Tres aguas


Every year about now, in bone-dry Springtime, we drain the cistern, drop a ladder into its heart and scrub the fine layer of soil from the floor.

Then we reopen the valve to the municipal pipe that sits beneath the cobblestone street out back, and in flows spring water from under the Sierra.

As it fills, I stand above this hole and think, my, that looks sweet. I’d like to take a dip. The water is clear and cool. I never do, of course.

* * * *

Half a century ago, both before and after I could legally pilot a Ford, I’d head through forests and fields of cotton, corn and peanuts till I got to the spot where the swimming hole was hidden just off the road of red clay.

It was southwest Georgia in the heat of summertime.

The hole was a fair size and spring-fed. There was a thick rope someone had tied to an overhanging tree branch, and you could swing from a high bank to plunge into the hole’s deepest part, which was about 15 feet of water.

That water was clear as mountain air and cold all year. Even though it was 15 feet down at the deepest part, you could easily see the floor.

Nothing else was there. No Stop-n-Robs, no gas stations, nobody rented inner tubes. There was nothing, and usually nobody. Just trees, birds and clear, cold water. You had the place to yourself, and it was wonderful.

* * * *

In January 1997, I swallowed LSD and psilocybin a time or two, trying to set myself straight at last, and it worked. I was 52, and it was way overdue.

Later that year, I learned a meditation technique. You need a drumbeat. A cassette will do. Close your eyes and imagine a hole into the earth. It can be any size because you aren’t actually squeezing in.

I usually found a bunny burrow near a boulder in my mind, so I slipped inside to the steady drumbeat sound. And I descended through a winding dirt tunnel. At times there were doors that had to be opened, so I did.

Finally, the tunnel broke out into a wonderful world, and before me was a small lagoon surrounded by tropical trees and soaring artwork birds.

I would step into the water and swim solitary until the drumbeat accelerated, which was the signal to return. At that point, it was necessary to leave the lagoon and rush up the rabbit hole, back into what we call reality.

15 thoughts on “Tres aguas

  1. Since you have a float valve on the inlet of the cistern, why don’t you leave it in the on position?

    Does filling the cistern last you all year?

    I am thinking of building one to capture the rain water, which is a good idea based on the next 3 or 4 months of free water.

    Dropping acid at 52, that explains a lot!


    1. Tancho: The water from the municipal pipes under the street turns on a few hours every day, and it keeps the cistern full. That float valve keeps it from overflowing. The valve from the street is always on except when I turn it off to gradually empty the cistern for cleaning. By gradually emptying it, I mean the water is pumped up to the tank on the roof as needed, and the cistern is not refilled. It takes about a week to empty the cistern due to our usage in the house. The cistern holds 9,000 liters, more or less, and no way would it last all year, which is why it gets refilled daily.

      I didn’t totally understand what you were asking, so I hope this answers adequately.

      Yes, mind-altering substances during that time were a Godsend.


  2. Clear, cold fresh water. Central Texas has several swimmin’ holes in the limestone substrate. Unfortunately there are far too many people at those places these days.


    1. Carole: My former wife and I used to rent a cabin now and then on the Sabinal River off the beaten path. We usually had that part of the river to ourselves, and it was glorious. I would really love to do that again. I think about it a lot.


  3. The “Blue Hole” was our swim hole and it was built as a hole. A ’50s-era sand quarry, the blue hole was the sump dug into the base of the sand quarry to enable the pumping of the groundwater out of the working area. Twenty years later that sump still had sides like a swimming pool. A big company bought the land in the ’90s for an executive retreat — they put in a proper pool.


  4. I really like how you framed the cistern entrance to create a pyramid. Good eye. I suspect my laguna was not the lagoon of your dreams. Clear water we do not have. But our birds are very artsy.


  5. I, too, had a favorite spring-fed swimming hole about 10 miles from Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida, near an old grove of cedar trees when I was in the Boy Scouts. I returned about 10 years later to find it had been bulldozed over to make way for a housing development. Paradise Lost. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

    I, too, tried acid when I was in my thirties. It led me to study Zen for several years and create a Japanese garden on my five acres in Oregon.


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