Another translation, the New Revised Standard Edition, is somewhat different - "Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools." I like the "in whose heart are the highways to Zion." A note says the valley of Baca probably refers to an arid place on the way to Jerusalem. Here the translator speaks of early rain covering that valley with pools rather than generous growth. I imagine the pools reflecting the sun.
Still another translation Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures by the Jewish Publication Society has it this way, "Happy the man who finds refuge in You, whose mind is on the [pilgrim] highways. They pass through the Valley of Baca, regarding it as a place of springs, as if the early rain had covered it with blessing." The translators do note that the meaning of the last two phrases is uncertain in Hebrew.
You may not know that before entering the ministry I studied the relationship between thought and language in children, eventually earning a doctorate. I originally intended to be a professor, to teach and do research in that field at a university. Now here I am, still interested in language and the differences it can make in how we perceive the world.
How we translate meaning into experience is also important. The scientist in me leans toward the last translation, but my poet heart loves the first best. I find the image uplifting and sustaining - people of faith on pilgrimage who, as they pass through a valley of sorrow, transform it into a living, verdant place. I like to believe that faith can transform the world, or perhaps I should say that by living our faith we can help transform the world that is right around us as we journey together.
Years ago I wrote a poem "He Waltzes" with similar imagery, though more of autumn than spring.
He waltzes in sunlight, twirling
wonder in his arms.
Leaves waltz after him,
his yellow crimson
rising in his footsteps.