Sunday, 11 September 2011

Camster Cairns, September 2011

O, a surpise. A glory sitting on ridges above a boggy field: a round cairn and a long cairn, low doors facing the road, facing the east, gated but inviting. How much has this scene changed in the 5,000 years these cairns have stood here? Distant trees. Those shaggy tough-looking ponies could step across the centuries easily and the dark, wind-rippled lochan over the ridge behind me, might have bathed weary cairn-builders.

The moss came later, I guess. The sphagnum that swallowed the grassy stamping ground plateau in front of the cairns – although the obvious ceremonial spaces are a terrace and steps on the ends of the long cairn and behind it too, where the slope is gentler. The eastern doors, open onto steep slopes that spill down to that dance floor. Well, it was a dance floor for me, capering along the musical xylophone of the wooden boardwalk…

Too much talk, too much thinking! The passageway gates are not locked and visitors are invited to crawl inside…..

            How well did we build for our Dead?
            These stones, so carefully chosen, carefully stacked,
            Hand by hand,
            Muscle, bone and determination.
            A passage, a chamber to face the sunrise
                        Here we rest,
                        Here we lie,
                        Bodies taken by fire and wind
                        Our bones charred to hold memories
                        Not just mine and ours but everyone’s
                        The tale of our people, soaked into our bones
                        Sunk into these stones
                        Stories not told for so many years

            How well do the Dead receive us?
            In these beautiful chambers,
            Rooms that ring with voices, with song, with chanted prayer
            A close tunnel, a crawl under watchful spaces
            Into this room that holds the voices of the Dead
            A cist opened out,
            Stone slabs that hold you, a thrill of contact, of connection
            A place to stop
            To be still in the darkness
            To listen for the sunrise

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