Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The power of place

I awoke this morning remembering the Valley of the Temples in Sicily. This incredible place is in the south of the island, at Agrigento. There are more than a half a dozen semi-intact Greek temples there, aligned from east to west along a sweeping open plain that faces south, with wide open views of the Mediterranean. To the north lies the city of Agrigento, along the ridge, with high rises and urban sprawl. A small valley lies between the plain and the city, and it was filled with springtime bright red poppies and purple wildflowers. These temples were built in the centuries before christ, to celebrate Greek victories at sea. They thanked the goddesses for their domination over their enemies.

I thought about the antiquity of the earth and of the buildings. But stronger than the sense of time as distance, I felt the continuity of time and the way that it acts as a glue to adhere us to the people who have walked on this earth before us. We flow through time and it is the constant. Some things we build do not flow away when we are gone, but remain for a while, and we can contemplate them.

The temples were beautiful, but more powerful was the place in which they were situated. Standing in front of the Temple of Concordia, I had a sensation of the power of the earth itself. I spun around a few times, looking in all directions for the source of the power. The sun shone and the birds called, and I knew that if I were a builder, I'd want to put my mark here, as well. We piled up a few stones on top of one another, sort of as a joke, to mark the spot.

When we visited Sedona, Arizona, some years ago, we giggled at all the "new age" advertising about vortices in the area. Then, we found ourselves at the top of a hill, looking at the rock piles that folks build to mark a vortex, and we knew why. The place had a special power. The view opened out to red rock walls and at the same time, opened your heart. You could sense time and how erosion works its magic through the ages.

This morning as I remembered the Valley, I started going through my memories of other power places I have been. Here are just a few:

Paris, at the foot of the Champs d'Elysses
Yosemite Valley
Kings Canyon
On a hill overlooking Hong Kong
Lands End in San Francisco
Ft Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands

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