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Future Rising Fellow Captures Mongolian Climate Crisis in a Poem

Updated: May 23, 2023

I come from a land of drought.

By Anu Bazarragchaa

My mother blossomed from the soils of Selenge,

Northernmost to the Taiga, shrouded by the warm breezes of Khuvsgul,

She planted seeds of Tulip, with her gentle healing hands.

She wakes and rests to the sound of water,

The river, the mother of all sustenance,

A bed of dirt, crops and tranquility.

My father was carved from schist,

With ardor, he paved, a path for us to follow:

One of wisdom-, sounds and poetry,

Of which rained down on me, on to the Tuul river,

On to the lap of his own mother, into the cold cold gates of winter-,

where bones crack and children die.

My grandmother was found on the scorching dunes of the Gobi,

Writhing in the hellish torrents of hot air, in an empire of granular serenity,

Taken in by the two humps of a camel,

A tale told through her face, the color of copper and bronze,

Lines that trace time reflect in the rainwater she collects in her barrels.

Stars align as iron builds fortitude,

My last name protects and my forename augurs,

“One of might and feat, of literature, and of yore”,

Of history, the god of all things - Sumerian, Byzantines adored,

On the river beds of Tigris and Euphrates I lie,

Singing a song to the water, the water that lullabies.

I grew up hearing the songs my grandmother would sing.

We played in the creeks of Bulgan, where we fished and bathed,

In the same waters of Tamir,

A song of a woman who weeps and dives into the water, thrashed and sullied by a man.

I stop by a river, dip my finger, turn it to my forehead with a single tap. I greet the gods and spirits that dwell within.

The sun over the placid world shines too bright sometimes,

For a country that’s in drought.

For a country - that is dying.


I come from a land of drought.

Water is seen as a ‘mother’, the ancestral bond to the ‘Tengri’, which acts as the all-seeing ‘father’ - a shamanic concept of god and sky to the nomads. Our ancestors grew up praising the earth and taking care of it as we moved from our summer pastures to winter cabins, with knowledge embedded in our oral traditions to not hurt the Mother Earth that has given birth to us. We see spirits in water, and we appease it by giving them offerings, paying our respects and leaving the soil untouched.

In the province of Selenge, where my mother was born, most farmers and beekeepers pay respects to the fertile soils they live on. In the very same province, multiple minorities of the lands dwell in peace. The Tsaatan tribe, the Buryats all have different conceptions of this shamanistic tradition. The traces of these traditions live on through oral storytelling. To many, an elder tells them the history of who they were and who they are. To me, it was my grandmother who used to tell tales of women, nymphs, guardians and mothers protecting water.

Water is a necessity, and more than any other resources in the world because we need it… to stay alive. We can’t replace it, nor can we regenerate it, like raw materials - wars are fought over. Modern technologies such as turning saline water into drinking water exists – but it makes countries with no sea access defenseless.

Myths from all over the country allude to bodies of water as female figures. Bodies of waters, especially lakes are referred to as mothers and women, carers and protectors. They are encouraged to be treated with the highest of respect. We have traditions and other cultural elements worshiping water, for instance, when travelers set foot on a new place, they pay their respects by dipping a finger in the lake or stream and tap it on their foreheads. This gesture is only done with alcohol or airag during large ceremonies.

Bodies of water, springs, both hot and cold are said to have healing powers. Some springs are digested while some are meant to be only healing when you submerge yourself in it fully. The mud it creates, the streams it pours into are all seen as holy places of worship, and there is certain decorum to visit.

The tales my grandmother used to tell me as a kid came from a place of symbolism and spirituality. One of them, The myth of Khuvsgul, reads as such.

“In the days of the ancients, Khuvsgul was a barren place, much like a desert. When all living things were dying of drought, a tired old woman and her child set out to look for water. After days of searching, they stumble upon a stone in front of them. Upon a small crack the child had made, there gushed the water that would nurture the land. The woman and the boy took it as a sign from God above, and began to worship said water as holy…

My mother says the rivers used to overflow. She would reminisce about the days where a great flood would break the riverbanks and swamp the produce of her neighbors’ tillage time and time again. I see nothing but cracks that shy away small critters and dust.

I stop by a stream, dip my finger, turn it to my forehead with a single tap. I greet the gods and spirits that dwell within.

The sun over the placid world shines too bright sometimes,

For a country that’s in drought.

For a country - that is dying.

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