Maiden, Mother, Crone – Part 2 – Easter Aquhorthies

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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Green Eyed Monster

Image from Wikimedia Commons - Author: Petritap

Image from Wikimedia Commons – Author: Petritap

Another weekend, another article in the paper about a new writer getting a great publishing deal, being touted as ‘the next big thing.’

‘Why not me?’ I think to myself, shuffling the pages resentfully. ‘When will it be my turn? Huh, bet they know someone in publishing, bet they’ve met an agent somewhere, had some lucky break.’

But then I get over it. Because I can’t get all bitter and twisted about somebody else succeeding in my field, I really can’t. So I push the green eyed monster aside and read further into the article and, more often than not, this ‘new’ writer has been working their ass off for years, writing and rewriting, getting rejected, honing their craft until the magnificent moment when they are accepted and published, all the hard work paying off. Sure, there are those who hit it straight out of the park first go, young writers whose brilliance is such they’re picked up by the first agent who spots them, catapulted up the publishing ladder. But they are few and far between and the majority are just like the rest of us, toiling away until they are plucked from obscurity, chosen for the spotlight for a little while.

I was talking with a friend the other day, both of us discussing negative influences in our lives and she told me about a therapy method she’d heard about from another friend.

‘So you imagine a bonfire, and you and the other person who’s bothering you are there…’

‘And then you push them into the bonfire?’

We both laughed then, in that conspiratorial way you do with friends when you know you’re sort of joking but not really. You were actually supposed to talk with the other person across the bonfire, letting them know how you felt about whatever it was they had done to upset you. But I actually quite like the idea of using fire to burn away negative thoughts and energy. Bloodthirsty thoughts aside, the concept of fire as a cleansing entity is not new. Ancient stories reference fire coming from heaven to clear battlefields, taking the bodies up to heaven in a pillar of flame, Australian aborigines used fire to cleanse the landscape, opening it up for rejuvenation. Then there is trial by fire, in which we pass through metaphorical flames to emerge the other side strengthened in some way.

If you’ve ever read Zen In The Martial Arts by Joe Hyams (and if you haven’t I recommend it – you don’t have to be a martial artist to appreciate the lessons it holds), he writes about the late great Bruce Lee and a conversation they had about getting rid of negative thoughts. If something negative entered his mind, Bruce would visualise it as being written on a piece of paper, then would visualise crumpling the paper into a ball and setting it on fire, watching it burn until it was gone, taking the thought with it.

So I read on, taking my jealous thoughts and writing them down on that sheet of paper in my mind, burning them up and letting them go, grey ash floating in a metaphorical wind, knowing I cannot become upset or jealous when others get what I desire. For if all of a sudden there were no new voices, no new ideas to appreciate, then I would worry. It’s a great thing that there are always new writers coming up, being talked about, being promoted. Because it means they’re still giving out turns. Maybe next time, it will be mine.