“The guide book says this has been a sacred spot for millennia. There are shrines and crap dating to the Neolithic around these springs. Stupid primitives, praying to water. Come on! The others went this way.”
Margaux was pointing towards a path that appeared to wind around the fields. I could hear Brad’s laughter from someplace behind her and felt a twinge.
“Hey, you go ahead with them,” I said. “I need a little ‘Introvert Time’. I’ll catch up later.”
“’Introvert Time’? This entire vacation out in the middle of nowhere is all ‘Introvert Time’! The quiet is creeping me out.”
I hated to have to spell it out, but she wasn’t taking the hint. “The four of us have been jammed shoulder to shoulder for the last two days and I haven’t been able to breathe without touching someone. I just need to be alone for a few minutes.”
“Fine, we’ll meet you later.” She pivoted on her toe and strode off after the other two. I could tell she was annoyed, but I felt that my head would explode if I had to take another minute of Brad’s laughter, April’s constant complaining or Margaux’s superiority over everything not 100% her own culture.
I’m not sure how I was ever talked into the venture.
We’d been dating for about six months and I thought it was time that we had a little vacation together. She insisted on making it a foursome with her best friend, April, and April’s husband, Brad. I agreed, against my better judgement. I don’t think any of them had the curiosity of a gnat, and certainly not the attention span of one.
I followed the ancient stone path into the woods. The road ran beside the sacred stream and soon dug into the hillside. It wasn’t long before the sound of the wide world was shut out and I was 100% in the moment.
With each step I felt more attuned to the surroundings. I occasionally stopped just to breathe and feel the land spread out around me. The bones of the hills created a pattern. I was shocked to realize that although they were not planted by the hand of man, the very trees followed this pattern. Even the air flow followed the contours of the land, making the hills breath like a living creature. I noticed but didn’t that the shaped stones gave way to natural dirt and stone.
The valley grew deeper and the sides steeper. The feeling of walking to a living creature deepened. It wasn’t just entering, it was entering in a very intimate way. I hesitated, not wanting to penetrate deeper, violating the nature of the place. But I felt invited, as if a force reached out to me and welcomed me into the fold of land. I continued to walk, keeping senses I didn’t know I had open, feeling and understanding what was around me. I could feel the life of rock, stone, wood and water, and understood why this place was held as it was.
Up ahead I noticed a small clearing, completely surrounded by the living rock. A shaft of sunlight made its way down into this fissure in the land and created a fire of color. As I drew closer I could see that the fire was actually the glow of the sun-filled water that lay in a natural tub at the foot of the cliff. Awestruck, I knelt in front of the pool and stared into its crystal depths. After a few minutes I stuck my hands into the clear, glowing water. I was surprised by the cold, since it appeared so hot in the light. I filled my hands and pulled them out for a drink. My mind instantly cleared. I took another drink, but at that point I understood instinctively that it was not right to be greedy in this place.
Taking one last look across the pool before standing, I saw a lady dressed in white. She smiled the smile of the first spring to kiss the mountains. She looked into my eyes and I felt that she knew my heart. Embarrassed, I looked down into the golden water, and was mesmerized by the golden swirling caused by the up-welling. When I looked back up, the lady was gone.
More refreshed than I had ever felt, I stood and walked back down to parking lot. The others were arriving from the other side.
As Brad drove away I read through Margaux’s guide book. There were pictures of the spring. I could make out the hill, but it was different. Most of the forest was gone and the cliffs had been reworked by the hands of man. It was familiar but not the same.
Most of all, what I noticed in the guidebook, was the basin. In place of the natural stone bowl there was a manmade pool, or trough. It looked ancient in the photos, perhaps even dating back to the Roman period. How many thousands of years ago was it just a natural bowl?
Had I imagined it all?
I closed my eyes and could see the lady and realized that she was the spring, the hillside, the woods; she was the spirit of the place.
“Great, there’s the highway to shoot us back to civilization. We’ll be back in the city by dusk,” Brad said.
“Cool,” Margaux said. “Finally we can actually live again.”
I kept my eyes closed, but I reached out with the new senses I had found. These people felt less alive than the stones at the spring.
This was the first overnight trip I had made with Margaux and I knew it would be the last. Although I already missed my special spot in the woods, I was looking forward to getting back to the city so I could get away from her forever.
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