This blog is a slow unfurling of memory, inspiration and insight.
On the way to the next Megalith, an abandoned mill beside a roaring stream stops me. I thinking about the ebb and flow and how rainstorms send them into overdrive. Here, I imagine they are always brimming. The rain comes and goes all day.
The other constant is the presence of crumbling, abandoned stone buildings. Plants take over, engulfing. It's beautiful but why so many? They poke out from tangles of vines and plants - the landscape's willingness to obfuscate. A parallel to the human mind's need to compartmentalize and forget.
My research about these shells of former homes floored me. The population in Ireland went from 8 million in 1840 to 3 million in 1849. A loss of 5 million people in 9 years. My previous numbers were off. I thought 2 million people were affected by the famine and the ensuing neglect of a starving population. Two years after the initial potato crop failure, potatoes could again be used for sustenance but millions continued to die from diseases that thrive in weakened, oppressed communities. Ireland still hasn't returned to it's pre-famine population. It is now at 6.5 million.
A key awareness in herbalism is the contributions of stress and nutrition. When I first started working in clinical research in Boston in the 80's, a study that examined the relationship between stressors and the body had just been funded. It was the only clinical study of its kind done during my 13 years in research center. The idea stuck with me but lost steam in the scientific community. How do you quantify nurturing, care, belief? I'm seeing a resurgence in these ideas today. But it is still often dismissed as "outsider" activity from "snowflakes". Some medical schools are now training doctors in the kitchen so they learn first-hand how to prepare nutritious food and council their patients. This is the realm of the caregiver, healer.
I digress again.
Leaving the mill, google tells me it's not much further to the next Megalith. I'm ready to get there. A left and then a quick right, turning into a muddy road. I can't believe what I see.
On my travels, all along the roads, are flashes of bright yellow amongst the greens and greys of foliage and stone. It's daffodil season. There is no mixture in the varieties, no whites and pale yellows, like in the US. All of the flowers are bright yellow. They are literally everywhere. My turn brings me to the place where they are cultivated. Field after field of poppieeeees, I mean daffodils. Do think Wizard of Oz though, they reach as far as my eye can see. Have I gone through a wormhole and driven into the Netherlands?
After a few moments of admiration - through my windshield, it's pouring again, I fishtail down the road, furrowed by tractor prints. A pony-sized dog bounds out of the barn up ahead barking madly, springing a foot into the air as he circles my car. This is a warning bark. He's just letting his owner know. I carefully turn about, check out the map and realize I've turned one street too soon.
The next turn is yet another "OMG" moment. This. Every day. For 3 weeks. Is my life. I want to go back.
Those Neolithic folk certainly know how to site their Megaliths. A mile or so ahead is a line of dark silhouettes, at the top of a ridge. I have arrived.
I pull into a grassy area on the side of the narrow street, in front of a gate. I notice a singular stone sitting in the middle of a field off to the right. It's shorter and wider than the others I've seen and again, completely cleared of vegetation - sheep or an aware farmer? After climbing the gate, I slosh through the muddy grass and stand beside the stone so it aligns with the others standing erect on the ridge. A marker? "Go here first, then head up the hill to that row of dark things. Just wait til you see what's there! Or... When you're stand on this ridge, look down the hill a bit towards that short stone and then beyond..." At what? If the ceremony happens at night, what purpose does it serve? "Get there during the day, align with that other stone and wait." For stars? For sunset? Again, there is nothing written about this alignment.
The access between this singular stone and the stone alignment is cut off by a few walls covered in brambles, so I climb back over the fence, into my car and head up the hill. The Megaliths peek out between breaks in the wall as I make my way. I can't take my eyes off of them.
The path in, at the top of the hill, requires going around an abandoned cottage and this time there is a sign that says "Do not enter". It's old, slightly akimbo. The. Megaliths. are. in. the. backyard. of. this. house. 75 yards on. As the trip went on, I remember thinking that everyone must have one in their yard! They appeared on horizons, around corners, at the bottom of valleys, everywhere I went. (This, by the way is what inspired my minilith and offering series.) The stones are a spectacle and mark the spectacle of the landscape around them.
Come on! These stones are part of my DNA. They belong to me as much as you. I'm going in. No bounding dogs in sight and it's clear no one has lived in the cottage for a while.
It's cold. The rain has turned to a mix of snow and shard-like sleet that slices at my face, hands and... camera. I bought it just for this trip, knowing I was going to have to invent a project other than sculpture. I had no desire to ship sculpture internationally.
These stones do not have a trough around them so I walk right up and tuck in against the largest. A half circle of white dots slice diagonally through the air, inches in front of my body. It's working, I'm protected, so I wait it out. I was right, a few minutes later the sun breaks through the clouds, the biting wind ceases and I start to defrost. When I step out from stone and look beyond, the landscape spreads out, a checkerboard of fields. Beams of light shine through the clouds.
I stay for about an hour, walking amongst the stones. Not a sole anywhere. They're different than the last alignment. Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, like a row of soldiers, they're stacked like dominos, back to front. Only the top portion of each is covered in light grey, hunter and puce colored lichen, thriving on their surfaces. It's as if their bottoms were dipped in an acid bath.
I'm able to get in close to see if there are carvings or just natural ridges in the stone, to run my fingers and hands along this remnant of a culture that used these stones for some purpose, 5000 years ago.
The lichen obscurs. No secrets revealed today.