A Tale of Two Rivers

By Shannon Merika

Upper Brisbane River near Charley Spann Crossing

Upper Brisbane River near Charley Spann Crossing

In her  forthcoming book, All Our Beautiful Rivers, Shannon Merika  explores the link between cattle grazing on river banks and the declining health of rivers in Australia.  She writes:

Many people assume it is cities and towns which pollute rivers. In Australia, however most of our rivers flow overland a long way before reaching the cities, which line the coast. Most of our rivers are polluted before they reach the cities.

Brisbane River, Allery's Bridge near Moore

Brisbane River, Allery's Bridge near Moore

In this country we have twenty-two million people and twenty-eight million cattle. The cattle drink from our rivers and graze their banks. Each animal can, each day, drop as much manure as twenty people. This means their bodily excretions are equal to what would be produced daily by five hundred and sixty million people. Most of this manure enters our rivers, either by cattle defecating directly into the water while drinking, or washed from pastures into rivers by rain.

Manure is a wonderful fertilizer, but in rivers, it fertilizes algae. The result is that almost all Australia's rivers are now suffering massive algal (slime) pollution.

Rivers are the blood vessels of the land. Big rivers are arteries, small ones veins, and tiny ones are capillaries. As in humans, blood needs to be kept clean and healthy for the body to function well.

Shannon’s love for the Rivers goes back to her childhood, playing in the Leichart River in Western Queensland. Recently, she had experiences which brought home to her both the spiritual-psychic implications of water pollution and the ways in which human interaction with the nature spirits can have a positive impact. Here she shares two ways in which she sensed the spirit forces alive in the rivers she knows:

My two children and I lived beside the Sandy Bay Rivulet, and I hung a swing from a White Willow tree on its bank.

One day my five year old daughter was playing on the swing when she suddenly ran inside our flat looking a little frightened. 'What's wrong?' I asked her.    'There's a creepy thing that scared me,' she said. I went outside to see what it was. But all I saw that time was the lovely Willow tree on the bank, and the water flowing over the rocks. I didn't take much notice of the concrete drain pipe emptying into the water from the steep bank on the other side of the rivulet.

A few days later however, I was again beside the rivulet. This time I was feeling that peaceful stillness of heart and mind which opens perception. And this time I saw what had frightened my five year old. It was crouched just inside the mouth of the concrete drain pipe. About as big as a two year old child, it was skinny, with grayish, smooth skin which looked a bit slimy. It had an almost hairless head and an unattractive face that showed misery and a life of uncertainty and fear. I got the impression the creature lived in the drain.

Seeing it made me realize the psychic or spiritual aspect of pollution of our waterways.  The Sandy Bay Rivulet was perhaps unloved and neglected. Many drains emptied into it, and in the city center the Rivulet flowed in darkness under concrete and bitumen. The nature spirit’s appearance reflected this state of affairs.

Some time later, I went walking along the North West Bay River, which flows through wilderness from Mount Wellington. After a couple of hours rock-hopping along this clean river, I decided to rest a bit and lay on my stomach on a sun-warmed rock overlooking a pool that had a small waterfall flowing into it. There were delightful sparkles of sunlight dancing near the base of the waterfall.


Warmed by the sun, and feeling a little sleepy, I gazed for some time at the sparkles. They danced below the waterfall with vivid energy and the light of them was clear and bright. In fact, there was so much life energy in them that I wondered if they might be more than simply sunlight reflecting off ripples. I wondered if they might be water sprites.

The instant I had that thought, the sparkles began to move away from the waterfall, where they had been since my arrival. Though the air was still and no clouds interfered with the sunlight, the sparkles began to dance slowly round the edge of the pool until they reached the spot below the rock I lay on. Then they stopped moving and sparkled up at me.

Perhaps they really are water sprites, I thought. So, just to be polite, I said, 'Hello.' They stayed below my rock till I left the pool and continued exploring further up the river.

This experience prodded me to more deeply understand the importance of keeping our rivers clean. Like attracts like.  The kind of spirits around us can make us feel discomfort or delight, it’s up to us to do all we can to help them.