Deepest apologies, but I’m afraid that this week I am unable to reveal the precise location of my sacred place. It is on private property and I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to be there. I can say that it is in a small canyon nestled in the Santa Barbara mountains (big surprise there). It is a small, spring-fed creek.
The water cut the canyon deep and narrow, and the scramble down into it is steep and rocky. The last time I was there a misty rain was falling, blurring the edges of my vision, swallowing the canyons far wall in white, and covering everything in a wet sheen, making the climb terrifyingly slippery.
Once at the bottom, travel becomes no easier. The creek itself weaves among enormous boulders and through narrow cracks. In several places the water collects in deep pools as big as a bedroom. I parked myself by one of these pools and sat. Mist drifted through the bay and cottonwood trees and the only sound was that of water, lightly dripping from the leaves and flying swiftly through the rocks. The pool is deep. The water itself is the deepest of greens, clearer than glass and stiller (usually) than the surface of a mirror. It looks as though it is liquid emerald.
The raindrops distort the reflections of the trees and sky on the water’s surface, rippling them like watercolor. Angles Hair fern fringes the edge and thick moss coats the waterfalls. Not many people know of this place and it is rare that I see another human sitting on the boulders or standing among the trees. I took my clothes off and slid into the water.
The creek is fed by several springs along its route; it is the very blood of the mountain, colder than ice, so cold it burns like fire. Every cell in my body screamed in protest and the breath rushed from my lungs with incredible force. But soon the feeling had passed and the water began to work magic on me. It felt as though everything inside me was waking up after a very long sleep. When I at last pulled myself from the water’s embrace, my skin was glowing and alive and the cold could no longer touch me.
I knew where one of the springs bubbled up from inside the canyon walls, and I scrambled my way downstream until I found it; a tiny hole in the rock, surrounded by feathery green, with a trickle of clear, liquid life. I pressed my lips around the spring and drank. The water was cold and tasted of ancient stone and spring rain and green life.
That creek is one of the few places left in Santa Barbara where I can always expect to find water; those springs will never run dry, no matter how parched the surrounding earth may be. Since I can’t suggest you visit this truly sacred place (what with the whole trespassing thing) I can only implore you to think of the places where you can always find water, that precious element without which we could not exist, and show your gratitude by paying them a visit.