Ancient Stones

The ride to Stonehenge is mildly terrifying. It’s a two-lane English country road with a speed limit of 50 mph. The bus barely fits onto the road, and it bounces around.

It somehow felt fitting. Made the experience feel more like travel.

It is an obviously special place. The hills are so perfectly England. The ancientness of the place and the openness of the surrounding fields are verdant even at the end of December. I had hoped for snow. I always hope for snow in England. I never seem to get it.

But the experience of Stonehenge is made infinitely better by walking the road to the stones. A number of loud and buzzing busses ferry the less walking-inclined between the visitors’ centre and the stones, but the transition would be too fast. Too easy. Too…loud. The road makes everything quiet (except the periodic buzzing busses). It makes a connection with the earth around the ancient monument. On the way back, we even ran into a DruidSadhu who was making his way up to the circle for what surely must be a nightly ritual.

The stones are mostly Welsh. They were brought over an immense distance (240 miles) at great human cost. It almost certainly took as long to build the circle as to build some of the other great monuments to human building…cathedrals, temples, giant terraced farms. Humans have a great desire to be remembered, to make a mark on the world and to have it be permanent. Stonehenge is one of the very few places that we actually succeeded.

The stones have been there for at least 3500 years. And they will probably stand a lot longer than that. It was so humbling to stand where thousands of others over thousands of years have, and to see that huge undertaking with my ephemeral and highly-nearsighted eyes. What will come in the next 3500 years of humans? Will we even stay on Earth? Will we go to other places, set up other monuments?

In 3500 years, someone else might be able to see those stones and wonder just as we did. And of course, the connection to the past is strong at Stonehenge. You might just stand on the circle a person was buried in by accident. Sorry, ancient ancestor.

Aubrey Holes surround Stonehenge, and are some of the first cremation burials in England
Aubrey Holes surround Stonehenge, and are some of the first cremation burials in England

I wanted to be a part of it. I have a habit of touching various bodies of water around the world, and sprinkling the water over my head and face. It’s an acknowledgement of place. It’s force of habit from a childhood spent in anglican churches. It’s my little sign of respect for the huge distances I am lucky enough to be able to travel.

My travel ritual
My travel ritual

I went to put some of the dirt from the henge on my face. Russell helped me to make it more obvious.

Earth on the FACE
Earth on the FACE

Since we were there only two days before the winter solstice, it felt right somehow.

Almost aligned! Two days before the winter solstice.
Almost aligned! Two days before the winter solstice.

Stonehenge is one of the few places on Earth, of the many I’ve visited, that has a general energy about it. Something that charges me up and makes me excited to go on, excited that humans are the amazing and resilient species we happen to be. The only other one so far to feel this special is Machu Picchu. Something about it feels like I am a part of the great story, if only for a moment.

And the city of Salisbury, moved from the medieval town on top of a nearby Hill Fort, Old Sarum. 

Old Sarum, the hill fort from ancient times and original city.
Old Sarum, the hill fort from ancient times and original city.

It’s incredible! Such a beautiful, and such an English, town. We were able to stay in a beautiful house from the 15th century, with a tiny door and wonky timber roofing. It has been perfectly updated and has one of the best showers I’ve taken in Europe. High pressure. Hot water. Absolutely perfect.

Our medieval room.
Our medieval room.

The city itself was never bombed during the war, which makes it seem so much older and somehow more authentic. In London, many of the old-looking buildings are reproductions. They tried their hardest to rebuild in the exact ways that the medieval buildings looked after the Great Fire (s…there were more than one), the war, the plague, the…roman abandonment. But the straight lines and safe engineering, in clean lines and organised stone, belies the modern. This house was beautifully distorted, making it seem so much more human and historic.

Medieval gate to the cathedral, made with stones moved from Old Sarum
Medieval gate to the cathedral, made with stones moved from Old Sarum
Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

We haven’t yet gotten a real honeymoon. It’s just not on the cards at the moment, with work and transitioning to teaching abroad again, and money issues. But this overnight getaway felt so romantic and special. A perfect mini-moon with the ancient stones!

Have you ever been to Stonehenge? What are some of the places that you felt special energy on your travels? 

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