Every time we started for the mountains we had for hydration but empty bottles. As weird as it might sound nowadays, with all the theories about the need of humans to consume a certain amount of liquids a day, we always carried empty bottles with us. It wasn’t because we did not experience thirst; it was for our secret maps that we kept drawing. Every path we were taking, every destination point we had in mind, was spotted on our map with thick bullet points, representing sources of water, springs, how we called them. Dad developed a theory, which stated that the density of drinkable water in our mountains could have never disappointed the thirstiest man ever. Wherever one would go, whatever turn would take, whatever long the trip, hot weather and any other situation, our mountains had always a spring in the way, a clear streamlet of water, coming out from underground. From the deepest and the most unreachable depths, the pure waters were coming to the light, filtered and mineralized by the multitude of rocks they have to traverse, erode, dissolve or whatever else was needed. I remember the hottest days of summer; us wandering towards some secret spot of refuge, the merciless sun frying our skins, the sudden evaporation of precious liquid out of our bodies, tried by the steep climbs. No matter how dry the weather, the springs were bringing the same cold and clear water. We stopped reverently by them, sat on the grass, on the bare ground or on the rocks, admired the streamlet or the small pool formed around the source, stayed quiet for a while then pulled out our empty bottles and filled them with the precious fluid, held it in our hands, feeling the coldness of it and anticipating the great feeling of satisfaction when it will fill our mouths then flow down our throats. We sipped carefully not to spill it and enjoyed it in profound silence. Only the wind and the eventual chirping of the birds. At the first sip, we kept in the mouth for a while, tasting with our buds. At first, the coldness, then the small acidity or mildness, depending on the place. We spat off this first water, then, holding the bottles with our hands, we let the fluid run freely down the throat, enjoying it, accepting it and fulfilling our thirst. In the ecstasy of the very next moment, we exchanged opinions on the noble quality of that particular water, always the same ones for the same spring. Later in life, observing fancy looking sommeliers, tasting wines and sharing with the consumers their taste experiences, I realized what we were doing there, in the mountains, caressed by the breeze and hidden from the evils of the world.
We had a list of the springs as we encountered them, precisely located in space, occupying the coordinates of our maps, and for each source of water we had a long list of qualities, starting with the probable composition, assumed through the expertise of our taste buds, a quality grade, invented and implemented by ourselves, and kept just for ourselves. We also had a list of possible remedies. It was in our purpose to visit them frequently, asses and reassess them in order to have a thorough hydrologic map, about which existence we only knew. The system of water quality we invented and used was an empirical one, with no scientifical base, but a very precise one. Years later, an eminent scientist came from a prestigious university and spent the next decade studying (using scientifical methods) the hydrogeologic complex of our mountain. We befriended him as we crossed paths so often in the woods. We trusted each other and esteemed each other. I remember the awe that stroke me when I first read his published study. Everything we had gathered for the classification of those water springs was confirmed by his study. The scientist only confirmed, by methodical means, what we already knew.
The difference between us, the mountain men and the scientist was the purpose. We studied the springs out of natural need and in reverence for the great nature. We worshipped the greatness of Mother Nature that continuously circulated and recirculated the water in its various forms, only to bring it back and not loosing an ounce. A miraculous circle sustaining the life on Earth. We took care to clear the path for the streamlets to come out to the light, and made the water easily available for humans and animals alike to be drank, enjoyed and respected. Wherever necessary, we moved dead branches or leaves away; we cleared the overgrowth, and we formed small pools using dirt and rocks to keep the water visible and available for others. Every year, we resumed this toil, carefully clearing and rebuilding the pools of pure water. The scientist cleared the way for commercial interests as he realized our mountain was a source of water with outstanding qualities that could be captured, bottled, labeled and sold.
Wandering the mountain trails from spring to spring with my dad is a sweet memory of my childhood. I was becoming a teenager when dad said with a sadness in his voice: “One day we will not have access to these waters, they will be captured, they will build fences around them and they will sell them for money.” I laughed, as I did not believe in that prediction. When it happened, it was too late to be sad. Some springs dried already, exhausted their underground reservoirs, as the forests above them were cleared, as the humans continued to manipulate the nature for their own interest.
Nowadays, holding those plastic bottles, filled with water coming from all over the world, I remember those old days when we revered our springs. I missed them, but that world is gone. I can’t say if the one we live in today is better or worse, it is just the world as we, humanity, made it.
Dad told me one time: “You will have to change for the world, because the world will not change for you.”