astonishing. This is a stunning and lyrical happenstance, that these
green dories are what happens when a ball of ice gathers up the
creative urgency of the universe and drops it onto Earth. And I
thought, this cannot slip away, the millions of years it took to make
this river, or to sew the sail on a maple seed or tuck building plans
into a ball of cottonwood flu=. The wonder of this must not slip away.
Now it seems like a right and good thing— for all of us, in all the
ways we know how — to float the seeds of new life out into the currents of the rivers that flow across the wounded plain.
Let us, all of us, do the work of seeds— learning again how
to bend toward the light, how to put down roots, how to live as a
member of a community of living things. Let us do the work of
books, imagining into existence new, better ways to live, seeking
always what is lasting and beautiful. Let us do the work of rivers,
gathering the Earth’s wisdom and carrying it like sunlight into
the future. Let the power of our conviction and the new corrosiveness of our sorrow carve hard truths in the rocks. A
See an audio slide show about the making of ice books at
TOP: Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus). Rio Grande,
New Mexico. BOTTOM: Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra). Ottawa River,
Basia Irland has sculpted and launched ice books in rivers and streams across the United States and abroad.
To create these watershed restoration sculptures, Irland
works with ecologists, botanists, and river restoration
biologists to ascertain the best native seeds for the specific riparian zone in which the books will be released.
The books are hand-carved out of frozen river water,
and the seeds are embedded within them, as text. Finally, members of the local community gather to launch
the books into the river or stream. Along the Nisqually
River in Washington State, for example, Nisqually tribal
members, salmon restoration specialists, musicians,
fifth graders attending Wa He Lut Indian School, students and professors from Evergreen State College, and
Mount Rainier forest rangers all took part. Participants
in New Mexico on the Rio Grande have included artists,
farmers, hydrologists, Pueblo members, and hundreds
of interested watershed citizens.
As the ice melts in the current, the seeds are released
to eventually plant themselves along the riverbanks. As
they grow, they will mitigate floods and droughts, slow
erosion, regenerate the soil, filter pollutants and debris,
supply food and habitat, and provide shelter and shade
for riverside organisms, including humans.