October 1, 2008

You CAN go home again. Part 4

Somewhat reluctantly, I left the Atlantic coast and drove west to Mystery Hill (otherwise known as America’s Stonehenge). It’s an interesting place of overlapping cultures and features a variety of ancient and not-so-ancient stone cairns, circles, and standing stones – some of which (apparently) date back thousands of years. I visited years ago, when the site was a hodgepodge of stones, but in the last few years, the site has undergone some serious development. No one quite knows who did what here, but the current administrators of the place are trying (too) hard to make a case for its being the result of Viking, even Phoenician or some other Old World influence. What is known is that the site had some significance for ancient Indigenous American culture(s) and I suspect that significance had sacred aspects, but whatever ‘sacredness’ exists there now seems buried under supposition and interpretation. Still, it’s interesting and the current curator is charming in his obsessive fervour. I can’t help but love a good obsessive...it’s in my blood. I spent the evening listening to Don Severence (an old friend) play a music gig at a local restaurant. Don’s a true original: he’s always managed to make a living from his music, mainly because he carefully constructs his lifestyle around how much he was willing to work and how much he was willing to do without. He was the first adult I’d ever met who lived well, but wasn’t yoked to a mortgage, tied to a job, overworked, or the blissfully unaware recipient of a trust fund. He makes his own living and seems to know better than anyone just how little he really needs in order to have - happily -enough. It also bears saying here that Don is an excellent musician (guitarist, singer-songwriter) and in the 15 or so years since I last heard him play, he’s only gotten better. I’d say, his is the sweetest guitar since Mark Knopfler (and I luuuurv, Mark Knopfler). We had a great rapid-fire chat between sets. I hadn’t told him I was coming, but he didn’t seem all that surprised to see me: It’s always sort of been my place in Don’s life to occasionally drop out of the sky and then disappear again. Seems I’ve done it again.
The next morning I headed back up to Concord to go to Sunnycrest, my all-time favourite orchard for some crisp, juicy sweet-tart Mackintosh apples. I haven't had a Mac since leaving New Hampshire and there's no apple that comes close to matching them for apple-perfection. Ed, Max and I used to go to Sunnycrest nearly every Saturday during the Fall - to buy our week's supply of apples and cider. Saturday afternoon was often spent making (Ed's favourite) apple crisp...and once a year, a big batch or apple butter (yummy yummy). On the way I looked for the the funky little house on Lakeview Drive where Ed and I first lived when we came east from Arizona. The house had been built in the 1930s by a man who had been a fan on Frank Loyd Wright and featured tall walls of windows, a beautiful fieldstone fireplace and an open plan layout. I loved it even though it was falling apart. Much to my dismay, the house was no longer there, but had been replaced by a nondescript boxlike thing. I held my breath and drove on towards Sunnycrest - hoping it was still there.
Happily, it was - now renamed Gould Hill Orchards - and the current manager told me that it was almost sold off to developers about 10 years ago and replaced by a housing development. I shudder to think of what would have happened to those beautiful rows and rows of trees. I bought my cider and apples and took pictures of the rope swing Max used to love.I went on to the Mt Kearsage Indian Museum which features (amongst other pieces) the extensive personal collection of artifacts acquired over a lifetime by Charles 'Bud' and Nancy Thompson. The museum displays are particularly well laid out: the overall floorplan forms a circular path through the displays which are organised into groups - northeast woodland, plains, south-west and pacific north-west. Each display has a lovely and quiet layout – without an overabundance of labels and legends telling you what to think and what to pay attention to. There were only a few, very quietly informative videos at key points as introductions to various cultures: Navajo, Plains; etc. I was impressed.

Before entering the exhibition space, visitors are invited to view a film....which began with the words of Chief Sachem Silver Star of the Connecticut Pequot tribe describing what the circle means in Pequot spirituality. He`said that the circle is the most sacred symbol: it connects each of us to everything else. If you find your place within the circle, you find where you belong (my emphasis). The circle defines your place, purpose and position. With those words, the circle/sun symbol in my glyph designs began to make sense and took on deeper meaning. Sachem Silver Star also said that everyone is given a talent and it is our duty to use it in order to leave the world a better place than it would have been without us.
As luck would have it, there was a special collection on exhibit titled Made of Thunder, Made of Glass, which featured the beadwork collection and paintings of Vermont artist, Gerry Biron. Gerry's paintings are highly detailed portraits based on actual 19th & 20th century photographs of natives, dressed in their native clothing. The original images were used - mostly - to create 'exotic' souvenir postcards and depict a standard 'noble savage' sensibility. I was particularly draw to one painting, then realised that behind the female subject there was a crow. I was further startled when I read the legend and found that it was a portrait of the artist's great-grandmother: a woman named Clarissa who was Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia! Even though I'd seen everything there was to be seen, I wasn’t ready to leave the museum – so I went outside to take a walk along their native plants/forest trails. It was a lovely place – a typical northern New England woodland filled with birch, pine, oak, beech and maple. I was thrilled, as well to come upon some sweet fern! At last. Halfway around the trail, I was greeted by an older man who turned out to be the museum’s founder Charles Bud Thompson. He asked me if I had time to sit and chat for a while (of course! Some of the best experiences of this journey have come about because I took time to sit and chat!) We talked about his collection and I told him how impressed I was with the museum. He asked me where I was from and why I had come to visit and I told him a bit about my research. Then he asked me if I’d come home with him to meet his wife Nancy. It turns out that she was responsible for the wonderful design of the museum's exhibition space and Bud thought she'd enjoy hearing from me how highly I regarded it. We went together to his house and the three of us sat and talked and shared ideas about life and the world. At one point, I was raving to them both about Max - about how wise, thoughtful, clear, creative, strong, kind-hearted, intelligent and loving he is - and Bud smiled at me and said, “Sounds like the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.” He then said that he wanted to give me something and handed me a box full of arrowheads. He told me to choose one to take with me, so I chose a lovely stone pierced with a hole (not an arrowhead). Bud said that I should keep that one, but also to choose another, an arrowhead this time – so I did. When it was time to go, Bud took me back to the museum and along the way, told me that several years ago he had been given four 800-1000 yr-old blue corn seeds that had been found inside a pot shard in NM. He was advised to plant the seeds and 3 of the 4 kernels germinated! He has since replanted the corn crop every year and given 4 corn kernels to a number of people. It has been successfully planted all over the world. He said that he wanted me to have some – to plant in Australia - along with a little book that tells the story of the discovery of the shard, the 4 original kernels and what has happened since. He then told me a final story: He said that he’d once met an older man - a famous psychologist - who’d said to him that we are each the sum total of our experiences plus the influence of the people we choose as our heroes. I think he's right.

I left the museum and drove back towards Pembroke. I suddenly knew I needed to do something about our old house and the gentrified field. I could imagine that if it was unrecognisable to me (in its physical manifestation) it might also be unrecognisable to Ed (in its metaphysical one). And somehow I think that as soon as I saw our field replaced by a lawn, I knew that Ed's spirit was stuck there, confused that the place wasn't right and we weren't there. I didn't know if his spirit needed to find its way to me, but it certainly felt likely that it would need to find Max. So I decided to build him a trail of stones...from Pembroke to Fremantle. I selected a large piece of quartz and threw it on to the edge of the field, while saying out loud, "This stone is for you, Ed. Come back to us. Come back to us. Come back to us." As I drove away, I realised that we would also need to place a stone there from home - from Fremantle - to make the trail complete. In a temporary measure, until Max or I or both of us can get back here, I decided to ask George and Janet if they'd be willing to place a stone at the Pembroke house for us.

I went back to George and Janet’s for the night. I asked them to help build our trail of stones. They readily agreed. (George, Janet & I have a long history of doing rituals together and Mickey-Michael-Mike is the result...but that's another story...involving a birth goddess...that some of you may remember) It felt good to be ‘home’.

4 comments:

ibu kate said...

You often talk about how the places of your past (or your perceptions of those places)change but the people of your past are still the same in spirit and character.

The past few days I've started the day by reading your blog. Wonderful!

Katie and Emir said...

So magical, this journey you're on. Thanks for the beautiful pendant Sandy. Tonight when I get home I will write about the significance of arrows if that's ok? Do you know about them?

Katie and Emir said...

So arrow asks you to find the truth in your present situation. It also represents brotherhood. armour yourself with the good intent and truthfulness of those you wish to associate with. Drop those who no longer honour your path or truth. Arrow is always straight and says "Stay on the Sacred Path".

does that make any sense? xx k

21st Century Pilgrim's Progress said...

Indeed it does. Thanx.