In the cold silence I walked straight up the hill, following the path to the dolmen that seemed to lead to the sky. I listened for sounds but found none other than the wind in my ears, the crunch underfoot and my breathing. A cluster of dark pines on the right and some gnarly oaks ahead stood like sentinels or witnesses.
Alone in the vastness of rolling hills, somewhere before I arrived at the sky, but after I passed the deer tracks, I slipped through time.
I am ancient, of the people who moved through these hills and along the rivers, who spoke to trees and knew the sun.
I am a Wise One who talks to the sky, and reads signs in mosses and mistletoe.
I birth babies and know which lichens heal wounds.
I ride the wind with hawks and run with foxes.
I sing the old ways for you to remember.
My people brought megaliths of granite like the one before me, from another land, beyond the four rivers, beyond the dark woods and the hollow mountain.
We placed them in high places to touch the moon and sun and set our days to their cycle. They told us when to meet the aurochs and the gazelles on their journey.
Here we built fires, danced and rejoiced during the summer solstice but mourned, wailed and feared during the death of the winter sun.
I have loved many times in this dolmen’s shade…
I died here, in its grove of oaks, wrapped in ferns, heather and ivy, gazing at the setting sun.
At the top of the hill, stands the one remaining slab of the dolmen, covered in eons of accumulated moss and lichen skeletons. Too heavy to move, too hard to break, it stands oriented east-west, mysterious, impervious to time, still communing with the sun as it was meant to do, since it was placed there around 2000 BCE.
I touched the stone, stroked it, felt its roughness and pebbly texture. I wanted to read it with my hands, willing its stories to come through my fingers, through the faint humming echo I sensed. I placed my hands over the hands of so many before me, feeling a connection to unnamed ancestors who made this moment possible.
Over a century ago on this spot, altitude 620 meters, a cartographer dreamed the world.
He first mapped out the surrounding hills with their villages and church steeples, and then moved beyond, all the way to the Pyrenees behind Montpellier to the south and Clermont to the east, noting distances and degrees. Then he dreamed bigger:
He saw with the sun’s eyes Cairo, Douala, Cape town, Canberra, Rio, San Francisco, London, Moscow, hundreds of cities calling to him… each, carefully placed in a 360 degree orientation table, the distance from this dolmen, the navel of his world, carefully logged. Standing in the sunlight, I look at what he shows me, this dreamer of long ago who never left home:
I see Lunac close by, whose church usurped a pagan temple. I follow the Viaur River meandering through woods and meadows further down the hill. I stare at the snow topped Pyrenees in the distance, and then turn eastward to Le Puy, the ancient volcano. My eyes drift north and I soon lose my way in the afternoon haze…
Wrapped in a long hooded coat, my shadow looks like she belongs here, like she came home.
I stand in the Navel of the World, in the silence of eternity, at the conjunction of now, dream and memory, and wonder at the texture of time.