Friday, February 23, 2007

The defiant Mountain

We had been searching for a circle of standing stones somewhere not far from Trecastell. According to the map, there was one three miles south of the village. We just had to find the Roman road, and then take a track across the mountain. Easy-peesy!

Five miles back down the road, we had passed protesters camped in the path of the giant gas pipeline that was gouging its way rapidly across rural Wales. As we drove, we caught glimpses of groups of engineers in the distance, measuring and calculating, making ready the red earth to be ripped apart, backs bowed against the driving rain.

Several false turns later, we found the road. We drove through waterlogged ruts and potholes, newly carved into the red mud by something heavy and determined. On the hillside, pink sheep lumbered about damply.

The sky was low over the mountainside as we drew up by a gate. A friendly engineer pointed the way over the mountain in the direction of the standing stones. Archaeologists were digging all around the site, charting the history hidden in the soil before allowing the pipeline through. I climbed under a large plastic cape and began to troop across the mud.

The mountain was flat topped, like a huge defiant fist. We marched stoically and stickily across her knuckles, struggling to keep our balance in the quagmire. The rain drove on.

There seemed to be a time to stop, a point when the land banked gently. The ridge of tuffety grass was firmer. We stood and the PHD described the view.

Below us, a U shaped lake lay grey under the slate sky. All around, mountains hid their heads in the clouds. Dotted cross the hillside, small clusters of archaeologists, tiny as ants crawled carefully across the mountain’s belly. Where they were digging, red gashes appeared amongst the grey green.

Steadying myself, I began to cast the circle. I called to the energy of the land, the spirit of the mountain and to all who reverenced her. I called to the hooved ones, the crawling ones, the flying ones and the ones who swam in the water below. The wind tossed the soft shushing of the rattle and the stronger tones of the drum into the air and a flock of starlings began to circle above us.

The land was filled with people. They processed slowly, following each other without noise. It seemed that each stepped in the footsteps of the one who went before, for the earth was precious to them. Under then, the earth rocked gently as though rocking herself to sleep.

Breathing into the red earth, I opened my chest and let out a peon, a war cry against the desecration, a cry for the mother that is the mountain being dissected and probed in preparation for a savage renting that might take years to heal. I howled my protest at her violation and the PHD drummed faster and faster, joining her voice with mine as we keened into the swirling wind driven rain.

The beat slowed and I found words. I sang them out, roaring my rage, casting my appeal out to the sky, the land and the wind.

“Let not the earth bleed, let her blood red soil be whole.”

On the wind, a crow cawed; the drum and rattle beat like protesting wings. We danced upon the soaking grass and the mountain held us. The beat slowed and we became still, our voices quietened till they were nothing but silent breath. The energy returned to the waiting mountain. We were done, the circle was opened. We walked back slowly to the car.

Exchanging pleasantries with the engineer by the gate, we asked where the pipeline would go. He said that it would not go through the stones but across the mountain, pointing at the place where we had worked.


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