Storytelling in the Wilderness | Keeper of the Spring

Stream in Azumi Village near Northstar, Japan

The Potency of the Wilderness

Wilderness travel with groups has a special potency because it affords extravagant amounts of down-time with people. When agendas subside, and the adrenaline of city life wears off, people start feeling normal again… awake to the beauty of creation and community with other people. One of the best ways to bring a group together and create memories in the wilderness is through storytelling. Some people, like my friend Joel Schaefer memorize short stories and can pull them out of the air at any time. Other people like to keep short stories in their journal or guide manual to read around the fire or before snuggling into your sleeping bag for a cozy night’s sleep. Here is an example of a nice short story that has a great message. If you have any stories you like to tell, please comment below and share a copy for others to enjoy!

Keeper of the Spring

The late Peter Marshall, an eloquent speaker and for several years the chaplain of the United States Senate, used to love to tell the story of ‘The Keeper of the Spring,’ a quiet forest dweller who lived high above an Austrian village along the eastern slopes of the Alps.

The old gentleman had been hired many years ago by a young town council to clear away the debris from the pools of water up in the mountain crevices that led the lovely spring flowing through their town. With faithful, silent regularity, he patrolled the hills, removed leaves and branches, and wiped away the silt that would otherwise choke and contaminate the fast flow of water. By and by, the village became a popular attraction for vacationers. Graceful swans floated along the crystal clear spring, the millwheels of various businesses located near the water turned day and night, farmlands were naturally irrigated, and the view from the restaurants was picturesque beyond description.

Years passed. One evening the town council met for its semiannual meeting. As they reviewed the budget, one man’s eye caught the salary figure being paid the obscure keeper of the spring. Said the keeper of the purse, “Who is the old man? Why do we keep him on year after year? No one ever sees him. For all we know the strange ranger of the hills is doing us no good. He isn’t necessary any longer!” By a unanimous vote, they dispensed with the old man’s services.

For several weeks nothing changed. By early autumn the trees began to shed their leaves. Small branches snapped off and fell into the pools, hindering the rushing flow of sparkling water. One afternoon someone noticed a slight yellowish-brown tint in the spring. A couple days later the water was much darker. Within another week, a slimy film covered sections of the water along the banks and a foul odor was soon detected. The millwheels moved slower, some finally ground to a hall. Swans left as did the tourists. Clammy fingers of disease and sickness reached deeply into the village.

Quickly, the embarrassed town council called a special meeting. Realizing their gross error in judgement, they hired back the old keeper of the spring … and within a few weeks the veritable river of life began to clear up. The wheels started to turn, and new life returned to the hamlet in the Alps once again.

Fanciful though it may be, the story is more than an idle tale. It carries with it a vivid, relevant analogy directly related to the time in which we live. What the keeper of the spring meant to the village, servants and givers mean to our world. Think of yourself as a ‘keeper of the spring.’ (Wilderness Ranch Guide Manual)

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2 thoughts on “Storytelling in the Wilderness | Keeper of the Spring

  1. Thanks for all of your great resources!  I am starting an  outdoor group in our church and your info is very helpful.  BTW, i ordered your book too.  Thanks again!  Pete

    • Thanks so much for your comment… and please let me know how your outdoor ministry start up goes!

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