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Once in the far north of Kruger national park's pafuri area I found a clear pool of spring water rising out the earth.
The pool was surrounded by three huge ebony trees and a giant eagle owl flew out from under the deeply shaded branches as I approached. The presence of the owl adding some intangible sense of spirit to the place.
The water was crystal clear and bubbling happily out the earth. As I knelt to put my lips to the water I felt like I was being let into some great secret.
My body took on the shape of an animal drinking lips to the water……and an archetypal connection millions of years old ran like a current through me. I like the wild animals of that wild place I was drinking from the secret source.
I think to know wild water in these times is the kind of thing we have forgotten to even know we want. The way it runs into you full of the codes of the minerals and plants of that place……wild water is full of information that attunes your body with its energy.
Unbottled, untreated…….having never known a pipe or a cistern wild water is full of spirit.
I'm going to talk in a very shamanic way about how to get to know a river.
I'm going to talk from inside the mythological way to share the way I make meaning of the world around me.
I might say it like this
Once upon a time a man lived in a tree by a river. Far off to the west he could see the high mountains in which the river rose.
The man longed to know the spirit of the river for it gave so much life on its journey.
He knew that he must go to those mountains to know from where the water of that river was born.
Only then could he truly know the river.
This was running through my head as the pickup swung through the foothills and climbed the escarpment. As the crow flies the mountains were only 90 km from where I had lived in the tree but by car it was a circuitous 180 km winding drive that took you from 300 meters lowlands up to about 1600 m on the edge of south africa's high plateau.
In historical times there had been a natural flow of native people who lived away from malaria on the highlands and descended the escarpment via hundreds of foot paths to hunt in the lowlands when the winter came.
My destination was my friend's bungalow, a beautiful mountain cabin with no lights and streams full of trout that flowed past it .The landscape around the house is a rugged kind of african Scottish highlands. High ridged terrain with deep vegetative gorges. Unusual birds, eland and mountain reedbuck….and a silence in which a leopard that was never seen slipped past.
That first night in the bungalow the man did not sleep. He was between this world and the next.
All night he tossed and turned in the darkness and dreamed that the mountains had a message for him.
Eventually I rose well before dawn, drank a cup of coffee and set off with my friend through the freezing dark for the highest peak.
Mount Anderson is the watershed…..from which all the rivers that run east to the kruger national park flow
Through a trailess darkness we walked for the summit…..the stars giving way to a crisp dawn.
We were fit and walked fast… cold air burning our lungs. Learning the mountain in some intrinsic way you can only achieve by being on it
The summit at dawn was icy with a whipping wind and a thick fog so that one could not see how the land fell to the east calling to the water.
But Up there on the peak I left an imprint of my body ……so I could always suddenly be back there.
So I could always send a greeting upstream to the mountain from my home in the lowlands.
What I could now say is that I had been to where the rivers rise.
The source…….but not the source of the source…….water is too free for that and one can never really say where water begins or ends. If you know water somewhere you know water everywhere.
The man came down from that communion with the high peak with stiff legs found a cold mountain pool to swim in.
The water was freezing with aliveness and he drank and drank. Saturating himself. Baptizing his body with that kind of purity.
I tell you these things in these ways as a remedy. I don’t mean to be flowery or poetic but in my time with native people I started to think of the relationship with all things as an exchange of an unseen aliveness. A connected story….like the story of all water… in which you weave yourself into the web of other currents of life. A river, a mountain, a friend.
You can interact with the experience of living on so many levels and for me there is always a story within the story. The way of meaning making is the way we make the story of our life.
I could tell you that on the night of the day we submitted we drove up a steep hill with a bag full of beers to watch the sunset.
The light cut the cold mountain air in clear blazing holy gold.
I looked to the peak of the mountain now as a place I knew and that knew me. The place where the river begins. A source of life and personal relationship.
The remedy for this strange time to remember the story of the great relationship. We have to be soft enough and wild enough to tell it.
To remember how to be friends with the earth in personal ways again.
Personal. personal relationships with rivers and mountains and trees. Till it's normal again. To be married to a volcano.
And related to a bear.
And for a leopard to come to you to remind you that there is magic.
Leaving that hillside at dusk the man saw a flash of eyes in the headlights.
Then as if materializing slowly into form in the half light the shape of a leopard.
A huge male with a thick neck sunk low to the ground and stepped off the road but did not run. For a time they all watched each other.
The man knew this was the keeper of the catchment. The guardian of the river
This is the most secretive of cats.
And forever on when he looked west from his home beside the river…….he would know the source, the mountain, that cold pool and think of the silence in which up in those mountains a leopard moved.
Boyd Varty Sacred Sites
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