Water is a reoccurring theme in Linda Hogans’ Solar Storms. Water represents change in the book. It is a powerful force that the dam builders are trying to harness and control. It is the road by which the main characters in the book travel and it is the way that Angel reveals her past and determines her future. The four women, especially Angel and Dora Rouge, are naturally connected to the water. They can see the fish swimming beneath the surface and can even make pacts with the water to keep them safe. The bond between this natural element and the four women is founded on love and respect. While the dam builders simply want to exploit the water and use it for its energy, the women thrive off its energy by eating its bounty and using it for transportation. The women have a relationship of reciprocity with the river. They want to protect it and the lake from the destruction of civilization.
The first time Angel sees her mother is when she surfaces from the freezing waters of the lake. After seeing her mother, her whole life is changed and she is born anew. Just as a child emerging from the holy waters after a baptism, she sees the world as if for the first time. Water is a symbol of purity and new life. People are baptized in holy water to wash away their sins and to be born again. Although this symbolism is not identical to that of Linda Hogans’ book, it is apparent that water stands for purifying the soul and believing in something greater than yourself. For Angel, water cleans her body as well as her mind and soul. When angel is bathing in the “black waters” of the lake, she says that it is “Such a cold baptism.” When angel steps into the lake, she feels the icy water washing her skin and freezing her limbs. She “hoped the water would cleanse all the pasts, remove griefs.”
As angel travels, she begins to see things in nature in a much different way. She feels the innate connection her people have with the land and treats it as something that is “deeper” than the material. Angel and her people see water as a spirit that lives and breathes. The dams will not only have an immense effect on the animals (deer, rabbits, bear, humans) that live there, but it will destroy the land and harm the earth itself. The wilderness is meant to be free to change and evolve on its own. The natural landscape should be carved by rivers and glaciers; wind and erosion, instead of by the hand of industry and economic endeavors.
Water truly is an unstoppable force. Even though the dam builders were able to flood Adams Rib and ultimately uproot many people’s lives, those dams will eventually burst and the people that originally operated the facility will be gone. The water however, will still remain. The life of water goes to show you that nothing is permanent and everything will change form at some point. The water cycle itself does not distinguish between beginning and end, because water is always being born into a new existence. From a vapor, to a liquid, to a solid—always changing and evolving. Angel describes the dam builders as those who “would reverse the world, change directions of rivers, stop the cycle of life until everything is as backward as lies.” Rivers represent forward motion both literally and metaphorically in the book. The women are travelling down a river while also progressing on their spiritual journey. For the white dam builders, the rivers are useless and empty. They are trying to exploit the rivers, seeing them only as a natural resource for renewable energy. This is because the men are focused on money and the progress of “civilization.” Rivers are seen by them as barriers, while the travelling women see them as their roadways. Just like water, Angel is constantly changing on her physical and spiritual journey to meet her mother and uncover her past.
All rivers converge at a certain point, into a larger body of water. The native people in this story also have to come together, despite their differences, to fight against the destruction of their home and of the things that are most important to them. Angel says that eventually the women would “unite and become like an ocean made up of many rivers.” An ocean is vast and seemingly infinite, but there are many rivers that feed it and live off of it. Even though the men can block the rivers, the water will still move through its cycle and eventually the quarries and dams and hydroelectric plants will be washed away.
Humans are often put in comparison to animals in this book and are almost made to seem the same. If the rivers are all dammed, the native peoples will not be able to travel in canoe as they have for hundreds of years. Their travel routes will be rendered useless. Just as the dams create incredible troubles for life of the humans living in the area, the native animals are also having their homes and their migration routes decimated. Angel describes the flooding of Two-Town by speaking of “the caribou running across the flats as the water surged toward them, knocking them over, flooding their world, their migration routes gone now, under water.” The dam builders are trying to make the human and the natural world separate; an attempt that at its core is totally futile. The problem for the Cree and many other tribes is that they live off the land as well as with the land. If the caribou are gone and the rabbits and deer have fled due to floodwaters, what will they eat? If the birds have left for good because of the constant sounds of the planes flying overhead, how can the hunter feed his family?