August 15, 2015

LÀ Performance Festival
Curated by: Niarela Koïta and M-a Poulin
Parc des Prairies, Laval

September 30, 2016

Under Western Skies: Water: Events, Trends, Analysis
Mount Royal University
Calgary, Alberta

Letters to Water was first created in response to the one million gallons of mine wastewater that breached a wall at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, CO in the summer of 2015 and which made its way along the Sand Juan River impacting the Navajo Nation, hundreds of farmers, and the entire local ecosystem. While sitting at the brook at the centre of the Parc des Prairies (Laval) in the summer of 2015⎯and then nearly one year later while standing at the podium speaking at the 2016 gathering, “Water: Events, Trends, Analysis” convened (in Calgary) by Under Western Skies, even as the Water Protectors in the Oceti Sakowin Camp took a stand in solidarity to halt the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline⎯I read out letters of appreciation for and to water that I had collected from friends and strangers in the days preceding each event.

Ever since I've begun reorienting my practice to create works that tap more into wellness than to trauma (even though there is no abstracting from the pain and suffering that abounds), I really feel the newness of this approach: it is unsettling and comforting at the same time; I am both curious and unsure. What I do know is that I want to continue to experience through my artwork the kind of connectivity that I felt receiving and reading these letters to water, many of which brought me to tears. This project marks the beginning of a new body of work⎯an extension of my 20+year meditation practice⎯that explores how city dwellers, including myself, may connect more consciously with the natural elements, including water.

Photo credits (in alphabetical order): Aymen Lajmi, Devora Neumark and François Rioux

Chère eau,

Je t’aime. Je t’aime parce que tu es mon symbole de résistance. Tu t’infiltres, tu t’enrages, tu te calmes, tu résistes, tu aspires, tu propulses, tu nourris, tu abreuves, tu nettoies, tu transportes, tu protèges, tu coules, tu tombes et tu t’élèves.

Tu es puissante et indomptable, je t’aime.

M-A Poulin

Dear Water,

The Blackfoot word Kiitohksin means “that which sustains us.” Not just the things that sustain us but also the relationships & everything intangible we rely on (& that rely on us). We haven’t lived up to this vision of the world; we have abused you & our relationship with you. But this is not an apology; it’s a promise. In this time of reconciliation, mending partnerships starts with you⎯that which sustains us & binds us & creates us. We are water & we must heal ourselves.

Liam Haggerty

The truest love letter

You fill my heart

You are my heart


My heart is with you.

Pohanna Pyne Feinberg

I am still waiting for the enemy to kill me. You give me life and ask for nothing in return. This is my gift to you: my life.

Born With A Tooth

Without you, there would be no life. Your cyclical nature of ebbing, flowing, destroying yet creating, is a paradigm for all living creatures to emulate. I remember learning about the respect for you the Egyptians had. They prepared for the swelling and flooding of the Nile, but did not try to control you then. They celebrated you, as for every flood brought more fertile grounds. My Celtic soul holds centuries of veneration for you. Your mysterious aura draws me in a spiritual wonderment so I am calmest and happiest when near you. It is tragic how mankind does not respect and celebrate you this way, in this day in age. We are trying to control you, deplete you, and we poison you. I am profoundly sorry. But you have the power our species thinks it has. You have the power to rise and destroy. But each time you destroy, you also create. You fertilize, you nurture, you sooth, you fascinate. In profound appreciation,

Helen Clark

I’d like to spend more time with you by a river, in a lake, at the shoreline. You remind me of why I am here. You remind me of both your vastness & precarity. In your presence I am humbled and remember all the connections you foster. You remind me that I am water.


For my entire adult life, water has served as my preferred meditation activity.  I shower every morning and either shower or bathe every evening.  Nothing else calms me, centers me or soothes my (now) arthritic bones quite as blissfully as bathing. I recognize this is a privilege as much of the world does not have access to clean water and I am grateful to be able to access its calming effects.

Karen Giacalone

Kitchi miigwech


Water, I love you. You are life. Everyday I pray for you and I know you will continue to bring life and spirit into my being.


I offer my gratitude to the water here - with intentions grounded in respect for the authority and implacable force that water is without even trying. Through communion with this water I am restored, washed clean to begin again. Water reflects the world around it, and me - as water is, I am. Bless this water as it gives life, restores health, provides a way when I am lost and shows clarity through the muck. May the love, care and respect that I offer to water reflect that same love, care and respect in humanity. Gratitude to water: great teacher.

Blakeley White-McGuire

Dear Water,

For being my inspiration, comfort and home: thank you. I devote my life in service to your wellbeing and honour of your fluidity, which I learn from every day.

Marcia Hale

“The lilies break open over the dark waters.” (Mary Oliver)

Kelly Murphy

Dear Water,

I love you. I love you for all you are. You are I. I am you. Teachers call this inter-being. I wonder what words you would choose? You brought my mother’s mother here from Jaroslav, Ukraine. You brought my father here from Tilburg, Holland to give me this form; mostly water. Bowing, bowing deeply, with love.


“Imagine a limitless expanse of water: above and below, before and behind, right and left, everywhere there is water. In that water is placed a jar filled with water. There is water inside the jar and water outside, but the jar is still there. The ‘I’ is the jar.” (Ramakrishna)

Deborah Margo

My oldest & dearest love, you make me, cell by cell. Fluid & full, clear & fresh in how you love & inspire all. My dearest friend & most enduring love, dear water, how you embrace me without judgment, warm, holding me up to flat in your wide arms, wave after wave, caressing me to dream of the many lives you hold in your care with generosity & open flow with each of us you interconnect. A love, a kiss, a smile. A juiciness that your floating pleasures encourage, so that within & without, we do not become barren & dry, or cold & judgmental, or cutting & violent. My dearest love & compassionate saviour, without you I could not live, with this sense of my fragile mortality, that to die without you, as I witness how we take you for granted, abandoned & betrayed, left aside & exploited, I am ashamed we are so crude. Forgive us, as we must now make amends & change! For you dear water, oldest friend & dearest love, we transform in humility & reverence in face of your power & love, in the face or our mortality, we must learn this greater love of yours.




Sur la porte de mon réfrigérateur, il y a une photographie qui représente, en plan rapproché, des gouttes d’eau sur une surface bleutée et matte. Les gouttes y semblent agrippées comme de petites ventouses. Pourtant, si on y regarde de plus près et peut-être à cause de leur étonnante limpidité, elles pourraient être en suspension et sur le point de tomber.


Petite, je m’étais imaginé que le long ruban métallique que formait l’eau en sortant du robinet pouvait me soutenir si je m’y cramponnais. Afin d’en avoir le cœur net, j’ouvris grand les deux robinets de la cuisine et, en équilibre sur le bord du comptoir, je pris à deux mains l’eau que j’avais bêtement associée à des câbles. Je tombai instantanément à la renverse et humiliée, je fus incapable d’expliquer à ma mère la cause de cette chute spectaculaire.


Par le truchement des images diffusées par les journaux et les chaînes de télévision, je peux régulièrement constater que des populations entières souffrent à cause de la sécheresse ou de la mauvaise gestion de l’eau.

Par contre, j’arrive difficilement à me persuader qu’ici nous puissions un jour être privés d’eau, même temporairement. Comme la plupart des gens, je me leurre, mais il est sûrement plus rassurant de négliger ce genre d’hypothèse.

Son omniprésence m’apparaît comme un gage de sa pérennité.

L’eau qui arrive chez moi et en ressort par un système de tuyauterie bien dissimulée et d’aqueduc sophistiqué semble avoir si peu de rapport avec l’eau des lacs et des rivières.

Et pourtant…

Joceline Chabot


You are the building block of life and the singlemost important resource to humanity. However our colonial heritage laid the foundation for the continual exploitation, abuse, and neglect you, dear water, has experienced. You provide a way of life for many families and cultures given them a source of food and story. You are owed a huge apology from humanity for the abuse we brought upon you. Many now realize your vital importance and we must take any action possible to safeguard your being. Thank you water: without your presence, we could not exist.

Shane Melnyk

Rounded shapes of glittering ice create chambers and tunnels for liquid intelligence, streams of consciousness.

The ice is clear, clairvoyant.

I saw this exact image in a dream.

Shocked, I stand before it now, frozen into hard reality.

The brilliant water has created its own crystal sculptures with liquid centers.

Shapes as rounded as internal organs, water spurting like blood.

As I stand before this mirror ice

I see right through the diamond walls to the beating heart of the river.

The message is clear as ice.

We go on and on, there is no end.

Carol Hechtenthal

Dear Water,

This morning you filed me with life & gratitude, as you have every morning of my life. And then I walked outside and was surrounded by all the trees and shrubs and flowers and grasses whose lives depend on you, and I was filled even more with gratitude. And then I saw the river filled with plastic & garbage and the fish dying from poisons and the baby albatross gasping for life. I felt you well up in my eyes, tears filled with you, water that sustains all of us living beings, water of oceans that surround us, giving us life. Tomorrow I will send love to you, and every morning after, with hope that we humans can learn to return your gift of life before we destroy ourselves.


We need to act now and the warnings are pass overdue.

Evelyn Ramos

We are water, it’s our lifeblood: to take care of this precious resource is to care for ourselves.


Bonjour Devora,

Je t'écris depuis le Nord du 50e parallèle.

Chaque jour, c'est l'eau du Golfe qui passe d'abord me saluer avant de te faire signe à toi qui samedi lira cette lettre, à 1 000 kilomètre du monde boréal dans lequel je vis depuis deux ans.

Samedi, comme promis, l'eau passera d'abord par ici.

Samedi, je mettrai ma ligne à pêche à l'eau, à l'embouchure de la Mishtashipu (prononcer : "michetachébo"), de la Grande (Mishta) Rivière (shipu), là où la rivière, la Moisie, se jette dans le Golfe du Saint-Laurent pour l'accompagner dans sa puissance.

Samedi, je me tiendrai à la pointe de ce territoire magnétique où se croisent les courants les plus contradictoires.

Les Innus sont les gardiens du Nitassinan (prononcer "nitassinanne"), de la Terre-Mère. Historiquement, la Moisie constituait le lieu de rassemblement des Innus, des derniers nomades qui venaient chaque été y camper pour pêcher et fumer le saumon, pour y récolter les petits fruits, en faire provision pour l'hiver.

Samedi, il y aura certainement sur la plage quelques familles de Uashat ou de Mani-utenam. Les Mamans s'assoiront sur leur glacière Canadian Tire avec leur café de chez Tim Horton et riront de bon coeur en attendant le moment propice pour lever le grand filet à saumon tendu à 500 mètres de l'embouchure. Samedi, il y aura plein de petits enfants bronzés qui pousseront des cris de joie en se baignant tout nus dans la Mishtashipu.

Samedi, je lancerai ma ligne dans cette eau nomade qui à chaque marée ramène vers ses grèves des épaves boisées qui font signe du Nitassinan : là où les épinettes noires sont la dentelle de la Terre.

Samedi, je me nourrirai de ce temps-là que j'aurai enfin à moi, pour moi, en regardant flotter ces dentelles d'eau douce qui bientôt deviendront salées, océaniques.

Samedi, l'omble de fontaine ou encore l'anguille

décideront peut-être de faire mon souper.

Samedi, sur le bord de la Moisie, je me poserai et me reposerai. L'eau passe d'abord par ici.

Valérie Gill

In order to address you, water, I first need to picture your presence. As the Waters of Horotiu, I see you flowing in the interweaving capillaries of underground streams beneath the central city whose campus is where I work and teach. When I look around the dried-out campus, with its Oxbridge-inspired spires, I glimpse sedimented sea creatures whose exoskeletons have been crushed and compressed by oceanic forces over millennia to form the precise limestone building blocks used to construct these fortresses or garrisons of knowledge. I drink in the irony.

It is fashionable these days to speak of campuses as ecosystems of teaching and learning, yet the atmosphere of this campus feels unnatural – like a fishbowl or aquarium with the water drained, the plug pulled out. Ultra-airconditioned, temperature-controlled, rain-protected and atmospherically-sealed, this institution doesn’t give anyone to sense you through fluctuations in humidity, through experiencing spillage or seepage, through getting wet. I look around campus for creeping mildew or moss or lichen – hopeful signs of your presence.

Paying attention to you, I’m struck by the realisation that knowledge doesn’t reside up there at the top of those spiral staircases, or in the etherised and genericising no-space created by the university’s rankings-driven industrial research complex. You tell us that we need to look around, and down. What’s here and what’s below is what matters. We can only think anything at all because of the place where we find ourselves, the watered or perhaps watery ground that nurtures and sustains us.

I sense you beneath me and – vaporised – in the air around me. I do my best to think with you and in view of you, picturing you as a tribal ancestor; as a sacred resource; as the home of Horotiu, the taniwha or water-guardian; as a consubstantial force; as ihi, wehi and mana; as a challenge to the shaky grounds of imported systems of thinking. I understand you as your own body of knowledge, and as a constant but ever-shifting source or current of practices of kinship, reciprocity and care.

Around you, I see ignorance and fracture-work and fear. Through you, I’m drawn to think of tikanga, which means law or culture or custom or traditional lore according to the first language of the country where I live. Tikanga is derived from the term ‘tika’, which also means ‘right’, or correct – to go about something in the right way, or to do the right thing. One of your most powerful teachings for me is that lawfulness is not only or necessarily about the assertion of rights (to property, say). Rather, it’s about becoming attuned to and immersed in frequencies of ‘rightness’, of approaching things in the right spirit, with the right intent, in the right heart. It’s to feel you pulsing in me, and to see the lives of all those around us pulsing in and through you, and to feel called to act by these confluences.

Anna Boswell

Thanks to a gathering of molecules most extraordinary. A delicate balance of two tiny atoms dancing around a larger one. Millions of groupings moving and changing and holding together.  An attraction that makes life possible. Thank you for your movement.

Adrienne Mackey

Dear Water,

You are so pure, beautiful, refreshing, sensational, peaceful and divine. You mean the world to me. You have become scarce in many parts of the world. How can I safeguard you? I feel deeply connected to you. Water, you are our future. Without you we are nothing.


Eau de la Terre

Eau de l'Univers

Eau de la peine

Eau qui coule dans les veines

Eau de la joie

Eau que je bois




Sur la Terre et dans nos coeur

Merci de m'apporter la vie


Roxane Poulin

Oh Sparkling. Oh phosphorescent full of secret. Ruffled by wind, licked by insects’ feet. Have I told you yet today that my heart is yours and much of my mind, too? I like to just watch you and listen when you make your sounds. And how delicious it is too when you make no sounds at all. How my tears fall into you and how you wash them, and how you are them. How you hold me and bob me up and down. How you thump through hearts of birds. How you carry smells to me, and so much more.

Janine MacLeod

Ô belle fluide, toi qui de ta source ne connaît les lois ni les limites, toi que seul le froid peu peut-être casser pour que tu renaisses pleine, entière, cyclique dans chacune de tes parts, toi céleste, toi qui lies, qui donnes, toi intensité, toi douceur, toi emportement, déploiement, toi salvatrice, toi Vie, je t'offre toute ma gratitude, je me rends à ta colère, je joins l'eau de mon corps à ta peine, je t'honore et t'embrasse de ma parole, de mon cœur, je reconnais ton règne, je me fais souveraine avec toi, pour toi, sous toute tes formes.

Marie-P Grimaldi

All hail water, source of all life, most precious gift of the creation, and connector of us all. May we marshal our deepest passion, our fullest wisdom and our fiercest fortitude to cherish you, protect you and preserve you for all our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows. Every last drop that we can before we finish wasting, stealing and poisoning you completely. We are all water.

Geo Takach

J’ai beau essayé, je ne trouve rien à dire de bien poétique. Mais je ferai quelque chose… je serai samedi sur le bord du fleuve, à Rivière-Ouelle. À l’heure de ton choix, si tu le veux, je t’enverrai un texto. En le lisant sur ton téléphone, tu mettras ta main à l’eau de la Rivière des Prairies. Je mettrai la mienne dans le fleuve, 400 km en aval, et nous serons réunis par la même eau, comme depuis la nuit des temps. Ce sera un texteau.

Pierre Corriveau

O, Water! What would we be without you? Just like our gods, you can also rot when you are not fluid: when you are stuck behind dams, in closed spaces. I beg you water, flow again through our consciousness for we are lost and stuck behind the dams of our consciousness.