In 1999 my cousin, Theresa asked if I wanted to go to London with her and I said yes, on the condition that I get to Stone Henge and she conceded. I had heard so many stories about the place, I was anxious to have a gander myself. I imagined putting my hands against the great monoliths and closing my eyes and gleaning some great bits of wisdom. One of the artists I found on the internet had gotten permission from the British government to spend the night in Stone Henge and she did a number of paintings based on that experience. I didn’t think I could be there after dark imagining the druids dancing around the gigantic posts and lintels. Sure enough we took a bus tour to Salisbury Plain and with about two thousand of our best friends, all speaking assorted languages, we wound around the perimeter of the ancient calendar, which was fenced off so no one could actually get close enough to touch anything. The fence was simply wire, which also kept any of the tourists from falling into the burial pit circling the massive stones.
In Ireland in 2011 I stepped carefully around bits and chunks of once churches and monasteries and while I was able to touch anything I could reach, I only felt sadness about the people who once filled the places that were long since destroyed.
What is it exactly that calls us to visit old castles, caves, houses and places of worship? Do the people of the past hope we might want to know who they were and how they lived? What stories are they trying to tell in the legacy of paintings, structures, fabrics which outlived them?
In the book The Visitant by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear, time shifts between an Anasazi Culture of the 1250s and contemporary archeologists who are digging up a burial site in which a number of young women and children have been found with terrible damage to their skulls.
While in the ancient phases, different individuals experience feelings from skeletal remains and residues of evil pervading whole areas. In the present, an elderly Native American lady relates what she sees of ghosts and what she feels as she touches or draws near to bones of any of the ancient ones.
Will those who follow us find an intriguing trail of artifacts, letters, messages and mysteries, or will we have deleted and destroyed our entire history…