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James R. Stout


            On part of our family property there is a fairly large pond or tank that is fed by an artesian well. The artesian spring was first discovered in 1964 when an oil company was doing some sounding and up through the ground came a bubbling crude. Clear and clean artesian water that is. My grandfather sunk a pipe and had a tank dug out with a bulldozer. It has never come close to running dry. Grandpa also had a spigot installed and you can still go to that tank and draw water to drink. It’s cold and clean and has been tested by Texas A&M. I love that tank. Maybe that sounds crazy, but it is a reminder of my grandparents and my childhood. When it was dug, they had to clear a large area around it of trees just to be able to dig the tank. I have a picture of my grandparents and an aunt beside one of the banks of the tank after the tank had started to fill up with water. But over the years many trees and undergrowth have sprouted around three sides of the tank. It is very picturesque. I don’t own that tank or the land it’s on, but my property borders it. It is owned by my cousins. We have an understanding in the family that any of us are welcome to go to any part of what was once the entirety of my grandparent’s farm, about 360 acres. One of my favorite things to do is to hop aboard my 4-wheel drive side-by-side vehicle and explore the property. It’s serene and peaceful and brings back a wealth of memories.

            One day not long ago while we were all supposed to be staying at home due to the pandemic, I went for a drive on the property in the side-by-side. When I got to the artesian tank, I was amazed at how beautiful the day was. The water was like a mirror. In that mirror you could see the trees of green and a beautiful cerulean blue sky with a few puffy white clouds. It was awe-inspiring. My first thought was that God is indeed the master painter of the universe. I sat there near the one cleared bank and watched as cardinals, sparrows, mockingbirds, blue jays, and other birds fluttered among the trees next to the tank. I could hear their singing along with a soft burbling of the water as it trickled out of the pipe into the tank. In the distance I could hear the occasional mooing of cows. I got out of my vehicle and stood at the water’s edge and did something that I used to do many times as a child. I picked up a small pebble and tossed it into the tank. Small ripples branched out from where the pebble hit the water and then dissipated quickly until once again the water was still and like a mirror. I then picked up a large rock and tossed it up in the air into the middle of the tank and this time the ripples were much larger and took longer to dissipate. Finally, I picked up a large piece of deadwood and threw it across the tank to see if I could throw it to the other side without striking the water. Well, I didn’t quite make it and the piece of deadwood slapped the water near the far bank and water splashed outward causing not only a multitude of ripples, but it also splashed water out of the tank and onto the far bank. And you know what? After a few minutes, the ripples disappeared and again the mirror was whole. The trees and sky were no longer distorted in the water.

            About that time, a thought came to me. Perhaps the thought was even placed in my head by God Himself. The thought was that what I had done in those fifteen minutes or so and the effects of my actions had a deeper meaning. Let’s pretend for a few moments. Let’s make believe the mirror-like artesian tank is ourselves. One day you’re just going through life and things seem to be doing fine. Then something fairly insignificant happens that causes a few ripples in your life. That’s the pebble. Maybe your microwave oven stops working. It’s certainly a nuisance and it’s going to cost a little to replace, but a quick trip to the store and the purchase of a new microwave solves the problem. Thus, the ripples subside, and your life is back to being fine again. A week later you’re driving home from work and an intoxicated person in another car veers into your lane and hits your car. You aren’t seriously injured, but you’re sore and you have some burns on your neck from when the airbag deployed. The worst of it is your car is a total loss. You loved that car and it was only a few months old. But the drunk driver had insurance and within a couple of weeks the insurance company pays for a new car and little bit for your pain and suffering. Within a month those large ripples from a large rock smooth out and once again your life is fine. Yes, you’ll carry the memory of the disruption of your life and you’ll never forget how scary that accident was at the time, but when it’s all said and done your life is made whole again.

            A few months later things are going fine and then a truly terrible thing happens. A loved one dies unexpectantly. This is like that large piece of deadwood slapping the water. It shakes your world to the core. You’re never going to be the same again. Remember some of the water splashed out of the tank? That water is gone forever as it either soaks into the ground or evaporates within a few minutes. The loss of your loved one cannot be replaced by anyone else. It feels as if a giant hole has been created in your life and the sadness, anger, depression, anxiety, and then finally acceptance of how your life has changed occurs. But you know what? Eventually, when enough time passes, even the giant ripples from that event subside. You’ll always miss the person that you’ve lost, but your life will become whole again. It may not be the same as it was and there may always be moments when you miss your loved one and sadness appears again, but you’ll again be whole. It will just be a new whole compared to before.

            I guess my point is that things are going to come along in life, some great and some small, that disrupt or change your world. But despite it not seeming possible when the events have just happened, your life will regain balance. I might add that if we allow God to help us through those events, then a peace that truly does pass all understanding will one day envelope our lives. There’s one other thing that I want to point out. Nobody escapes life without those days of disruption and sorrow. But with God’s help we can once again be made whole.

My grandfather is right by the water. My grandmother is on the left behind him.

The picture was taken in October of 1964.

This picture of the tank was taken in April of 2007.

The trees and shrubbery are much larger now.

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