Winter solstice at Coldwater


Coldwater Spring between Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling in south Minneapolis was created some 10,000 years ago and is now the only natural spring left in Hennepin County. Friends of Coldwater Spring gathered again on Wednesday as they have for the past eight to ten years to honor the longest night of the year, and to offer prayers and blessings for the spring.

This year’s meditation at Coldwater Spring was especially heartfelt. Participants prayed for the spirit of the spring as the City of Minneapolis works with other government agencies, including the National Park Service (NPS), to renovate the site.Lack of snow cover kept the friends of the Spring from creating a snow labyrinth as they have done in previous years, but attendees shared water from the spring and poured some back on the ground making offerings and prayers for the spring to flow freely again.

Event volunteer Paul Eaves said they never know how many people are going to come. “Might be three, might be a hundred.” Just a handful gathered this time, and it was a quiet group.

Darkness began gathering in mid-afternoon, and the path along the fence by Coldwater Spring was dark, covered with a dusting of new snow at 6pm. Paul Eaves helped move firewood and a portable fire pit down to a wide spot on the path, about a half mile from busy Hwy 55. Three or four small solar lights placed on the edge of the path showed visitors where to walk to find the gathering.

Friends of Coldwater
founder Susu Jeffrey started the fire with a handful of kindling, a candle and a couple matches.

Soon a flame leapt to life, and the fire began to light the night. Jets were taking off to the west and the wind was calm so the night was quiet. Ambient light from the city kept the sky light, but with the fire and surrounding oaks this bonfire might have been deep in a wilderness, not just steps away from Hiawatha Avenue and the Minneapolis airport.

Jeffrey has fought for preservation of the spring since first visiting the park in 1995. In 2010 the celebration attracted well over 100 participants. This year eleven souls gathered to pray, offer blessings, break bread together, and throw wild howls up into the night sky as they threw bread behind them to share the spirit with the animals living in the woods surrounding the spring.

Thoughts and prayers were offered for the spring, and everyone passed around snacks and a frozen heart of ice made with water from the spring. After passing the heart around the circle to let everyone present offer blessings for the water, Eaves placed the heart on the fire, and the group watched it melt into steam.

NPS spent much of last summer clearing invasive species, cleaning up archeological dig sites, and beginning demolition of Bureau of Mines buildings and roads near the spring.

When finished in fall 2012, not only will the chain link fences be removed, but a 2010 decision by the US Department of the Interior will create an Open Space/Park between Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling that will be renamed the Coldwater Unit of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.