From Avebury to Stonehenge.........from awe to saddness

I was "itching" to get to Avebury, but it exceeded my wildest dreams, Stonehenge, on the other hand made me feel sad. Many of my 'in the know' friends told me to make sure I visited Avebury, that I'd never want to leave......and they were right. As soon as I saw the stone circle, I could feel my heart expanding. I know this sounds terribly "new agey" and you will all expect me to come home now with dreadlocks and bare feet, but I've got to tell you, those stones are awesome! Not only was I so aware of being connected to them, but they lead you along, from one to another. It's like they are a giant family and each individual stone is unique in it's own right, but predominantly, part of the "whole".........I guess they are a fine example of "holism" (so that makes perfect sense to me). Once I entered the circle, I felt myself drawn to each stone in turn and the wonderful thing about Avebury is that you can touch the stones, sit against them and just BE with them...........there's no electric fence, no guards with whistles, just you and the stones. It's like a kind of pilgrimage. As you walk from one stone to the next, the ground gently undulates and so you feel like you are travelling a time honored path, in the company of ancient wisdom.

Again I found it interesting that although there was a fair few people there, I seemed to be journeying in some sort of vortex and the people around me were quiet and reverent, like they were in a church, and I guess we all were.

I realised as I was walking along, quietly connecting with each of the stones in turn, that this circle not only represented ancient spirituality, but also intimately linked with my interest in arts in healthcare. You may think I'm drawing a long bow here, but bear with me. To the ancients, I imagine these stones provided a spiritual ritual, I could easily see ancient people walking along as I was, approaching each stone individually, connecting with it, disengaging when they were ready and then being drawn to the next one. Like we should be doing with each other, our patients, our friends, our family......being truly "in the present" with each individual and then disengaging and replicating the same process with the next person with whom we engage. While we are in that space of being truly "with" someone, we are asking "Who are you?" and allowing them to share themselves with us. We seem to find so little time for this in our busy lives. I also understood that the stones are works of art, embedded in the landscape (and this is where the "arts in healthcare" bit comes in). If we can embed art into health environments we give people "permission" to just BE in a space, to get to know themselves, to sit in their individuality and to appreciate themselves for who they are, without guilt or regret or jealousy............we seem to have lost this and I think it's about time we learned something from those who came before us.................

It was with great reluctance that I left Avebury after visiting Avebury Manor, with it's beautifully manicured gardens and the village with it's thatched roof cottages and little shops. But I must tell you about the grove of ancient trees that the pagans still visit on May Day to tie prayer ribbons to. I walked up the incline to where the three huge trees are and I felt like I was in 'Middle Earth', The trees are HUGE and VERY old and look like I imagined Tolkien's "Tree Beard" to look. Again I was overwhelmed by the beauty and spirit of the trees. They seemed to have faces and personalities, each again individual, but part of a whole. I spent quite some time just standing under their embracing branches looking up into their canopies feeling so very luck to be there right at that moment, and I know they were glad to have me there!

I'll finish this entry with a short word on Stonehenge. I'd planned to get there at dusk so I could see the sun sink behind this iconic, ancient structure. Parking was difficult as the roadside was packed. The stones are surrounded by tennis court fencing and there are security guys everywhere, watching the numerous mini buses and camper vans parked beside adjacent paddocks with eager folks just waiting for an opportunity to bolt over the fences and enter the site. There's a concrete tunnel from the carpark, under the road that leads to the entry and this is the only official way of getting in, but even so, unless you have a special permit, you can't enter the circle. I stood by the side of the road as a crowd of people jostled for position to take the best photo, tripods, long distance lenses, ipods and mobile phones in hand. I stayed well back from them all and just looked towards the stones and I felt like I do when I go to the zoo and look at the gorillas. These huge majestic creatures, circled by wire, people laughing, yelling, elbowing each other out of the made me feel sad. I understand why the wire and the guards need to be there because for some reason the people who visit here just "want a piece" of Stonehenge in one way or another, and it needs to be protected, but I couldn't help but compare the people here with the respectful people I saw at Avebury. Here there was no reverence,no spirit, no awe..........just a whole stack of people wanting to get the best photo and I think years of this has 'sucked' the energy from the place. Now, the druids might disagree with me, but it felt to me like a church that had been desecrated and we should be ashamed that we have allowed that to happen.

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