Golden river threads through Colorado
Animas River, August 2015
On August 5th, 2015 there was a massive leak from the now long defunct Gold King Mine in southern Colorado. The EPA has taken full responsibility for the leak which occurred when their crew showed up at the mine to pump out and treat contaminated water. While using heavy equipment to enter the mine a massive leak was sprung. 3 million gallons of heavy metal filled wastewater spilled into the Animas River turning it a bright mustard color. It continued to wind its way down river eventually entering and contaminating the San Juan River and crossing into the neighboring state of New Mexico. Many different communities were and continue to be affected by this enormous contamination of a significant water source.
On the day of the spill I was beginning to live into an invitation I had from the environmental group Wall of Women Colorado. I have a friend who is actively involved in the organization who knew of the Indra’s Net project I had co- created in Washington from 2010- 2013, later sharing the Net at the annual Bioneers conference in San Rafael, California.
This was one of those days that I was continually reminded of the threads connecting each of us and our experiences. In my studio I had been working on a new painting, another in a series I began this past year called Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold. It is often called the art of golden repair. In this painting there appeared to be a golden river that seemed to branch out and over an empty and dried turtle shell.
detail painting, kintsugi #3, recordar, 2015
I needed to contact my friend in Denver about the possibility of creating a second generation of Indra’s Net. The first net now hanging in it’s permanent home in Deming, WA. In between daily tasks ~ watering the orchard trees on a slow drip because of our unusually dry summer ~ I looked at the Facebook page for WOW Colorado to see what their mission statement was: “A group of people entrusted to protect the earth for future generations. We support the children as they challenge those who choose profit rather than preservation.” They had just posted to their page a news story about the Animas River and a massive toxic waste spill. This then led me down the rabbit hole and more stories of the spill, the EPA’s response, the many different communities affected and their responses, and image after image of this deep mustard colored river winding through the landscape.
I became distraught. What was the point of a fabric net, or any artistic expression for that matter in the face of so much environmental degradation? Over and over again, although I live in a place of enormous optimism I can sometimes be brought to my knees in despair when I am reminded of how much suffering there is in the world. I didn’t know what to do so I made a phone call to another friend, an artist trickster soul who lives on the central coast of California. The first thing she said when I said the name of the river, Animas, was Holy Shit! Animas means soul ~ the river of lost souls, rio de las animas. Not only did this lead me to thinking about the wounded ‘world soul’ but also the irony that this toxic waste spill began at a former mine called GOLD KING! (Kintsugi!) When I use this image in my painting I have been thinking both literally of gold but more importantly of the metaphor of golden repair. Where we are wounded can become our greatest strength.
My friend then read me a quote by Robert Bly; “Ritual creates a second flow of events ~ and we can enter that stream or not, as we wish. The idea of ritual is strange to our ears; it says that if something is healed in the other world, something is healed in this world also…” my translation in this moment ~ weaving the invisible, the healing power of art and working in the invisible place may in fact lead to healing on this physical plane.
I became even more certain that bringing the communities of Colorado together to create a community net, a second generaton of Indra’s Net was a powerful and potentially healing act.
In the coming weeks I created a new painting ~ one inspired by the Animas River, the art of golden repair and the infinite intersections that continue to weave through our lives.
kintsugi #5, animas river, 2015