stopped describing this weather system as anything more than a lingering low, looking more tropical, because you get the feeling that they don’t know how to describe what is happening. You get the feeling that even if they did, someone tells them what they can say about it, what they must not say. I know that living here in Florida for most of my life, I have never seen so much rain…rain…water… everywhere…every day for weeks. The Thunder Beings make their presence known, and I am more aware that something has changed. I think the Sun has been visible for maybe a few hours during these weeks of rain, and water. The water. The Rain. The Ocean. She is rising, you know. Don’t need the meteorologists to tell me this because they won’t anyway. I can see the low tide reaching the top of the sea wall…. Again at first light. Strong winds, but Huracan? Is he forming? Is the Mayan god of wind forming out of his anger? Not yet. Not a tropical storm, either, but rather the kind of rain without great winds, though the Thunder Beings travel with them. Again. Another dawn awakening to the rain. Another day of storms arriving. It is a sign, no doubt, I say. It is a sign. I see a flash of white light. I hear in the distance, the rumbling, the sound, powerful, but it seems detached of emotion. In my mind I can see the water moving up from the Ocean in the forms of clouds across the Gulf. I hear more rumbling. The rain. The rain is coming. The rain is coming….
A moment ago, I did a word search in the final draft of Motherless, and it showed I had used the word water 97 times. Did you know 97% of the Earth’s water is Ocean? I also discovered that the novel begins with water, and ends with water. I called her Rainy. I made no conscious decision to do any of this. It just happened. A few days ago, the Moon waxed full. They called this one, the Blue Moon because they have created a calendar out of sync, like the rest of this society. Some scientist say we could survive without the Moon. We could adapt over time to a wobbly, violently spinning Earth with, or without, great tidal surges. Yes. Sure we can. Some scientist say, life would not exist as we know it without the Moon, and should anything happen to the Moon, our lives would be as good as dead. They all say, that the Moon is slowly moving away from us. Slowly, moving away….
You see, I prayed about this novel Motherless, to my grandmother, the Moon. (I address her as my grandmother because I cannot assume, nor want to impose, the idea that you regard yourself in such a relationship with the Moon. Of course, a time existed in America when that clarification would have been unthinkable. But not now…). And so, during the years of writing and rewriting Motherless, I prayed to her while she waxed full. I made offerings to her. I danced and sang to her. I prayed when her light was absent from the night, and she was new. I made offerings to the Moon, the celestial body which controls the tidal movements of our Ocean. Grandmother, I pleaded to her, if only somehow I could draw from myself the ability to write this story in such a way that it could reach into the hearts of human beings, and that somehow through this story, I could help save our precious Earth, her womb that is the ocean, and the lifeforms she sustains…. I implore you, Grandmother, lend your strength to me for her…to help stop her suffering…. I beseech you, beautiful Moon! I am so grateful to you. Please, help me. Pity me, that I may help the Earth, beautiful Moon. Did you know they actually bombed the Moon? Yes, they bombed the Moon. On the day President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, American scientists at NASA were “shooting the Moon”. That’s one way they described it. “Moon bombing,” they called it too. They claim they were looking for signs… of water.
I called her Rainy because of water. It is trickling rain now outside my window. But the sky is growing darker and the clouds appear heavier. Water is Life. I say in my mind. Water is alive. Water feels. And we are running out of Time…. As the kindergartner Rainy searches for her seat, that’s what the school bus driver says in a Jamaican whisper as he remains sitting on the bus steps, gazing across the street, his Rasta imaginings turning to nature, and time…. “We runnin’ outta it.” Did you know that oil is the fastest source of deterioration to the ocean? Did you know that oil spills suffocate all forms of Mother Ocean’s life? Did you know that an oil spill can destroy the ecosystem of an entire coastline or even a deep ocean? Do you know of the suffering? The faculty seated in their swivel chairs, and in their sympathetic civility, could not hear the terror in primal voices on that blazing dark night in the Gulf. They could not hear the honking of great herons and egrets, the squealing of the gulls, the terrified panic of pelicans flapping wings too heavy with oil to fly. They could not hear the turtles in their screaming silence burning in water that was on fire…. Coastal fishing and shrimp trawlers had used tubes and buoys to make another burn box, encircling a large area of the water, and trapping the oil. The bird and animal rescue crew shouting back from their smaller vessel that there were birds and dolphins and turtles trapped inside. The BP ship’s captain yelling at the rescue crews to “get out!” and then shouting the orders to the trawlers, “Light it up!” The faculty could not hear in that horror of flaming darkness, the warnings of the other rescuers and the crew for her not to dive in; “Rainy!” they cried…. We now have a word describing the brutality and such horror and destruction. It’s called ecocide. We didn’t used to need such a word.
Did you know that at one time in America it was unconscionable for a human being to bring harm to water in any way? They say, It would have been a serious violation of tribal law. Water beads are forming on my window now; some trickling into streams along the glass. The sky grows ever darker in the dawn. The clouds more ominous as I think…. Defying reason. Defying logic. Defying intelligence. Civilized humans treat the very Earth that allows their birth, like a commodity. The scientists of NASA, and those of other civilized nations, will keep searching for planets with water, moons with water, anything with water because humans need water to live, and they can’t in all the millions of star systems with planets and moons they have already seen, have not found any. What does this tell them that they cannot see? What does this tell them that they cannot hear? What does this tell them that they cannot feel? How sacred is this planet we leave on! How sacred is the air we breathe! How sacred is the water! Thank you, Mother Ocean. There is an island of garbage twice the size of Texas inside the Pacific: the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California is the largest oceanic garbage site in the entire world. In Rainy Peek’s final message, she speaks for the innocent: “The Earth is alive,” she said, her eyes glowing in the blue spectral world formed from her imagination into the aura of her opened hands…. “The Earth is our Mother.” Did you ever stand in the water as the waves broke off shore with your hands opened and gently touching upon Ocean’s surface, and said, Thank you, Mother. I love you, Mother. You are so beautiful. Have you ever done that? Which is how it feels to be Indigenous. It’s a lot of what that word means, except the idea of such love is never not accompanied without the concept of respect. And that is the difference of how you cannot love something to death! When I prayed to the Ocean, to the water, to help renew me as I struggled to write Motherless…to help me find the strength, to help me find a way to tell just one miniscule story of her life’s ancient journey, through a young Native girl’s, and an old Native man’s, life journey, did so with such respect. The next day I saw a Loggerhead in the sand a few feet from the shore with her face cut to shreds and dead, and I wondered, could this have been done by a recreational speed boat with an outboard 200 horsepower engine by a man who had once told his wife how much he loved the water, ever since he was a kid? Did you know that “until the 1970’s, chemicals and garbage of all kinds were deliberately dumped into Mother Ocean and that it became a civilized and common practice for disposing everything else, including pesticides and radioactive waste? Did you know that several parts of Mother Ocean, from the Baltic Sea, to the Gulf of Mexico, not far from my window, now exists giant dead zones where nothing in the water can live?
Comes the Rain now! Pouring down in sheets! Comes the Rain…. She flew past the orange groves along the trail, over the dunes near the shore, and out across the churning open water. And in all the mighty movement of wind, and the torrential rain that was her namesake, and the crashing wild waves that had carried the first life to shore, Rainy Peek’s spirit was strangely calm, even peaceful. She could see everything all around her, but as a spirit without a body, all these sensations became as one, and all she could feel now was the sheer wonder in what she saw…. Even as sheets of rain fell like the oceans were just forming, and white crested waves tossed and splashed like they wanted to go everywhere, she still felt only wonder as the storm of the sky had merged with the sea, and the worlds of sleeping and awake and of dreaming and not dreaming all came together. Rainy was a part of it all. And now I imagine dolphins and sting rays and mantas and turtles and fish of all kinds, and birds…so many birds, and tiny crabs and larger ones and snails and pretty colored coquinas, and I am thinking, Huracan may be coming…. And that what must be, must be.