One of my favorite spots on the farm I grew up on in Todd County, Kentucky, was a little spring. It fed into the tiny creek that ran from our place over to Simmons’ farm. My memory may be a bit off, fed by several decades of separation, but I think there was a big hickory tree close by that shaded the spring. I know there was an old gray tobacco barn nearby.
At some point, someone had built a stone wall around the spring. Considering the the dates on the stone markers in the old family cemetery that was up near the house, it was most likely in the middle part of the 19th Century. I figure its main purpose was to keep livestock from mucking around in the spring. Cut limestone block formed a box between three and four feet tall, about three feet wide and five feet long. The wall was fashioned into the creek bank in such a way as to keep the cows out and keep the creek bank from tumbling down as well. The southeast end was open except for a low retaining wall that let water pool up a few inches before it overflowed out into the creek.
Rather than jutting out perpendicular to the stream, the small structure was built at a slight angle running with the flow of the stream. That angle and the low retaining wall kept the stream from flowing back up into the spring. After heavy rains flooded the creek, that design also assured that the high flow would empty out of the spring and it would soon return to its relatively pure state.
Conveniently, the tractor trail crossing the creek was right beside that spring. Whenever we were working ground or hauling hay in the field nearby, Paul and I would stop and quench our thirst at that spring. Sometimes we’d scoop up water in a glass jar. More often, we just cupped our hands and drank one handful at a time. After we finished drinking, we’d sometimes scoop up water and use it to wash our faces. During hay hauling, we’d also wash the dust and stems off our arms.
The spring was a reliable source of water pure enough for drinking. Even on the hottest days of summer, it was cool and refreshing. We never drank from the creek, only from the spring. Owing to the work of people long passed, we had something that we could count on, something to help us through the long days of labor.
Though our days on that farm ended long ago and we have nothing more than memories of it now, we do still have people in our lives who provide similar respite. Our conversations with them leave us refreshed; their words bring strength and healing, encouragement and support. Hopefully, we also serve similar service from time to time.
So that we are not overwhelmed by the murky surges of flood and storm, we need to keep a bit of tilt in the downstream direction. We need to keep the dark forces of the world from ramming themselves into the sacred pool that lives within us. We need that small but powerful wall that protects the source yet still allows an outward flow of the good that is supplied from within our souls. A wall that guards the heart yet still offers hope and solace to a bruised and aching world.
We need hearts that are both pure and loving.