When the rains came the well filled with mud from the torrent of the swollen creek. We hadn’t built a sufficient retaining wall around it. It would have to be cleaned, Felipe would need help and I was it. We pumped as much of the water from the top as we could without filling the pump with mud. There was a meter and a half of sludge in the bottom, Felipe lowered himself in and started the process of removing the sludge, one bucket at a time.
He attached the bucket to a rope and pulley; I heaved it out and filled the wheel barrel. While Felipe refilled I walked the mud over to the shore. It was the worst and most difficult work I have ever done. It took two days, five hours a day. The mud in the well smelled like rotten fish and was black, gritty and slimy. I stood barefoot in the creek for hours; I couldn’t wear shoes because they were immediately sucked of by the mud. The wheel barrel was so heavy I could barely move it, I repeatedly slipped and stepped on sharp rocks, and thorns. I was covered in stinky, slimy mud that the bugs were crazy about, and was stung by wasps that got stuck in my gross coating. If I tried to shoo one from my face I got disgusting filth on my head. I became so waterlogged chunks of skin fell off my feet. Continue reading →
With Don G gone and our money going fast not to mention that Felipe was not employed, he decided to finish digging the well himself. It was time for me to return to renew my visa, so I was away the month it took him to accomplish this feat, which I consider to be the prime example of what my husband is cable of. He worked six days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I have never known anyone as focused or determined as Felipe. If he tells you that he will do something, and it is physically possible it will be done.
He entered the vertical stone cave every morning to chink away at the rock face. It is cool and quiet in the well. He found the work meditative and the quest for water a sort of grail. The absolute necessity of obtaining it made him even more ardent than he usually is. As he dug the floor of the well filled with the debris and water. At intervals his work varied as he filled buckets, climbed up the rope he used to enter and pulleyed out the excess stone. In and out he climbed removing the surplus one bucket at a time. This is staggering to me, his ability to steadfastly dig a hole, three meters deep, two meters in diameter into solid rock, day after day , with no assistance. He was also doing all of our house and farm work, since I was away. We talked on the phone a few times and he would explain with great excitement a trickle of water or that there had been two inches more to bucket out in the morning before he could begin. I regretted not being there to help and to share the experience. I imagined him striking the mainline and shooting out of the well on a jet of water, cartoon style. It saddened me I would likely miss the moment.
It was not quite that dramatic. Mid-morning, day 30 he began to feel a drip on his neck, wiping it away he didn’t think much of it because he sweated copiously in the humid tube. Then he realized it continued in a rhythmic fashion and he look up to see a spurt of water coming from a cleft in the rock. He started chipping away at it, a stronger pulse came and then a stream. He told me he started screaming. I imagine his barbaric yalps ricocheting of the wells walls rolling down the creek bed with the energy of a breached dam. The next day the well was half full; within a week it was full and has been for the last 5 years. We have water year round, enough for our household; livestock and a small vegetable garden.
Yesterday I went to say goodnight to my dog Elvis, he keeps a vigil at our entry gate through the night. I laid down in the dirt next to him and as my body rested against the earth, I realized it had been a long time since I had surrendered myself to the land. It is easy to forget what it means to lie on the ground. Maybe it doesn’t seem that important to remember. Allow me to challenge you for a moment. Some homework. Lie down on the ground where you live and think about what is under you. Are there systems; piping, electricity, waste? Even if you are in a park it’s likely there are, though it is a gift to have access to any nature. I was once thrilled to have a city grate with a tree outside my door. I grew some zinnias there.
Now take a field trip, do not take a blanket or a chair, and find a place to lie on the ground where what is under you is earth. Focus your mind on the layers teaming with life: the soil, the crust, mantle and magma, water and energy, layers of history, the core. Allow your body to rest into this place until you heart settles in the cradle of your chest and your ribcage spreads against earth. Look at the sky. Remember.