Breaking Dams

Breaking Dams

In her journey through memory and time, Eila Carrico navigates through flood and drought to confront the place of wildness in the age of technology.


Watkins Mind Body Spirit, issue 45

This article first appeared in Watkins Mind Body Spirit, Issue 45.

I peek over the edge of the massive concrete structure at the Hoover Dam–water rages out and falls 70 feet back into the stream like a great serpent reassembling after having been chopped into pieces. Re-join or die, I watch the water molecules urgently race back together. I feel the lump in my throat trying to roar against the manipulation of power, but what comes out is a small sound, stifled and broken.

Dams create disparity of access and have globally displaced more than 80 million people according to the World Wildlife Fund’s study on Rivers at Risk. Vandana Shiva, a water rights activist and author, calls this need to own and control natural resources cowboy economics. This mindset makes a race out of obtaining and hoarding limited resources that by right belong to everyone. It is a little switch in the psyche that disconnects action from consequence, so these cowboys experience pure, refreshing denial with no guilty aftertaste. It is easy to see the physical effects in formerly lush valleys becoming desertified, and in the destruction a flood plain around a dam causes, but it is more complicated to trace the effect this worldview has on the inner feminine in each of us when we are commodified by extension.

‘We had the river licked. Pinned down, shoulders right on the map’. Here, the chief of construction for the Hoover Dam is speaking about a river, but it is easy to consider how he could be talking about a person. It became popular in the industrialized world to consider it wasteful to allow a river to continue on her natural path, so the leaders wrote policy that protected profit and proudly erected dams to harness her energy. The director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 1881-1899 commented: ‘It would outrage one’s sense of justice if that broad stream were to roll down to the ocean in mere idle majesty and beauty’. A few years later, President Theodore Roosevelt noted that we must save the water from wasting into the sea.

Because of the lasting legacy of these policy decisions, value is measured objectively, which leaves out the importance of health and happiness in society and includes only a concrete bottom line. As a result of this utilitarian world view, beauty’s connotation begins to merge with excess, and we confuse in our minds the lines between self-respect, pride and arrogance. But beauty is never wasted, and majesty refuses to be tamed.

Many of us ‘westerners’ learned to follow a set of guidelines and rules handed down from a society that were not relevant in a search for meaning and depth. But it is our choice to accept or reject them.

I descend down the canyon walls at a slow, steady pace. The Rio Grande is low this February, and I feel the strain of stooping down to meet her. I follow a deer trail to the water and part the curtain of cattails. No one else is awake this early, so it’s just me and the ducks. I watch the currents move; the edges catch and spiral and smooth, but the stream’s center rushes decidedly in one direction. I feel this center flow as my inspiration for yoga practice this morning. I begin with a few sun salutations, welcoming the internal sunrise as well as the external one. This movement and warming of my lungs brings air wider into my chest, and the blood from the faucet at my heart turns on full force.

I inhale; I lengthen like an accordion and the air floods in. After a few rounds of the rhythmic movement I become still and feel the pulsing continue internally even as my outer body has stopped. This is a sweet reminder of how fluid my body is. I am like a bucket of water being carried from one place to the next. When you set the bucket down, the water remembers the movement and continues to slosh gently side to side until it comes back to rest at the center. My waters follow the same natural laws.

I finish my movement practice and sit still on the ground. As I slow into my center, I become a clear, shallow creek. I can see straight to the bottom, and I can feel the gentle currents swirling and dancing within me, free, once again.Eila Carrico

Meet the author: Eila Carrico grew up in central Florida. She was inspired by her studies in journalism, anthropology and religion to travel around the world and teach in Paris, Ghana, Thailand and India. She studied yoga and embodied archetypes for nine years before completing a master’s degree in Engaged World Psychology and then an MFA in Creative Writing and Consciousness in San Francisco. Eila delights in the mystery and magic of landscapes and memory. She lives in Berkeley with her partner and their baby boy where she teaches yoga and weaves stories. You can find her on facebook:


The Other Side of the River

Eila Carrico
The Other Side of the River: Stories of Women, Water and the World
Womancraft Publishing
Available on Watkins Books




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