The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
I'm tired. Somerset is full of ghosts and I had an emotionally charged day yesterday. I am happy to cross the border into Wiltshire, where the skies open out to reveal gently sweeping hills. Everything is pastel coloured, as soft light diffuses through the clouds that will bring rain later.
I arrive at Avebury, a tiny village that nestles inside an ancient Neolithic stone circle.
The impression gained is of a landscape shaped for rituals that involved inclusion, exclusion and procession. The monuments may have been built as a public 'theatre' for rites and ceremonies that gave physical expression to the community's ideas of world order; the place of the people within that order; the relationship between the people and their gods; and the nature and transmission of authority, whether spiritual or political.
I walk a bit, stopping by each stone and placing my hands on it. I breathe.
A group of women sit in a circle holding hands and singing, walkers eat their picnics on the grass, and children clamber over the stones. I hear someone grumble to the National Trust staff about the clambering. They gently point out that the stones have been standing for more than 4000 years.
It's a warm day. I lie down in the field, in the middle of the circle, and close my eyes. I doze in the sunshine using my backpack as a pillow.
I hear a drum in the distance, so I wander in the direction of the sound. A huge lime tree marks the entrance to the next level of the stone circle. Its roots line the path, and there are ribbons and offerings tied to every accessible part of the tree. A man sits by the tree and hits his drum rhythmically. I sit for a while and listen.
I follow a chalk path around the rest of the circle, as it starts to rain. I retreat to my car, as huge water drops splash all around me and I make my way home.