Life has been busy since we got home from Scotland. We’re finishing renovations that won’t get done during the school year (we, as in J. and some hired help), I’m working a lot at the library and we’re squeezing in trips on the weekends. This past weekend a friend who lives on Rocky Lake invited us out so we towed our tent trailer and canoe up there, had a campfire (marshmallows! smores! ) and went for a gorgeous paddle on a glassy lake the next morning.
On Sunday, we drove north to Wekusko Falls and launched our motorboat on the Grass River. We did the same thing a couple of years ago – for the same reason – and were not successful. This time, we were. Near Tramping Lake we found what we were hunting for: Indigenous pictographs painted using red ochre some 1,500 to 3,000 years ago.
Our time in Scotland opened our eyes – and something else: heart? mind? – to the power of experiencing ancient human constructions in their natural habitat. When I was seventeen, I visited Stonehenge and found myself in a line of people, corralled around the stones, distanced from them by a fence. We’d entered the site (and exited) through a gift shop. I didn’t feel much except “check this off the bucket list” and, yes, disappointment.
On the Isle of Lewis, however, we woke on a sunny July morning after sleeping in our rental car at the end of a dead-end road and went for a walk. No one else was around. Down a quiet lane-way, we passed through a cattle gate between two houses, and wandered up a rise and into the stone circle.
We pressed our palms against cool slabs which had been erected in sockets in the earth by other humans some 5,000 years ago (predating Stonehenge). Somehow they’re still standing, the grass around their base worn to earth by resting sheep, their rough surfaces holding tangles of snagged wool.
At the cliff-side, near Tramping Lake, I leaned out of the boat and hovered my palm over an ancient hand-print. I felt something similar to what I’d felt in Scotland, yet different. In Scotland we were touching our own roots, the constructions of our genetic heritage, while the pictographs were the creation of another people, another culture. I felt like a visitor, which is appropriate.
And I felt amazed – that these creations, these expressions of the human experience, of the need to create a physical link between ourselves and invisible, sacred worlds, could exist through so many eras, so many short human lifetimes.
Imagine if these stones could talk, I said to J. when we were on Lewis. Imagine if the pictographs could. What they’d tell us: of all those spinning seasons, a vast context of change that none of us can ever know.