God will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Dearest monks and artists,
There are many places on this beautiful Earth where springs bubble up from beneath the surface and are considered to be sacred sites of healing. One such place out in the desert of New Mexico is called Ojo Caliente. Ojo means eye and caliente means hot. Like the eye of the storm, it can be considered to be the eye of healing. It is a place that has been considered sacred for hundreds of years, likely even longer. There in a dry and parched landscape emerges healing waters and people travel long distances to gather there. They have multiple pools, each with a different mineral content and temperature, recommended to treat various health issues. I was once traveling through New Mexico and spent the day there with women friends, soaking for hours, feeling my body release and surrender to this gift of water. It was like being held in a warm and loving embrace, coaxing me out of my places of tension and holding back.
Have you been to one of those places by the sea where there is a hole under the rock along the shore and as a wave comes in, water spouts upward all of a sudden? Or have you been to see a geyser and reveled in the experience of the living water surging into the air? I often experience my creative life as a spring or fountain within. Often it comes like the surprising gift of water in the desert or out through the hard, stony edges of my heart. In the past, when I would go through these waves of creative energy, I would enter into them but always with a bit of hesitancy. There was a part of myself that feared it would be over too soon or wondered if I might never be able to rise with that spring again. This response comes from a place of scarcity, a sense that there might not be enough. I used to wrestle with what is enough for me. Yet somehow, because I have discovered this spring bursting forth again and again, I no longer live in fear of when this time of abundance will wane. Perhaps it comes from having lived through enough ebbing and flowing to realize often enough to know that when the creative energy dissipates it means I am being called back inward to rest and renew. I need to go drink my fill again or rest into the healing waters. And when the surge is rising, I dance in its splendor and joy. I celebrate the fountain that exists at the heart of everything.
Across the landscape of Ireland are nearly three thousand holy wells venerated in Celtic tradition as sacred places where water surges forth. Living here I am blessed to be able to visit some of them regularly. They continue to be places of pilgrimage where healing liturgies are often held. Pilgrims leave their offerings, rosaries, and votives in these sacred places.
We find fonts of holy water at the entrance to our churches to bless ourselves and baptismal fonts flowing with holy water to initiate members into the Christian community and invite them, and ourselves, into a spiritual re-birth. Jesus was baptized to initiate his own mission and he ended his earthly mission by washing the feet of his disciples the night before he was crucified.
Consider placing a bowl of water on your altar to remind yourself of blessing and being blessed. In this season of pandemic, how can you make space for the fountain within you to offer its life-giving water?
With great and growing love,
(This reflection is adapted from my book Water, Wind, Earth, & Fire. We will be exploring the four elements during Advent through creative practices of writing, nature journaling, and movement. All the content for the Advent retreat will be brand new and the book is recommended as a companion but not required. More details below.)
PS – I have a new article on the U.S. Catholic website titled Nourish your inner monk through contemplative creativity