Shay Water is the name of the family business, now run by my closest brother, Jim. Summers from the ages of 10-16 it was the foundational place where I learned many life lessons from my Dad about taking responsibility and learning a work ethic. ‘Shay Water’ comes from an artesian spring that surfaced on a farm in Merrill, Michigan which my Grandfather John Shay capped and bottled to sell in nearby Saginaw. I drink so much Shay water when I visit family in Michigan, USA, because it is literally the best tasting (!) and most refreshing water I have ever had, anywhere in the world.
My wife and soulmate of 34 years, Suellen, died recently. A key theme in her funeral was the centrality of water to our lives – Mandisi Dyantis movingly sang ‘Down to the River’ and ‘Wade in the Water’ in honour of Suellen. Water is a symbol of life, a river is a symbol of the flowing life journey, water represents deep mysterious places in our mythology and psyches.
In reflecting on Suellen’s life and faith I had an important insight. She always had this amazing connection to God’s presence and knowing and believing God was with her and for her all the time. (Please don’t trip on God language she had a deep, inclusive spirituality that embraced people with a wide range of beliefs, faith and atheism.) Suellen’s faith was very much like an artesian spring from deep underground – it came from a deep mysterious source, a powerful source, a life giving source that she tapped somehow – that was her relationship with God – God was there nourishing her, feeding her, quenching her all the time. There are many dark mysteries we can’t see or fully understand and deep water is one of those. Because of the significance of water to our family – the artesian spring we call Shay water – this image is sitting strongly with me – water as a life giving force. I will never think of Shay Water and the spring on the farm the same way again.
So I think I may be becoming an ‘artesian mystic.’ The idea of ‘artesian life’ is appealing to me and rich in symbolism. (Can I play with and discover some of the gifts of my deep and mysterious life giving sources, springs I don’t need to force but that want to emerge?) For clients I coach I wonder if we can fruitfully and more explicitly explore the deep and mysterious life giving sources that nourish them. For participants in Artist’s Way courses we do lots of archeological memory work and other forms of deep dives to rediscover the mysterious, life giving creativity within; creativity that helps crystallize longing and quenches thirst; that is wet and wild and uncontrollable – and available. Amidst the many forms of structural, interpersonal and psychic violence in my work environment, what deep, mysterious resources could be emerging for all of the stakeholders to discover and use to provide light, healing, peace and justice?
I love the potential of this new symbol for me, the artesian spring surfacing the water of life. I’m calling it artesian life for now. Join me if it feels helpful.