Monday, August 3, 2009

The Mystery

I rode out on my bike at sunset, expecting to be disappointed. It was two miles up a hill in a light rain and the darkness was gathering. I remember thinking: most famous places don't come up to brag. Moments later, Stonehenge seemed to materialize out of the night sky, imposing, even in the distance and impossibly exotic. Thunder rumbled through the nearby hills.

Please click on the "night" photo to expand it.

Built 5,000 years ago by neolithic people who left no written records, Stonehenge would have sent an unambiguous message to everyone. It stands alone on a treeless plateau where it dominates the landscape and even the sky above. "If we could go back in time and ask them just one question, said one thoughtful local, it would be: WHY was it built? Every single person alive then would have known the answer--and now nobody knows. It's as though our highway system was discovered thousands of years from now. Why was it built, people might ask. What could it possibly have MEANT?

I'm told that Stonehenge can be a disappointment. At mid day, the tour busses abound and the visitor center across the road buzzes with activity. Happily, all that was gone and I was left with the gathering storm, the rain and the roll of distant thunder. The builders of Stonehenge would have known such moments well. The answer to the eternal question seemed to be right there in front of me...