The air didn’t vibrate. I didn’t feel anything in the center of my chest shift. My fingers didn’t even tingle a little the way they do when I’m bordering on excitement.
Nope, when I visited Stonehenge, I didn’t feel anything. In fact, if anything the place felt depleted, used up, hollowed out.
Our coach unloaded in the parking lot next to lots of other buses, and we – a group of American students – walked through the tunnel up to the circle. I don’t remember much beyond that – a wax-coated yellow rope that herded us around the stones like cattle, two Texans shouting into cellphones across the circle, boredom. And disappointment.
I had expected magic here, something ancient, vibrant, something that caused the breath at the back of my throat to swell.
Nothing. We climbed back into the bus and moved on.
I was done for the day, this place – this place that I had read about and dreamed out in some corner of my imagination in every word about England – it was dry. And so was I.
But our director Peter had another stop for us, and I was a good student, so I didn’t complain. Just stared out the window at the A345 as we whipped through eastern England.
We pulled into Avebury, and without even looking, I felt it – that mystical energy that I had been seeking. I don’t know quite how to explain it. . . except to say that it’s akin to the way I feel at the end of a night with friends when the conversation has been deep and easy. Or in relaxed prayer.
This morning, I read from Emily Rapp’s powerful memoir about the life and death of her infant son Rowan – Still Point of the Turning World – and she spoke of myth, of stories passed down with gaps for others to fill. I read from Preston Yancey’s Tables in the Wilderness about the lost city of Atlantis and Plato and the way stories are the way we carry life through generations. I felt something vibrate in me with their words, as if each of their books was a stone set at just the right place to tingle with my own electric magnetic pulse.
It’s not often that this energy comes alive for me anymore. I’m too busy, too dedicated to my lists, too focused on “doing.” In college, I was much deeper about my intention, about the ways I gave my time, about the places I filled myself, and there, then, the energy tingled in me constantly. I was naive, and I was beautiful, and I was alive.
I could skip the naivete now. But the tingling aliveness, I’m always working to get back to there, then.
Now, I work that out in stories, in words on pages, cycles of the tales I tell myself from my life, of the fables and legends and myths that are the lives of others. All of us winding back into each other again and again. Each of our lifetimes a stone in a ring that vibrates with the power of shared words.
Our stories are mystical, magical, an Avebury of words. The best ones don’t come in the ways we expect, in the places we have laid out with wax-covered yellow rope to mark the way.
Nope, mystery always comes unexpected, unplanned, for that is it’s nature. It’s magic.
I don’t know what I felt in Avebury that day. And I don’t need to know.
I wandered amongst the stones and let my hand flit toward them, not touching but feeling their rough strength nonetheless. I stood in their midst and let their power wash through me like lightening made into tiny, invisible volts of mystery.
I feel that energy building into me again now – in this slower, more intentional way I am rebuilding my existence – and it feels like it’s vibrating into the very center of myself – the place between my shoulder blades, in the space that hovers between my sternum and my spine. The place of stories.
I don’t expect magic or miracles. . . but I do expect hope and words. Strung together, they are miracle and magic all their own.
When do you feel the magic of life in yourself? What places or experiences bring that out?