Etching by the Ice People
The silence of the forest can often be a wonderfully deafening place – not just the crows and the chipmunks but the sounds of the stream as it joins another – a reunion of water that maybe met in the clouds above days before the downpour or maybe they were together in the same puddle eons ago before being lapped up by a saber toothed tiger.
Today I came across an etching made by the ice people – they were great giants miles tall who slithered over the earth in an incredibly slow pace, grounding the earth with huge rocks at the bottom of their ice sheets. Over ages these striations (great grooves in the stone) have filled in with moss ( see the photo above of an etched out antlered being whose striated lines have been settled by moss people).
I’m currently in Maine in Acadia national park with locals who on days when the park is as busy as Suchiehall Street (maybe that should read Fifth Avenue for Americans) they can still find a trail in the middle of the park without a human soul). We walk as quietly as we can listening to chipmonk screetches and crow caw -announcing the approach of humans. But for us there is no one else around and I can recharge with deep lungfuls of sea mist which swirls in every couple of minutes and am sorely tempted to dissolve in the deep green mosses and banks of lichen (and one day I will be moss and lichen food).
We walk by the banks of a stream and there they are! Pseudo spiritual temples of nothingness! Little piles of rocks line in the middle of the stream-bed. They were made recently as I can still see the deep impressions of the places that one held the rocks. I carefully dismantle them and fit them back into their original places. Sadly those little creatures which were hiding under the rocks have been flushed out and either eaten by bigger creatures or found themselves new homes. I wish dismantling patriarchy was just as easy, putting things back where they belonged like women and girls into a partnership culture – I digress.
Markings of the Tree People
I’d love to ask someone why they make these little stacks. I do get a kick (literally) out of dismantling them with a well placed foot and have been accosted by people explaining that they are prayers, spiritual totems – hmm spiritual totems to faceless gods which demand their devotees to destroy the planet! They hold empty broken prayers they aren’t cairns. The word cairn is a Scottish Gaelic word it means a pile of rocks with some suitable significance. There are pre-Celtic burial mounds called cairns, there are cairns of piles of stones in true wilderness to make a way (ie go that way in the wrong weather and possibly die, go that way and find a warm cozy pub). You find cairns up mountains where hikers on reaching the summit will mark their climb by adding a stone to the pile – and yes these piss me off too.
Don’t Forget the Screwdriver
A days walking in Scotland has me bring a trash bag and a screwdriver. I’ve scaled mountains in Scotland only to see little plastic plaques (that usually adorn front doors) state that Uncle Jimmy loved this mountain. Well Uncle Jimmy loved the mountain because it was wild and free and that he could hike up here and be in another world away from the maddening chaos below. I’m not to sure if Uncle Jimmy would want his name on a plastic plaque drilled into a stone at the top of the mountain. Yes, that’s when the screwdriver comes in handy.
So you might have noticed that little piles of stones piss me off and say way more of our unbalanced human attitude to the natural world than a cute stack of well balanced rocks. So I wrote a handy little guide to ask yourself should you ever be afflicted with this zombie reaction of making a stone stack.
1. Ask your self are you Andy Goldsworthy? Scottish sculptor and photographer whose work is admired by millions of people (see above collage for example of his work). No, not Andy Goldsworthy? Then don’t do it.
2. Are you Indigenous Alaskian creating a stone Inunnguag as a direction marker in the Alaskan wilderness? No your not, well then put that stone down.
Inunnguag stone marker created by Indigenous people of Alaska. Image by Ansgar Walk used under the terms of the Creative Commons licence. Click on photo for source.
3. Are you a Park Ranger in the ridiculously busy Acadia national park who has millions, yes I said millions of people come visit every year and do use stone markers to keep people on trails and so minimize erosion? No not a Park Ranger, then the answer is no, don’t do it and take off that park ranger uniform you look silly.
4. Are you a pre-Celtic person creating a Chambered cairn? Yes, well please go ahead I greatly admire your work!
5. Are you actually in your house in your garden? You are? Great then do build as many stone stacks as you want, in fact invite folks over to join you!
People, why do we feel we need to leave our mark on the landscape? Our great history of dominating, power over, exploiting and enslaving. It’s that kind of mindset that got us in the shit we are in today.
Leaf art by me
Make leaf art, take photos, write poetry make up songs – be inspired by the thing that drew you here in the first place just don’t dominate it pointlessly and destroy micro ecosystems! For I am stone woman and I make stacks out of houses and I know where you live!
Sign up for the Sisterhood of the Antlers mailing list! Click on the image above.