We had to go back in. Quite why, we weren’t sure. But, apart from anything else, there was a profound sense of gratitude. And for what? A few strange photographs that could probably be explained away? There was more to it than that, though, much more. Nothing we could explain, nothing we even understood right then. It was something intangible, an intimation of something on the edge of realisation. That would come later. Thinking with the head wouldn’t explain what we had felt. And anyway, thought appeared to have gone walkabout.
As the golden light faded, we went back into the chamber, both of us feeling an impulse to leave a token offering. There were shells and quartz dotted all through the stones… I had white stones in my bag. The bag was back at the car. My pockets were almost empty, my companion’s not much better though he did find a few useful things.
We could, though, offer smoke. Incense is burned as an offering in many cultures, so are tobacco and herbs. Ned, our American friend, had taught us something of the way the Native Americans used smoke… and we watched as it swirled, ephemeral shapes forming and unravelling in the light. It was the light that would later alert us to how ‘baffled’ we had been at the site. Our amazement had effectively mazed us. We had been watching the patch of light on the slab behind the pillar, wondering how long it would take to reach it and if it would light up the shaft of stone. It was not until much later that we realised we had both already photographed the pillar, with the light full on it, when we had first entered the chamber on arrival. The light was moving the other way. It had to… and, we realised much later still, had we waited long enough, the almost-midwinter sun would have shone straight down the passage.
There is something about these sites that seems to ‘work’ on a threefold level. Even on autopilot, we responded to that unconsciously. Smoke, a small, golden shell collected the day before on the beach…and the candle we had been given. We could offer light for light. We would not leave the candle in its metallic case, but we could light it. There is a particular quality to candlelight… and for us it is always intimately associated with something deeper. It would be a perfect symbol.
Except, it looked puny. We both felt that too. “Like the knife scene in Crocodile Dundee.” We left it burning for a minute or two and extinguished the flame. Then there was the unspoken agreement…it was time to leave. With a last look, we left the chamber. A young woman had arrived and was walking around the mound, like a guardian. We left in silence, knowing how fortunate we had been to have the place to ourselves. Knowing how blessed we had been to have experienced what we had yet to begin to understand. Yet still the visit had one, final gift for us. As we reached the car, a great white egret, something so rare here that we had never before seen one, looked at us from the stream and slowly, majestically took flight. An indisputable moment of pure magic.
That’s not a light….
This is a Light!