When I’m anywhere near a major sacred site, a “place of ancient sanctity” in the words of John Michell, I try to get into it by myself with a journal and spend a bit of reflective time. It’s a balm for the interior self even if no revelations come. The megaliths of Europe and the Native American earthworks of North America are the most inspiring to my interior self. They are also the most enigmatic. We have only clues to their full expression.
After a two week trip that started as vacation in Charleston SC and ended as business in Ohio, I passed through Newark last Thursday morning intending to stroll about the massive monument-complex often called “the Newark Earthworks.” Hot, steamy and faintly overcast, it was a perfect morning for it, too, to walk among the ancient geoforms, the circles, avenues, octagons, and earth-dotting mounds that sketch their messages to sky and future. Like natural graffiti sprouting from the land itself or sacred etching from the collective unconscious of a society far closer to earth and spirit than we are, there is an integrity about them that I am not sure is matched by the art of our day. No wonder they are inspiring.
I had left myself what seemed like a solid window to spend time at the monuments before my cross-state meeting. I had visited the works now and then in the past and thought I remembered my way to them from my old college town of Granville where I’d stayed the night. Construction and rerouting got me disoriented, though. I saw no signs pointing to one of the state’s standing glories, which I found strange. This is a World Heritage Site. Wrong turns, delays, roadblocks and one-way streets were continual. I gave up and asked directions. Almost as if it was some force of illusion cast up against me by the monuments themselves, people in Newark – at least the ten I picked – either didn’t know where they were or were members of a club to send strangers on Thursday morning snipe hunts.
By 11:15 I realized that even if the complex was two blocks away and the eleventh individual sent me to it on the most direct route, I would have little thoughtful time to spend. Then I would have to find my way back to the highway to get to my cross-state meeting on time. The way things seemed to be going, I thought, I had better not underestimate anything. I spotted a sign for the interstate and turned back toward it.
A part of me felt a loss; I do not expect to be near that site for another year. But a part of me realized that everything is a lesson in one way or another, and I looked within myself for what this one might be. Soon I took counsel; I had done a lot of hard, creative work leading up to this sojourn, and I had already had many growing moments on it. More of each was surely coming, and possibly even because of the reflections I had for missing out that time.
As I hit high speed and started the cruise out of Newark, the urban landscape thinned quickly. I looked over a green ridge to my right under a faintly overcast sky and wondered what my Algonquin friend Michael Bastine might have said of the experience. I was almost sure what it would be, and I could hear his voice saying it: “It wasn’t your day to visit the monuments.” He would have said it with a smile and a shrug. “You wouldn’t have been ready that day.”
“Don’t visit them on a time-table,” I say to myself today. You can’t schedule revelation. You’d think I’d know that by now.