An act of personal apology · by Sandy Spieler · 2018
In 2003, the McKnight Foundation asked me to make “something” for their new offices on the shores of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis that would draw attention to the River.
At that time, the daily news was filled with attitudes of growing divisions and animosity concerning the war in Iraq. Countering these divisions, I decided to focus instead on INTERCONNECTION, honoring the truth of how Water connects us, and to use the lens of how the Water at THIS spot on the Mississippi River connects us to the entire rest of the World.
Working from January thru August, I painted 47 little images honoring Water. I also sent forth a message asking people to gather a bit of water from somewhere that they loved and to send it to me here in Minneapolis.
Soon little vials of Water arrived from all over the World—complete with stories of why people gathered Water from their chosen locations:
“this site of nuclear testing in Hawaii”
“this spot of prayer on the River Ganges”
“this River that runs through my hometown”
“from the first Rain of the spring in my backyard”
“this from the most beautiful site I have ever experienced”
Many vials of Water arrived. I held each of these vials with gratitude, and thought of the gesture of ‘bowing to the Water’ that is inherent in the act of gathering Water, how all all all of this Water was gathered with reverent attention. I placed each vial on the shelves of the installation with great honor, surrounded by my small paintings. Yes, this Water is beautiful. May this Water teach all who visit this installation about the truth of interconnection.
I did not anticipate how strongly the Water would teach me as I visited the installation year upon year, checking in on how the Water was doing. At first I liked my visits because it helped me remember my connection with all the Water of the world. But then I became increasingly uncomfortable with Water sitting captive on a shelf.
Water is an ancient giver of life and meant to be in constant motion as it nourishes the entire World. Yet here I asked the Water to sit immobilized on a shelf, thus impeding its flow into the essential work in the World.
For the sake of “art”, I asked this Ancient Ancestor to sit on a shelf for many years. I put living Water on “display”. Even tho I had worked with the intention of gratitude, this suddenly did not feel like the right way to treat my relative that I loved so much.
I recognized that I needed to apologize and free the Water.
My feelings were heightened through my participation with Prayer Walks for the Water led by Sharon Day --Nibi Walks (Ojibway led Water Walks). Miles and miles of walking for the beloved Water challenged me into deeper understanding toward my own personal "decolonization" -- of considering how all the practices of my own life and art-making could align deeper into "right relationship" with this World that I love so much.
Sharon Day agreed to help me with an intentional Freeing of the Water. I sent forth a message inviting people to join us at the McKnight Foundation – the site of the Water Installation.
And so, on July 10 at 3 pm 2018, with words of gratitude for the Water, and with words of apology, we released this Water from their individual vials, pouring the Water from each vial into a common vessel, the Waters mingling together. Into each emptied vial, we placed a Thank You note written for the Water. These notes of thanks referenced the specific thanks from the Water's source location that arrived with the Water 15 years earlier.
At 5pm we carried the vessel containing all these mingled Waters to the Mississippi River, remembering all the people who had gathered this Water from around the World. And then with prayers of thanks and wishes for the Water from all participants, and with prayers from Sharon Day and Arvol Looking Horse we poured this Water into the Mississippi River.
My prayer is that I continue to listen deeper and deeper into the teachings of the Water and that I act accordingly.
May the originating intent of this installation remain as a big Thank You for the work of Water in Connecting the World.
May I always remember the primal truth that each of us came from the Water, and that all current and future health is determined by the health of the Water.
May all our human deliberations about Water happen at the shores of Water, so that we honestly hear Water’s own voice and accept Water’s wisdom with serious consideration and consequence.
Yes, Water is Life. Thank you.
- Note: The Installation remains in the offices of the McKnight Foundation: We Bend to the Water: Water Connects the World.
- View the 47 Water Paintings here.