For the past few years my wife Ann and I have been visiting Neolithic sites in the UK- from the remotest Scottish islands to England and Wales- sometimes on our own, and lately with our English and Welsh friends Carol and Owen, whom we met on Easter Island. So we’ve been traveling the world looking at very old giant mysterious stone things and we just can’t wait for the next adventure. This last visit was to the Welsh island of Anglesey, where Owen’s family has owned land since at least the 1500s. They have a beautiful rustic cottage in the midst of sheep roaming the hills. There are lots of Neolithic sites on Anglesey, and we had a wonderful time roaming around standing stones and burial cairns such as the one pictured below.
Here is a poem inspired a bit by some of the ancient sites in Anglesey, and a bit by a particular site called Maes Howe which we visited on our last trip to Orkney-. It is a structure built into a manmade hill- stone walls covered over with turf and a low stone-lined entrance, opening up into a large, rounded chamber tall enough to stand up inside, once you have crouched or crawled the length of the entryway to get there. It looks very similar to this one, which is in Anglesey. At Maes Howe, there is a moment in winter that everyone waits for- the sun aligns exactly with the entryway to the cairn and the inside is flooded with light. Here is a poem that is at least in part about that phenomenon, and imagining what it must have been like to witness as a Neolithic person and how seeing that stone chamber fill with light must have seemed like magic. It also made me think of being in a movie theater- a darkened chamber with a source of light and drama.
Your Neolithic Life
On the day you are born
a storytelling of rooks
takes flight from the trees above your slate roof
over the low-linteled cairn whose walls
align to winter sun just for an hour’s
respite from endless cold and dark.
We raised these stones to capture the solstice—light
magic is the sacred seed of cinema.
Limestone awash from a single ray—the sun-
filled chamber promises that light will return
with or without you.
The wheel turns another click,
gravity pulls you a few inches closer to the core.
The midwinter sky settles around your shoulders,
in the creases of your palms, in your hair.
You crawl down the rock walled entryway and wait.