In the Anishinaabe tradition, Water Walkers are the women who do the work of the water. They collect water from one place, relay the water in a copper pot, and return it to another. Water Walkers pray for the water, contemplating its life-giving force. They sing with gratitude and respect. Modern Water Walkers unite all people and all nations to protect the water for the next generations.
Writers from all walks used Water Walkers as a title or phrase, offering new stories and different genres to expand the concept.
For a personal account of the 90-mile three-day 2019 People of the Heart Water Walk and 99-word stories inspired by the experience, see the article in KeweenawNow by Charli Mills.
The following stories are based on the November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers.
PART I (5-minute read)
I Am Water by Ann Edall-Robson
I remember the rumble of the rocks and the quiver of the earth below. The same memory that took me into darkness; but it did not stop me from breathing. Hope in my heart moved me onward beneath the lifeless blanket. A continual hunt for an escape route. Always in search of new orifices to travel. The rocks are on the move, again. A pinhole of light encourages me to push, gushing upward. Released. Victorious! A breeze dances across my soul. Carefree and unchecked I tumble over rocks that once were my jailer. I am water. I am life.
Elemental by D. Avery
Since the beginning, These Ones delighted in their individual strengths but the essence of These Ones was harmony. In celebration, they sought to give form to harmony by coalescing their essences. Fire would spark potential, Air would give breath, but it was formless Water that gave form to the colorful soils Earth gave for their bodies. Without Water, these creations would be dust. Like the plants that gave them life, these creations could only stand when filled with Water.
Water prayed as these creations walked the Earth, breathed the Air and tended their Fires. Go in peace, Water Walkers.
A Walk Amongst Watery Words by Bill Engleson
Somewhere under the earth,
in veiled aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.
Drawn from the depths,
life sustaining fluid,
purified in steps,
swallow, and we’re refueled.
And though it gives life,
quenches our parched thirst,
it also causes strife
for some, forever cursed.
Locked in arid land,
water walkers sacred soil,
poisoned rocks and sand,
blighted by extorted oil.
Fields opined, “I never drink water.
That’s the stuff that rusts pipes.”
And there was gurgled laughter
cause it takes all types.
Yet, beneath the earth
in hidden aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.
Water Striders by H.R.R. Gorman
Skri water walks over to me. “Lookit – those things are on the island again.”
The short-limbed creatures watch me from the shores. I do not bounce as if to play, do not acknowledge them. Instead I reach below the surface to grab a chunk of algae. “I thought nothing lived on land.”
“You know what the elder says?” Skri leaned in close. “She thinks they’re monsters.”
The materially-rich monsters move as if to avoid scaring us. There’s something knowing about them, something intelligent, but they’re absent the holiness of water.
I shudder. Nothing with a soul walks on land.
The Water Walkers by Joanne Fisher
The abandoned house was so cheap they were practically giving it away. A local told me I shouldn’t have moved into it as the house was too close to the bay and the Water Walkers would come. Water Walkers, apparently, lived under the waves and occasionally took people away. As local legends go, this was a crazy one! I ignored their superstitions.
One night I awoke to find dark figures standing above me. Their wet slimy hands grabbed hold and carried me off to the water. I was screaming when they dragged me down into the depths with them.
#27 Liquidity by JulesPaige
I walk, carrying my own water. uncomfortably, but manageable. I should have gone before I went on my Día de Muertos errand. I think am my own conversation piece – with a mutt, a crow in a basket and a kitty in my jacket pocket.
I think I’ll have one right here, a little rest by little fresh water spring that draws me closer. Dawg drinks, and looks at me; “Try this!” His eyes say. “Magic water”. Byrd caws…My eyes blink like wipers on a windshield… there is a sparkle poking out from under a rock, a diamond bracelet…
Water Walkers (“Crater Lakes”) by Saifun Hassam
In early spring waterfalls cascaded from caves high in the Granite Mountains. Creeks filled with rapidly flowing water. In the valleys, underground springs fed the Crater Lakes with an abundance of water. By early summer the lush green mountain ridges turned golden brown.
Mountain goats and deer followed trails of Water Walkers from the ridges down to the Crater Lakes. There were trails of Water Walkers along the ridges, of vanished pueblo dwellers and of more recent pioneers. Ruins of wells dotted the ridges. Nesting blue jays, blue birds and nuthatches splashed in the overflowing water in the spring.
The Last Laugh by Jo Hawk
They laughed and said I was off my rocker.
I smiled, content to bide my time. I would win the bet, earn the last laugh and gain some cold, hard cash. Summer turned to fall, and autumn succumbed to frigid winter. I set the date to prove them wrong.
“It’s the coldest day in a century,” they complained. I remained steadfast.
The polar vortex froze Lake Michigan’s shoreline, her beaches transformed from a liquid to a solid, firm enough to hold my weight. Warm vapor rose from her waves, and for a moment, I dared to walk on water.
No Water, No Walk in Life by Miriam Hurdle
“Dad, what is the most powerful of the five elements of nature? Metal, wood, water, fire or earth?”
“If you were deserted in an island, or a drifting boat in an ocean, what is one thing you need to survive?”
“You made a point. I guess it’s water.”
“A human can be without food for more than three weeks, but he can only go without water for a week.”
“Lost at sea could drink seawater.”
“Seawater contains salt higher than human can process and makes us thirstier.”
“Only fresh water helps us survive then.”
“You got it, Son.”
Water Walker by Susan Sleggs
I am an American. I raised my right hand and affirmed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against any who oppose it. I agreed to follow the orders of the President and all others ranked above me. I have been to war and done things I believe are morally wrong, but would do them again to protect my country. Like my friend’s grandmother, a Water Walker who fights to protect water because it is life, I will fight whenever and wherever I am told because Freedom isn’t free and I’m willing to pay the price.
PART II (5-minute read)
Water Walkers by Charli Mills
My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.
Water Walk by Anita Dawes
Water has a memory
Especially when it comes
to trying to wash the world away
Down some metaphorical drain hole
Flooding seems to drag all water together
It’s hard being reminded that there are many
Taking the water walk to survive
When so many take their hot and cold taps for granted
I remember my grandmother walking out of the house
To the pump room where she would carry her bucket
the three flights to her two small rooms
From preparing food, washing, cleaning house
she would need to take the water walk
I like to walk beside her…
Women at Work by Anne Goodwin
From a distance, you’d think they were walking on water. Serenely they float in bright-coloured saris, balancing baskets and pots on their heads. Traversing lagoons with gifts for their gods in the temple or visiting friends for chai and a chat.
Come closer and you’ll see something different, as they hitch up their skirts and step down from the banks built of mud. In the fields, crosshatched by embankments and walkways, tender green shoots poke out from ankle-deep water and mud. These women have no time for gossip: rice demands their devotion; their families need rice or they’ll starve.
Lluvias Monzónicas by TN Kerr
Just up country from the old church, a redbud tree stood alone on a rock strewn hillock, a vigilant sentinel minding the landscape, watching. At least thrice a week Miriam would walk there with a yoke and two large buckets filled with sweet water drawn from the creek. She’d sing and offer water to the tree.
When the lluvias monzónicas came and swept away Miriam’s adobe she went to plead with the redbud tree. She went to ask for shelter. Redbud shuddered with the storm and cooed, “Of course niña. Come close, take refuge, and sleep beneath my branches.”
Water Walker by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The days were endless, the nights not long enough. She was tired, but too well-rested. She had all she needed to restore her health, but was weary of doing the work to rejoin the world.
Yet there remained moments–lilac’s scent, chickadee’s song, soft cashmere blanket lying beneath her cooling hands–that hinted shucking her failing body, she’d become what, rather than who she was meant to be.
The child with her own smile approached from the dark corner of the room. Thirsty, she received the child’s caress, the sweet water in a simple glass, finally hers to enjoy.
Erie Kai Water Walker by Nancy Brady
This Water Walker was a member of a tribe who left during the war that was being waged by the British, Canadians, and Americans. While they left, she stayed to protect her home and family. Her bones were discovered later near the shoreline of the lake. She was called Old Woman (Minehonto), and the stream bears her name still.
Even now, Old Woman Creek forms a natural estuary with the lake her tribe called the Wildcat, Lake Erie. Just as she protected her territory long ago, the locals of the Estuary Research Center protect the creek and the lake.
Anishinaabe and Josephine Mandamin by Susan Zutautas
It was grandmother Josephine’s purpose in life to save, and protect the clean water, and the unpolluted lakes.
She could not do this on her own so she would protest along with other water walkers every chance she got to tell people how sacred water was and how it was a lifeline for all of us. The water was becoming endangered and she was determined to let the people know.
Josephine walked 17,000 kilometers around the great lakes, and she co-founded the Mother Earth Water Walk.
The first Mother Earth Water Walk was in 2003 and still continues today.
Oo-wa! by D. Avery
“Ya mean fer the prompt?”
“This’s a tough one, Pal, talkin ‘bout water. I’m comin’ up dry.”
“Kid, yer all wet. It ain’t ‘bout talkin’ ‘bout water. More ‘bout listenin’ ta water. Lookit Shorty there, walkin’ the talk.”
“Yeah, Shorty’s walkin’ tall. Thet’s somethin’, the leader of Buckaroo Nation carryin’ on with the Anishinaabe.”
“Yep, carryin’ Nibi. Shorty took her chuck wagon on the road an’ ended up bein’ a Water Walker.”
“Oo-wa! It’s good work. Was that sacred water Pal?”
“Course, Kid. All water is sacred; water is life.”
Glad I came this way with the flow… some stories that weren’t at the post.
I think my little creek actually had some frozen areas as the last week or so our nights have gotten down below freezing.
This morning we even had three deer cross our yard!
Thanks for flowing this way, Jules! It has dipped colder. Our water is not yet frozen, though. But we are in the thick of lake effect snow. How fun to see deer in your back yard!
Ah, Charli, thank you for sharing all this with us. Now it makes more sense than ever that your corner of the Keewenaw would be World Headquarters.
I read the linked article and was delighted to see even more 99 word stories at the end of that. And I saw some of the videos in the article after your article. You sure did your Keens proud. They and your truly served.
Thanks for taking the link journeys. Keweenaw Now was generous in giving us so much coverage. Headquarters is in a good spot and the water here links all the way back to yours. Keens did well.
This collection of tales makes me smile.
It makes me smile, too!
What a great collection of water walkers and those who care for the water that is life sustaining. Water truly IS life. ~nan
This collection speaks for that life! Thanks, Nan!