The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Thursday, 17 November 2016
transience, enduringness & the Otherworld
This is Ti Ar Boudiged, La Maison des Fées, House of the Fairies, in Finistère, Brittany.
I first came here the day after Bataclan last year; the last ten days I have found myself longing and then really needing to go back, but I didn't realise consciously until we were actually there earlier this week that it was the anniversary of Bataclan.
I've visited probably hundreds of megalithic sites since I was a teenager, here in Brittany, in the Lot, and of course in GB. Of all of them, this one uniquely bathes me in a kind of deep peace; it exudes something quite extraordinary – tranquil, uplifting, enduring, receptive, soothing, welcoming.
I also came to this one this year and last because a few days before was the anniversary of my mum's death, and she sometimes exuded the same tranquil receptivity.
I can't tell you quite what it is this particular place has. It's kind of domestic, in a way I'd normally hate. It's part of the immediate and current village; it's tended; it's not in any way wild or remote. Each time I've visited it's been lounging in its glade of sunshine, guardian beech tree by its entrance. But the genius loci is strong, and that strength seems so freely given to visitors – it pours from the monument.
The dolmen is 5000 years old. No remains were found in it, and my own sense is that it's a ritualistic site; I've various theories that will appear in the book I'm writing while I'm out here (redrafting now, in fact).
Brittany is, other than West Cornwall, the most densely-stocked area in Europe in terms of megalithic monuments per square kilometre. It's partly why I'm here.
One of my most precious memories is riding on hired ponies, with my young daughter, early one morning down one of Carnac’s unparalleled stone avenues, in the days before they were closed off, like zoo animals, to the public, who now witness them from ‘viewing platforms’. You can’t possibly appreciate the extent of the buzz as a bystander, voyeur, like that.
Animate and placid
in the warm summer rain
the stones point at something
five thousand years
beyond our knowing.
The mysteries of the megaliths hum in this land, and draw you into a sense of the Otherworld, even if it’s hard to articulate what that means. Even, I suspect, if you don’t believe.
These places. Ways of remembering living and dead in the same moment; paying tribute to the enduring continuity of the life force, whether or not we ourselves feel besieged by transience, uncertainty, personal and collective trouble and sorrow.
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