I recently returned from a 3-week trip through Europe. Figured, I might as well put up a couple of the madly jotted notes from my notebook. In no particular order. This comes from the last (or nearly) couple entries.

It had been more than a dozen years since I had last seen Stonehenge, and the impression it made on me then - 15 years old, shivering in the bitterly cold winter wind that ripped across the high plain - had stayed.

It is still magnificent. The stones are jammed into the earth as firmly as if they'd sprouted roots, as though they are the lynchpins of the world, holding it all together atop that fresh green hill. The silently eloquent rough-hewn monoliths stand staggered in their uneven circle like grey-robed, grey-faced giant warlocks gathering to summon forth a beast that will take millennia to come - but surely will, when the time comes.

Crows fly over the stones with an easy familiarity that seems to mock the dutiful orderliness of the tourists who make their way around the English Heritage Site in an unsteady but obedient circle, very like the sheep who graze lazily only a couple dozen yards away, casting bored and smirklike glances at the crowd. Cameras snap, visitors pose with their photo-ready grins incongruous against the stark backdrop - these are, after all, just a bunch of rocks, and who cares how long they have stood here, who cares who willed their presence and why, and how - they are, in the end, just a ring of porous grey rocks, cordoned off from the crowd of nylon-jacketed sight-seekers.

But not even the throngs could detract from the immensity of this spectacle. Not even the clicking of shutters nor the multi-lingual chatter could muddle the powerful aura here.

And, in truth, the crowd was not as noisy as it could have been. For moments, here and there, a hush seemed to come over us, driving us to lower our voices or silence them altogether. For a few moments, we tourists became something like pilgrims, humbled and awed by the indefinable, undeniable greatness of that which we beheld. Our lives, all our experiences, all that we were, all that we had managed to become, to attain - all dwindled into utter insignificance in the face of what these stones had witnessed from their improbable perch. But it never made us feel small, not at all - perhaps that is what we came up there for - to lay the tiny offering of the sum total of ourselves as the foot of History's rocky avatars, to take our place in the flow, as water joins to water, as a tear might fall into an ocean, disappearing but never vanishing - at least, not to the eye that matters.

In the wind that hummed and roared in my ears, I thought I could hear human and animal voices. Whispers, cries, howls, footfalls. There were bones beneath our feet - metaphorically and very literally, for the too-subtle rounded earth mounds here and there around the site are ancient graves.

Who knows what sort of men and women had once moved between these stones? My arms had prickled, hairs standing up as though I were a spooked cat; I suppose this is part of being a "base creature" - retaining that which is animal about us humans.

I wish very much that I could return, someday, on my own, to find time to spend more than a quick half-hour there. It has the strong feeling of being a sacred place. Magic rises off the earth like a heavy fragrance.

From where I sit now, I can see the sun setting, white-gold behind the trees, silhouetting the children against the pale sky. And I wonder, I imagine how the light would stream between the stones, painting them a soft sandy gold before turning them to black, glorifying and sheltering them in this nightly consecration of light, this godliest ritual of repetition.

Perhaps I really am meant to be a pagan of some sort. Is there a ritual that follows the varied, different-paced rhythms of the earth? In the end, it is the only one that would make sense - the only one than would never depend on middle men - the only one that would yield its miracles both generously and reliably.

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