You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend. (Bruce Lee, “Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey”, Warner Brothers video, 2000)
Before anything else, before the story begins, I came up through the Notch, down that narrowing of road, the slowing of traffic, rising of cliffs and peaks, out over the rise to where the road descends, sky opens over the North Country, my home for the coming year. Blue ridged mountains whose names I do not know, a landscape of the imagination.
Turn off the exit for Franconia, wind through the little town past the grocery store and coffee shop, the pub where the tourists cluster outside on picnic tables. Take the sharp left at the sign for the Old Franconia Road. A few miles up, where the trees bend green and low, pull off into the dirt strip, a pickup truck across the way.
A slow tickle of water from the white pipe at the end of the wall. Marie is filling her blue jugs, tan rawhide jacket, blue hat, jeans.
I’ve tested it, its good, she promises me, better than the water at home with all that is in those old pipes and interacts in funny ways with my medications. Fresh and clean. The spigot flows out into a stone pool, filled with cold water.
I tell her I’m moving here, that I’m the new pastor in town. She tells me about God and what He has done in her life, the healing of being out here in the outdoors in this good air. Tells me about the broken families, broken beyond broken, not just ordinary hurts but the kind that needs a kind of healing that can be beyond us. The trouble she’s seen.
She tells me to back up my car. It’s easier that way, she says, offers to help carry my jug. Don’t strain yourself. It doesn’t look that far but with a heavy awkward container like that its easy to get hurt.
I follow her advice, back up the car. She helps me carry the jug.
I turn, thank her for her advice which she reminds me is free, free as the water here and as pure.