Most of the time I am extremely grateful that I can walk into my kitchen and turn on the tap. Clear, potable water pours out without much physical effort or thought on my part. My only experience of having to collect my drinking water was when we lived in Tonga. At our first house, on the island of 'Eua, we did not have a rain water tank. The water from the tap was suitable only for washing as it contained particles of coral limestone. Every second day we would walk 50 metres up the hill to our neighbour's water tank and fill a bucket with clean water. As we did our best Jack and Jill impersonation, we would often stop and chat to someone or even catch up with our neighbours through their kitchen window while the bucket filled. The act of collecting water, a basic need, was also a time of sharing, meeting and greeting.
Wells, in more ancient times, were also places of meeting. People would travel many miles to find fresh water, but would also discover new faces and fresh smiles of other travellers who had come seeking a basic need in life. There was also an element of mystery surrounding many wells. These 'magical' springs of water, that never failed to produce, were often associated with spiritual legends from the surrounding area. People would come to the well believing it was a place they could be close to the spirit world and perhaps receive healing in their life by drinking the waters.
In January, I had the privilege of visiting once such well. Chalice Well, in Glastonbury, England, is perhaps once of the oldest and most well known well in England. It is thought to be over 2000 years old. It has many legends attached to it involving King Arthur and Joseph of Arimathea. People have travelled to this well for hundreds of years. People seeking healing. People longing for peace. People needing sustenance. These pilgrims have been from a myriad of spiritual traditions. The well, thankfully, has not been built over by a church or other place of worship. It is found inside a beautiful garden.
My time at Chalice Well was not long enough. I felt it was merely a prologue to a longer relationship. Even in the heart of Winter, the gardens were beautiful. It is described as a garden with many rooms, and there were many quiet nooks to be still and reflect as the water moved in different ways through the space. It was one of those places that "just felt right" for me. As I sat by the well head, I wondered about the thousands of people who had sat in the same spot. I pondered the many countries from where they came, the different ideologies about life, the range of ages and the reasons they may have come. I tried to imagine the different types of rituals, ceremonies and meditations that had taken place here. I speculated about how many lives may have been transformed in this place, how many people had gone home a different person. This was a space that did not exclude, discriminate, judge or even have the right answers. Chalice Well was just being what it had always been - a spring of living water.
What a joy it would be to be able to create a space like this for people. This year, at Deep Water Dwelling, we are going to attempt to do so. Each month we are going to gather in a local cafe or pub for Drinks @ the well. It is not a literal well, like Chalice, but a space that is similar in its inclusivity, its openness to all people and its potential for transformation. The hope is, that in meeting at "the well", we can share stories of the spiritual journey, tell of experiences that have helped us along the way and nourish each other with living water. There will be no right or wrong answers, only depth in our sharing.
Our first Drinks @ the well will be next Tuesday the 7th of February. For our first gathering, I will share more about my love for wells and where this has grown from. We will also share about those places or symbols that are important for us. The plan is for each month to have a different focus. For more information please see our Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.