Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain,
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red,
Drunk cold water and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.
“We need to go to Bowden Springs,” my grandmother would say when there was no running water at her rural home in East Texas. “Bowden Springs.” Just saying the words filled my heart with joy and delight. Bowden Springs had a luminous quality that extended beyond the water we would gather in our tall metal milking cans. There was the journey of climbing slowly up the winding dirt road to the Springs. There was the surprise of finding the overflowing water that seemed to come from nowhere. Most of all, there was the joy of drinking and splashing in the abundant water bubbling over the rocks. As a child I did not have the words “sacred landscape,” or “holy site,” but I had an intense experience of an actual place that vividly revealed the Presence of God. The Scriptural words of “living water” were echoed daily in that place.
In the Celtic tradition such places that give us an opening into the magnificence and wonder of that Presence are called “Thin Places.” There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.