|Shrine at los manantiales of San Pablo|
In addition, now when I visit a place I spend more time there. What I find as a result of this simplification is that I see, feel, hear and sense more about the places I do visit, and take much more home with me from the experience than I used to.
Anyone sensitive enough to the surrounding environment occasionally stumbles across special places where there is an atmosphere, a presence, a spirit, perhaps an aura, that lends them a magic quality.
|Conseulo and son Marco|
I went with a small group of other teachers, led by San Pablo resident Consuelo, who is an indigenous Otomí woman, a local teacher and our co-worker. Also walking with us and helping us gather firewood along the way were her young sons Carlos and Marco Antonio.
Our goal was los manantiales, or the springs, which supply water to the pueblo. The flow is divided. Part of the water runs in its natural course. The rest is confined by pipe and in a narrow, old rock and concrete channel from the source, at the top of a valley, down past fields where small sluice gates allow its diversion for irrigation, and then into the pueblo itself.
We climbed above San Pablo on a rocky, sometimes muddy path, which follows the channel up through tall old trees that cast a deep shade on this cloudy afternoon. Along the trail and in clearings, large spiky maguey plants and clumps of yellow, pink and blue wildflowers occasionally relieved the gloom. Under the dense forest canopy the ground is covered by a thick matte of brown leaves which makes the place seem soft despite the presence of rocky outcroppings.
As we approached the spring, there was no mistaking that we had arrived. In the clearing around the water source, the people have constructed a tiny shrine, painted sky blue and adorned with crosses and strings of starlike decorations which extend into the surrounding trees that arch overhead. It is a protected, intimate and refuge-like place.
It is wonderful after the climb to kneel down next to the shrine where clear, cool water burbles from the ground, and drink from this ancient water source. Countless beings have done this before me. Ruins of earlier civilizations in the vicinity date back close to 2000 years. From the presence of the small, fertile cornfields and pueblo of San Pablo directly below los manantiales, I suspect that this spring has been a special place and a source of life since ancient times, perhaps for thousands of years.
When I travel, I still enjoy the occasional experience of a city, a show, or a noisy night on the town. However now I mostly concentrate on quieter, more contemplative visits to places like los manantiales. These places don't shout out at you, don't demand your attention, and are not always easy to find. Some people do not notice them at all. But those who do sense the meaning of these places definitely experience something that surpasses human-made attractions.
Above all, places like los manantiales possess a strong sense of self. They resonate with life, the passing of time, the seasons, the spirits of people, animals, plants and venerable trees long ago dissolved and reincarnated in the cycles of life. The reverberations of past events still linger in these locations because it is so evident in them that although everything over time changes in form, it all is still here.