The name of the highway near my son's home in the high desert is Old Woman Springs Rd. My curiosity was peaked immediately the first time I saw the sign and I began asking people about it. "I don't know. I think there's a spring up the mountain," someone said. "There is a spring but it's on private land," somebody else told me. I asked my son to see what he could find out about the spring because I had a strong feeling that to the ancients, it was a sacred site.
On my next visit, I received confirmation that my intuition had been right. A construction worker told my son that the spring was where old native women went to die. Before my third visit I alerted the family that I would be going to the spring next time I came to town. Last week was that visit, and since my stay was to be short, I insisted we go the first day, leaving time to try again in case we couldn't find it on our first attempt.
Before we set out, my web-savvy daughter-in-law attempted to get permission from the owners of the land for our visit. She telephoned the author of an article Google pulled up about the ranch where the spring was located. The woman didn't know who owned the land but she gave a description of what the ranch looked like from the main road and she knew the approximate mileage from the crossroad where I'd first seen the sign.
Knowing those details my son, daughter-in-law, and I and my 3 month-old granddaughter set out to find the site. We recognized the ranch in the distance due to clusters of trees and found the entrance to the ranch. The gate was open so we left the highway and proceeded onto the dirt road leading to some ranch buildings in the distance. The inside of the car filled with a communal scary feeling as someone reminded us, "We could get in trouble being here."
I looked down the road framed by a white fence and trees on either side and said, in a voice that sounded a lot like my spiritual teacher, "We come in a sacred way." Just as I said that the energy in the car changed, feeling calmer in spite of the three dogs that by now were barking vicious warnings at the wheels of our car. In spite of being dog people, no one was brave enough to get out of the car, but my son spotted a man coming out of a garage. He stopped the car nearby and rolled down the car window to signal a greeting.
As the slender blue jean clad man walked close enough to our car to have a conversation, my son said, "Hi there, sir. We are native people and we've heard that there is a sacred site on this land. We don't want to disturb anyone or anything. We would just like to visit the site and honor the land and our ancestors."
The man grinned a welcoming smile of recognition as he confirmed that yes, there were several springs on the land, and one of them was a sacred site. He volunteered to take us to it. He climbed into his pickup and we followed in our car, as the dogs gleefully became members of our caravan, running between the vehicles. The man, the caretaker of the land seemed proud to show us this particular spring. "There are others, one they call "The Grotto," he said, "another that miners struck when mining for gold, but this is the sacred one."
Though one of the high mountain sides surrounding the spring's small pond had been removed for easier access, one could still imagine how protected this spot would have been in the time when this place served as a hospice for women transitioning from this life.
I knelt and put my fingers into the clear water and the man confirmed its purity. "I've drunk out of this pond," he said. I sprinkled tobacco on the land surrounding the pond, returning what had come from the earth, back to the earth, while I said a prayer of gratitude for those that had come before. We took some pictures of my native granddaughter and her parents at the spring and then continued to the next spring where the man told us the women used to do their laundry.
According to the man, this spring now contains an over abundance of "bad algae." We saw the long green strands of it drying on a board after he had pulled it from the water by hand. It can't be used for anything, even fertilizer, so he has to remove it totally from the land. But he goes to the Old Woman Spring and gets "good algae" which he puts in the other ponds. Eventually, when there's enough good algae it will eat the bad and return the water to the purity it has when first coming out of the mountain.
We thanked him for his sacred work in reclaiming and res
toring the land. And after what turned out to be a magical day, I resolved to come more often in a sacred way.
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