Maggie Jackson: A Chance Meeting At A Holy Well September 06, 2016 Some years ago, I was staying at St Beuno’s Ignatian Spirituality centre in North Wales on an 8-day silent retreat. Here, at this inspiring and beautiful place which was once home to Gerard Manley Hopkins, I engaged in the imaginative contemplation of scripture while gazing over the Clwyd valley to the mountains of Snowdonia. When my Retreat Guide suggested I should contemplate the Gospel story of ‘The Woman at the Well’ and her encounter with Jesus, I asked if I could visit St Winifred’s Well at Holywell just a few miles away – a place where I, amongst many other people over the centuries, had experienced healing. I promised I would avoid speaking to anyone I met there. As I entered the shrine I noticed there was another visitor, a man, who stood looking into the depths of the dark, gently swirling water. The man looked familiar but I couldn’t place him. For around twenty minutes we stood at either side of the holy well, silently musing. The man left just before me, and when I went to sign the visitors’ book I saw that the signature above mine was ‘Seamus Heaney’! My heart almost burst with joy and I wanted to exclaim what felt to me like the most extraordinary coincidence. As an aspiring poet, and lover of Seamus Heaney’s writing, this was a ‘magnificent’ moment, an encounter to be proclaimed to the world. I turned to the staff who look after the shrine who were clearly unaware what a very special visitor they had just missed, but I remembered my promise to keep silence and restrained myself from conversing with them. I drove the few miles back to St Beuno’s with the biggest smile on my face, longing to tell someone what had happened, but that would have to wait until I met my Retreat Guide the following morning. So, in order to share my story with the universe, I went onto the hillside and told the cattle who were grazing there. I have, of course, no proof that Seamus and I shared some silent minutes at St Winifred’s Well, and can only assume he was oblivious to my presence, but I remain grateful for that encounter and the affirmation it brought me that I too have a gift for poetry. Thank you Seamus, for your inspiration and encouragement, even though you never knew what that encounter has meant to me.