The Holy Well

Plans made for potential events in the distant future rely on wishful, sometimes magical, thinking. One example that comes to mind is that of friends who purchased a magnum of wine at the time of their daughter’s birth with the intention of it being uncorked on the day she was married (she was and it was). Another couple planted a tree on the day that each of their daughters were born. That gesture represented a gift to their girls, and to the land they would grow up on. Recently, the youngest turned four years old. The parents asked me to construct something special that would age along with the tupelo and basswood trees.

As the girls grew, so did the saplings, which flank a natural spring. The seep became a favorite spot for the two to play. The family decided to formally enshrine the water source with a work in stone.

Excavation of the hillside spring revealed layers of geologic stratification. Top soil lay on coarse gravel over pure sand on top of clay hardpan. The design called for ground water that trickled out of the sand layer to be trapped in a hollow under a half-shell overhang. Recycled slate from building foundation ruins and cobbles from a gravel pit were combined to shape the dry stone installation.

Clay was packed under and on the exterior walls of the stonework that formed the hollow to create an overflowing, springwater pool. Even before I laid the last stone in the construction the sisters had made the space their own, naming it “The Holy Well”.

From the planting of birth trees to cultivating a natural spring, the parents found ways to translate their dreams and wishes into a growing reality. Who says magic isn’t real?

Many thanks to my collaborators, Janet, Todd, Sylvia and Tilly. Also thanks to Clifford Clark Excavation in Williamstown, MA.