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.