|Komesta-shoni of Japan offers a blessing to the Cattaraugus Creek.|
For many years, I have lived near Lake Erie. I have sketched pictures of the Buffalo lighthouse, and I have walked around the marina in downtown. I’ve also walked on the breakwater off the shore of the lake on the Buffalo side. That led me to the riverwalk and to the Niagara River. The lake brings snow in the winter and rain and cooler air in the summer. The most common fish in Lake Erie is the walleye.
Oh, and I need to mention bats around Lake Erie because today is… national bat day! Yay! How cool is that? Several years ago, I went to see a bat house at the Buffalo Zoo. Bats are amazing. They are not blind, as is commonly believed. They have tremendous hearing and can find things, such as insects, by something called echolocation, which is similar to sonar. Insects are bats’ favorite food. A bat can eat up to 1,200 insects in a night. So if you have insects that you don’t like (swarms of mosquitoes, for example), you can get a few bats to take care of that problem. And speaking about bats along Lake Erie, many of them can be found at Presque Isle, near Erie, Pennsylvania.
So, back to the lake and to water. Lake Erie is one of the five Great Lakes. The way that I was taught to remember the Great Lakes is by remembering the word “HOMES,” as in “Our HOMES are close to the Great Lakes.” So here you go:
Lake Erie was the ending point for the Water is Life walk. This was a two-day walk, on April 14th and 15th, which started near the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project and ended at Sunset Bay, in Irving, New York. The Water is Life walk occurs annually. It is a walk for a clean and safe Cattaraugus Creek.
Participants in the Walk for a Nuclear Free Future participated in the Water is Life walk. The walk was kicked off on April 14th with an interfaith prayer ceremony at six o’clock in the morning. We watched the sun rise and we remembered that, without water, we could not live for longer than a few days. We are made of water and we are drawn to the water.
A few days before the walk, at a presentation in
Springville, New York, we were told about the danger of nuclear waste that had leached from decaying drums into the Cattaragus Creek. Diane D’Arrigo of the Partnership of the West Valley Network said that the waste is dangerous and that it ends up in drinking water in both Western New York and in Canada.
“There is no safe level of radioactivity. It is dangerous for everyone. It is most dangerous for baby girls,” Diane D’Arrigo said.
Maria Maybee, who organized the water is life walk, shared her story of growing up near the Cattaraugus Creek. “I was born in the 1960s. I belong to the heron clan (of the Seneca Nation). I went fishing in the creek. I ate the berries (from near the creek) and the fish. The creek was my playground and my refrigerator. Twenty years later, I was sick with diabetes and with problems with my immune system.”
The health of the creek is very personal, said Maria. “I’ve lost family members to cancer and to auto immune diseases. The fish are sick. The plants are sick. The water is sick. We walk for water.”
“Put positive energy out. We can heal ourselves. It’s why we walk. It helps us heal our waters,” Maria said.
And so, we walked, from the nuclear facility to the mouth of the Cattaraugus Creek. We carried ourselves and our hopes to the place where the creek meets the lake. We gathered in a large circle on a sunny day near the water. The wind blew our hair. We stood amidst tiny seashells and colorful stones and we prayed for the health of the water and for the health of all living creatures who live near the water in a closing water ceremony.