ARTS & CULTURE | Creativity and Play Makes my Day

Danielea singing to Fraser River and participants of the BC Rivershed Society leadership program as they begin their journey down river. Photo: Helen Styles

Danielea singing to Fraser River and participants of the BC Rivershed Society leadership program as they begin their journey down river. Photo: Helen Styles


By Danielea Castell —

It turned out to be my last campaign as an activist. The world was preparing for Y2K and I was living on Salt Spring Island when Texada Corporation became the new owners of 40,000 hectares of pristine forest which they promptly announced they were going to clear cut. Every cell in my body screamed “NO!” and I leapt into action along with a few others to organize the Direct Action group. A committed fundraising group formed soon after, and raised enough money to buy the remaining unlogged land from Texada Corporation.

My learning moment came one morning as I was standing in front of my closet looking for something to wear. I caught myself sighing deeply, and realized I had been working for sustainable forest practices full-time for the past four months but I’d let my own life become unsustainable. I hadn’t had paid work in four months, I was exhausted and depleted, and here I was organizing yet another rally.

With this new realization, I said to myself, “So what feeds and sustains me?” And I heard myself say, “Creativity and play.”

Uttering those words was like the wave of a magic wand in a Harry Potter book. Suddenly I was filled with energy and imagining myself going to the rally dressed as a French professor carrying a piece of wood that talked to humans about North American forestry practices in a thick French accent. I have a background in improv theatre so this wasn’t a big stretch for me. I found the perfect clothes and props and hitchhiked to town.

I had so much fun that day. Every conversation I had with adults and children was creative and meaningful; each exchange generated more energy, possibility, and enthusiasm for me and others. This in my books is sustainability. Even just thinking about that adventure right now I am grinning and I have a big burst of energy. So why am I telling you this?

In 2012, I realized my full-time job was to help restore a conscious relationship between people and Water. It seemed logical to begin by saying Thank You to Water during each interaction. For three years I’ve been talking to Water 30-40 times a day as it flows out of taps and down rivers. And over that time I’ve watched my use of Water get less and less. I now use less than a ¼ cup of Water to brush my teeth, wash my hair once a week and shower only two times week to name just a few of the many changes I’ve made.

All we need to do is be ourselves, share our gifts, and follow love. Trust that we are exactly what our world needs

Based on my experience, Water Gratitude practices lead to better Water stewardship, but how to bring that message to the general public? I thought I had to start a non-profit society but after two years I still had very little flow happening in the Water Gratitude Project. Once again I found myself advocating for sustainability and my own life is not sustainable. Arghhhhh. Back to the fundamental question, “What feeds and sustains me?

“Creativity and play,” I hear myself say. And then, “Sing to Water and beautify its sites and sources, share the songs and stories about my meetings with Fraser River.” And suddenly I am filled with energy and grinning again. Within days my phone starts to ring with offers for work. I begin collaborating with other eco-artists and musicians, create a concert series, and most fun of all, begin working with children again.

And here is the best thing: people are experiencing a shift in their relationship with Water simply from me sharing the truth of who I am and my unorthodox relationship with Water. An elder wrote me after my Prince George concert to say, “I so enjoyed the concert last night. It touched my soul. I will never see Water and rivers the same again. Thank you.” A school counsellor emailed, “What an impact your concert had on me last night! I have always felt such a strong connection to bodies of water and the energy that comes from them, but I never thought to talk to them! Thank you so much for opening up my world. I am finding that since your concert, everything is so sacred.”

And a teacher emailed me after Earth Day and my interactive performance with the children to say that her grade 3-4 students are spontaneously reminding each other to remember to say “Thank You, Water.” Oh, and she’s hiring me to come to her classroom in June to share more of my Water Gratitude tools and songs.

So the reason I’m sharing this story? I invested a lot of time and energy trying to be a non-profit administrator when I’m really an artist. All we need to do is be ourselves, share our gifts, and follow love. Trust that we are exactly what our world needs, exactly as we are now. I am.

Join me in celebrating our Fraser watershed at Fraser FEST on Sept. 4, 6, 7, 8 and on Rivers Day September 27 at a Bank of Gratitude event near you.


Danielea Castell is a singer, sound healer, and artist living in Quesnel, BC. She is the founder of the Water Gratitude Project and creator of the Bank of Gratitude annual Rivers Day event hosted in nine communities in 2014. Visit

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