As I rolled up the hill and rounded a bend, I could see them. Standing sentinel-like, they stood in stark contrast to what they were there to see – or should I say – worship. In various colours and states of repair, they surely housed the last of those who had come for solstice celebrations. Only hours ago this place would have been packed with people hoping, perhaps, to connect with other worlds. As is always the case, traffic slows along this stretch of road where Neolithic era meets modern, creeping by as if on tip-toe. I am one of them, breathing deeply, gaze fixed intently on the site hoping to catch a vision of some ancient contractor. Correct, I want to know how. I can figure the why.
Looking at it right now against a lack lustre morning sky, I’m underwhelmed by its size. Pictures do it more service because today, to me, it looks puny. Don’t misunderstand. It’s bloody awesome, just less striking than when seen in those shots with the sun blazing through it. Angles, it’s all about angles and maybe lenses. I don’t know anything about photography but realise in this moment how photos can put a sheen on stuff otherwise missed by the eye.
The rag-tag line-up of caravans are out of sight now, as are the stones. All that’s left are the birds – dozens or maybe hundreds of them. I marvel that they are always here no matter time of day or year. It begs the questions, “Why?”
The first time I drove to Stonehenge, the fence rows were lined with hundreds of what I called crows. And, crows they might well be because I’m not astute enough yet to tell the difference between rooks and crows although I’m working to become astute. Hmm. Regardless, if indeed they are crows, this land on which sits a marvel of the past might also be home to one of their courts. I’d hazard a guess something like a Supreme Court with all the feathery comings and goings. If these are rooks, I’m a tad confused because I can’t readily see trees for them to nest in. Rooks, I’ve learned, travel together in packs. I have several dozen nesting not far outside my window. Nevertheless, whichever black bird, they a plentiful in the fields here and lend to the magical, mystical air.
Around and about the monolith, the landscape rises and falls gracefully but a bit extremely, too. It is easy to imagine water flowing here in the low areas, reaching the place of worship by boat doesn’t seem impossible to me. The valleys are wide and deep still even after several millennia of silt fill. This landscape from Salisbury to Avebury and Stonehenge would have looked different 5000 years ago as would the people and their monuments. Today what we have left of them acts as a constant reminder of our own longevity, ingenuity, and very likely, ritualised brutality.
I don’t hold a vision of a better, stronger, smarter race from days of yore. Indeed, if there had been, we’ve let them down terribly. What I do hold to is our ability to learn and still love despite our many failings and continued barbarism. It’s easy to focus on the myth and legend and leave out the horror. It’s a cop out to idealise the past while vilifying the present. All we have is this very moment.
My wish is for seeing eyes and open hearts. Lately I’ve found it hard to like people. I’ve been short with many, judgemental, doubtful they’ve anything good going on in them at all. I’ve been self-righteous. When all is said and done, of course, it’s got to do with how I feel about me. All my imperfections and short comings shine very bright when I’m cutting somebody else down. So tonight, I see my own sorrow, and open my heart to me. When I do this, I hear a voice saying, “Forgive yourself and try again tomorrow”. And I will.
Until then. Until tomorrow…