Friday, January 28, 2011

New year, new adventures...

On the first weekend of the year we decided to take a little field trip--both as a way of taking advantage of the last couple "Christmas break" days and as a way of setting the tone for the things we want to do as a family this year. (One of our goals is to take trips, even short ones around Ohio, to places we like and places we've been wanting to see...)

So our first trip of the year was to the Great Circle Mound in Newark, Ohio. Did you know that central Ohio has some of the oldest and most important mounds built in North America? I sure didn't, at least before a few years ago. (Just a mile down the road is the Octagon Earthworks, which has been made into a golf course. Don't ask. The most amazing discoveries are being made about that place--about how it aligns not with a solar calendar but a lunar one... I'll write about that another time...)

(Here's a view from one section of the wall that people are allowed to stand on top of, near the entrance...)

The Great Circle Mound is gigantic. Its entrance is aligned to the east (just like many native structures through time, down to today), and at its center is a mound shaped a bit like an arrowhead or cross with its arms tilted down, so that the center mound points east.

(This oak stands near the center mound...)

(I like to look up into its branches!)

Nowadays there are trees inside the circle--my favorites are the gigantic oaks--though archeologists say there probably would not have been when it was in use. There's lots of discussion and disagreement about how the Great Circle Mound functioned--a meeting place, a place to do ceremonies, a place to trade, etc. And the archeological findings are ambiguous. No one right story seems to be emerging about it.

(Another view of the walls... Some people speculated at first that the structure was for defense, but that doesn't make much sense with the trenches on the INside...)

And yet when you're there, you feel its power. It was an important place. And is.

Several groups are trying to have the Earthworks added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites--as a way to protect them and increase awareness about their significance. (The Ohio Historical Society has charge of caring for several of the nominated sites now, and of course, like most other things Ohio, their budget has been decimated the past few years.)

We always take tobacco with us and make an offering on our way in. And then we walk around in it. And something odd happens with time and space...

I think I've read somewhere that you could fit four football fields inside the circle. The earthen walls that form the circle must be a least 12 or 14 feet high. The place is absolutely giant. It dwarfs the giant oaks. And it was built by hand.

(Okay, to see how giant this oak is, look for me on the bottom left, giving the tree a hug...)

(... and yet those same trees look small in the circle... here's a little section of the curved wall...)

I noticed on this trip that when Patrick or Dexter would walk out on their own, within what seemed like only a few seconds they looked tiny, far away.

And time just sort of disappeared, on this visit. The world seemed to fall away from our attention. The Great Circle is surrounded by highways, and yet you can't hear the cars when you're inside it.

It seemed like we were in there for maybe 10 minutes, just walking around and saying hello to the trees, looking at the sky, exploring. And when we emerged, we found that an hour had gone by.

(There's a small "garden" there of native Ohio plants; this one is milkweed, whose stems provided the ancient people with fiber to make string and rope. Is it a surprise that I seek out--and find--fiber sources everywhere I go?)

One of my favorite memories of being at the mound was when I attended a conference about the similarities between the mounds in Newark, Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramids in Mexico. A group of Aztec dancers came, people who dance as a form of praying at the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon in Mexico. We danced with them, and the heavens opened and poured down rain on us, and we kept on dancing. I talked with a man who's danced inside Stonehenge at the solstice. It was a magical time!

So our little family started the year at a magical place, giving thanks for the people who have walked this land before us, asking for strength to face our challenges and mindfulness to notice beauty and peace.

I'm sure we'll be back before too long. May you find magical places where you live!



  1. This sounds amazing, truly amazing.

  2. I saw a special on those earthwork mounds not too long ago. On History Channel or the Science Channel or Discovery network -- one of those "I'm a total geek" channels I like to watch. I had no idea they were there. I think there are some other earthen mounds in Mississippi as well.

    My theory is that when the Druids finished up with Stonehenge, they decided to head over here and build a summer place. Who doesn't love a nice earthen mound, right?

  3. Hee hee--a summer mound. :)

    I need to read more about Cahokia, which they might have mentioned on those shows; it was a place that rivals the pyramids in modern-day Mexico, but in the 19th century some folks decided to tear it all up. *shudder* There are mounds all over North America!

    We watch some of those channels, too. But some of their shows--esp. the ones that suggest all the amazing things in the western hemisphere were built by ALIENS from outer space--really drive me crazy...

  4. great post..but um..."ancient people"??? :))

  5. Well, I'm referring to the stuff made by the folks who were in the Ohio area about 5000 years ago. But of course people still make fiber with milkweed stalks! You are right, that's kind of misleading. :)

    Given my fiber addiction, I think it's funny that I'm always finding stuff like that wherever I go. :)