It was summer fifteen years ago that my son and I went on a road trip. He had just turned sixteen and had gotten his drivers license only a few weeks before, so we decided that it should be a real journey, going from Idaho west to the ocean, then north to Canada, then working our way back home. It was, for him, a rite of passage. We spent the last night in Waterton Park in Canada. The next morning we were driving off, following the road that emerges from the high mountains of the park onto the great plains. I was behind the wheel and I saw a turnoff to the side of the road. We had just begun the day and there was no reason to stop, but I felt a strong attraction to that turnoff and the small overlook that was there. I continued on for maybe five minutes. The entire time I thought of the turnoff and could not release it from my mind. Finally, I turned around and drove back. We stopped the car there at the overlook, got out and went to the only obvious place to stand. I say obvious, but I cannot say that it was obvious at all. At the spot was a small sign, placed by Canada Parks. The sign informed us that this was a place where young men of the Blackfoot tribe would come alone to begin a vigil overnight into the wilderness—a rite of passage. I was strongly moved by the last sentence on the sign; it said that the Blackfoot still use this place for this purpose, and their ongoing usage was approved by treaty. I stood there with my son, feeling a magnetic attraction that was intense. It was so strong that it was hard for me to actually turn around and walk back to the car. Finally we drove off, heading home, not speaking for a long, long time.
 
I went to Egypt years ago, along with my wife and two very dear friends. We saw so many wonderful things, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the tombs of the kings and the very special temple of Abydos. But one experience will stand out for the rest of my life, an experience felt by all of us. We had been given permission to visit a very small shrine, perhaps the size of a large bedroom, made of solid stone. At the far end was a statue of the goddess Sekhmet, illuminated by a shaft of light coming through an opening in the roof. All four of us stopped, feeling a force of palpable strength that was beyond our experience. After thousands of years there was an energy, a force, a substance that defied description. It was not as though we spoke about it and decided intellectually that something was there. We said nothing. We said nothing, yet we all felt the same thing.
 
I have visited several mosques and cathedrals over the years. All were inspirational. But one only, the cathedral at Chartres in France, brought me to an experience of something else, an experience of something present, not supernatural or strange in any obvious way, but a sense that the space in and even the space around the cathedral was filled with some subtle material. There was a density there. Like the shrine of Sekhmet and the overlook at the meeting of the plains and the mountains of the Blackfoot, Chartres was filled completely with something that I cannot describe.
 
The three places had no obvious similarity. One, constructed thousands of years ago in Egypt. One constructed in the Middle Ages by the Christian church. And one not constructed at all, but a space in the wilderness. I do not have any answers about this, only questions. What is the nature of this substance that seems to be present there in each case? Why does it linger? Why there, and not somewhere else where people have tried similar activities?
 
I do suspect one thing, which I hesitate to put forth, for I don’t at all know. And that is that the people involved did not create this quality of vivification at these places through their efforts. Rather, through their efforts the spaces slowly came to be more permeable, as though some outer shell was chiseled away, leaving only the appearance of a barrier between this world and I know not what, so that something else might appear. And perhaps that work of making a place available to something I cannot name is something that is needed, and something that only humans can do. And perhaps in these times, so desperate, this activity is needed more than ever. What I do know is that I take for granted almost everything in this world almost all the time. And then, without any expectation….

 
 

6 Comments

  1. There is a space beyond time and knowing,I want to be there; maybe you (all) will be there when I arrive. I hope so.

  2. Dennis that was absolutely beautifully expressed. I have felt this mystique as well and places, thank you for helping me circle back to them with a humble heart.🙏🏼

  3. Thank you very much Lindy. It seems that the perception of these special places is in and of itself a movement towards a kind of awakening, I think. Best wishes.

  4. And so it shall be, inshallah.

  5. I have read this post several times, becoming emersed in the pure feeling or awareness of another dimension available to us humans. It evokes a longing in me. To perhaps connect with an energy from another space and time.

  6. Thank you very much, Gaea. We begin with the longing, then through effort and discernment, we can together create something that we cannot do alone. The wish you describe is very much the necessary precondition, isn’t it? Be well, Dennis

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