When Old Water Brings New Light

I’m tardy with this post. A first in 16 months of blogging. Here’s why:

This place, which I visited last week, left me gasping.

I’m still trying to catch my breath.

What is it, you ask?

It’s an old home. Not for people. For Houston’s drinking water.

That’s what the promotional materials for the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern read. But I see no water here, only transcendence.

My imagination fills in the blanks my mind creates: could this be the image of crossing over? Yes, to There.

Hardly what I expected during last week’s road trip. The cistern was only one more bullet point on my “Houston‐to‐Visit” list. DH’s trek to his home state offered an excuse. And Thursday tours are free at the cistern.

First, I saw the pipes.

At the bottom of this large intake pipe gurgled a small but steady flow of water. It goes nowhere these days. Historical effect equals raw power. Who knew?

That yellow glow near the stair rail triggers first impressions. The down staircase echoes those step effects seen in the initial photo.

My mind surges with otherworldly imaginings: where are we descending to/climbing from? What is that light and where is it guiding us? This first water — does it offer anything to us today?

The tour guide takes us around the full walkway of the cistern. It’s longer than a football field and humid. But only two inches of water cover its surface now.

221 concrete pillars stretch the length and width of the space. Each pillar rises 25 feet high skyward.

Its last fill‐up? Hurricane Harvey, two years ago. Accidentally. The waters rose 17 feet, reaching halfway up the guardrail that tops the cisterns’ sidewalls.

All the light is artificial, installed a decade ago when an irreparable leak forced decommissioning of this reservoir.

Instead of demolishing the space — as is Houston’s historic custom — someone somewhere offered: let’s save this, make it an art space. Two shows — one offering rain, the other light and video — will be followed in 2020 with a third, not yet chosen.

What the cistern rescuers created, in addition, is a holy place.

Everywhere around lay impressions: light and dark, above and below, stair steps and pathways. Water embracing it all.

Images offer symbols, all for later pondering and translation.

As with our dreams, personal interpretation heals best and deepest.

And that’s where our stories begin.

3 Replies to “When Old Water Brings New Light”

    1. Most definitely a ‘must see,’ Pat — and you can choose a simple walk‐through, a photo visit or even a custom tour. First is free on Thursday, second is $10 pp & the latter is some ‘slight nominal fee’…I’m recommending the walk‐through for everyone I know. Your DH would like it, too 🙂

  1. I have been there and it’s surreal, beautiful in a different way. I loved it. My nephew lives across the street. Do go see this place!

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