I realise that Wednesday is usually my day to wander. However, I’m also writing up my weekend with The Silent Eye. So, I’m combining the two and taking a wander to Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle, near Inverurie, Scotland, for the second part of my experience.‘I must be insane,’ I thought to myself. I was standing in the centre of a stone circle on a Scottish hillside, near-horizontal rain and hail hitting the back of my jacket like millions of ball bearings. My hands were frozen and I could feel that my waterproof trousers were not living up to their name. And yet… even though I knew the rest of the group were as cold and saturated, if not more so, than I was, none of us made any move to leave. It was one of those moments that defies explanation. And yet, wasn’t that what I was there for, after all? …
A hour or so earlier I’d walked into a shop, glad to get inside. The weather had alternated between rain and sort-of-rain as I’d made the ten-minute walk into the town centre, and I was glad I’d put on my wet weather gear before leaving the hotel.
A small sign directed me into the café where I’d be meeting the group of companions, and I entered to see I was almost the last to arrive, a table full of smiling faces greeting me. A warm hug from Sue and several other companions I’d met on my last Silent Eye weekend, and then I was introduced to the rest of the group.
And so the connections continued. I knew Running Elk from blogland, so it was nice to meet him in person. It was also a pleasure to meet his wife and her daughter, who happened to be Canadian. ‘Where are you from?’ I asked, having lived many years in Canada myself. ‘Oh, just outside Toronto,’ came the answer. I smiled. I knew that answer well, as it was one I made myself whenever I was asked where I’d lived when I was there. ‘I went to high school in––‘ I answered, and the shock in both their faces was profound. ‘That’s where we’re from!’ It was a wonderful extra layer to the weekend, and led to a lot of reminiscing.
But first, we were to be taken to the first stop on the tour. Running Elk had planned the weekend, so Sue, Stuart and Steve were as much in the dark as the rest of us as to where we were going to go. We piled into cars and headed out of town, following the (somewhat vague) directions we’d been given. The weather ranged between rain and clear, small patches of blue visible among the grey clouds overhead. Not the best outlook for a weekend we would be spending mostly outdoors, but it wasn’t going to stop us from exploring.
Heading along a private road, the land rising to either side of us, we eventually pulled in to a small car park. A track led away from it into fields bounded by low stone walls and lines of trees, the landscape opening up around us as we neared the stone circle we’d come to visit, Easter Aquhorthies.
The circle is a recumbent type, one of only a few remaining complete, and the name Aquhorthies comes from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning ‘field of prayer.’ Recumbent refers to the large red granite monolith lying on one side, a feature unique to this type of stone circle.
We wandered up the muddy track and through the gate. Upon entry, our guide invited us to enter the circle, and find a place where we felt comfortable. I skirted the outside at first but, as I passed the huge recumbent stone, the one just beyond seemed to call to me.
…‘stay with me, I’ll protect you’ The stone offered shelter and, as I stood in front of it, I felt a warmth on my back, like sunshine, or a hug, or the heat from a fireplace. Welcoming. There was no other stone for me…
Once we’d all found our stones, we listened as our guide explained the significance of each one, the alignments in land and sky. I turned to look beyond my stone, and saw a pointed mountain in the distance, the peak disappearing then reappearing in the swirling mists and cloud, like a mirage of a lost land.
Our guide beckoned us into the centre, to stand in a smaller circle around him. I was loath to leave the protection of my stone; the rain, which had been mizzling and drizzling since we’d entered the circle, had increased in intensity, as had the wind. However, it was time to join the others so I stepped away from ‘my’ stone and went to join them. By this point the weather had picked up to storm level and, as we stood there in howling wind and near horizontal rain and hail, straining to hear what he was saying, I must say I doubted my sanity. Yet, at the same time, there was no great desire to leave. The dog of one of our companions, who looked around at us all from time to time with a wonderful expression of doubt, sat still in the wet grass, waiting for whatever we silly humans were doing to finish.
… we were a group, a circle within a circle, listening, no matter what the weather threw at us…
Eventually, there came a point where even our guide had had enough, the wild weather turning blue denim black and filling shoes and pockets with water, even waterproofs not enough to withstand its force. The decision was made to go and so we did, making our way along the muddy track back to the cars.
By the time we got there, only a few minutes later, the sky was showing patches of blue once more.
Later, after warm showers and a change of clothes, we all met for dinner, a convivial evening where we laughed about the afternoon’s events, the weather seeming to most of us to have been a test of sorts. Whether we had passed or not, would be decided when we returned the following day. But there were other sites to visit first…
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Ye gods, but we were wet 🙂 But you are right, no-one wanted to leave… and that’s what I have just written for my own post on that first vist 🙂
It’s one of the things I enjoyed so much about the weekends I’ve attended – the group experience, where so many of us feel/see/think the same thing. It’s so interesting…
Like minds… in the real sense, perhaps.
🙂 I think so
I used to have a dog that from when she was a pup would curl up under my chair whenever our group journeyed between the worlds. When we all came back and were recounting our stories to each other, she would look right at the woman speaking, and we all knew she understood every word. 🙂
That’s so very beautiful – what a lovely image you paint. Dogs are wonderful creatures, aren’t they? The one on the weekend with us was patient and quiet, despite the weather and the fact she often had to sit around and wait for us. Like you, I think she knew what was going on 🙂
At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python sketch… the ‘rain-storm’ at East Auqorthies was minor compared to the one experienced by Sue and I, when we were trialling the meditation at the Gardom Stone for the Derbyshire Living Land Workshop ‘Circles Beyond Time’. It didn’t really occur to us at that point that it could be anything other than ‘random’ weather… Doh!
D’oh! Indeed! Is that the same trip where the troll pushed (or pulled) you into the water? That was a powerful landscape…
Pushed and pulled, must remember to take him some more liqourice… Gardom was the standing stone and carved stone we visited on the Saturday morning. Carl Wark was Friday evening…
Oh, I remember Carl Wark – ravens and blue and cloth of gold… And I remember Gardom for different reasons…
‘Twas nothing more than a Scotch mist, Helen… 😉
Ah, one of those gentle Scottish mists I’ve heard so much about… 😀
Indeed! You should see it when it rains! 😀
I must come back up for rainy season then 😉
It sounds magical and the warmth from you all comes across Helen, even with the weather… xX
Thanks, Jane – it really was a magical place and weekend 🙂
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I have big rocks in my garden. You shoulda popped in for a coffee and a lollop 🙂
Aw, I should have! I think I’ll be up that way again at some point, so will take you up on that offer 🙂
Oh and you would not believe what was in Inverurie today – it freaked me right out!
What was it? OMG the suspense
Are you on Facebook? Look me up and I’ll ad you. My surname is not McSteveface it rhymes with McPherson 🙂
I am! I’ll look you up now 🙂
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I always think when something like that happens that you are being tested, to see if you are worthy. I know it sounds daft, but too many times things like that have happened on my way to somewhere special. It seems random at the time, but afterwards I always wonder… Mind you, I do have a fertile writer’s imagination!
Oh, I would agree with you – it certainly felt like a test! And quite a few of us there wondered if that was the case. Certainly when we returned to the circle a second time it seemed as though, maybe, we’d passed? 🙂
Well that’s interesting. You probably had. 😊
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I’m well behind with these, Helen, but intend to catch up over the next day or two. Always intrigued by the idea that you find a place (or stone) at which you feel comfortable standing. And I mean intrigued in a good way.
Thanks, Graeme – it was interesting, the way the stones sort of ‘reached out’. The one at Easter Aquhorthies especially felt lovely 🙂
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What a fantastic place for a retreat. The stones conjure up images of druids and magic. Mm….
Definitely magical, Kev! 🙂
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