Stonehenge and ravens

June 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Saturday morning I managed to catch the first bus from Salisbury to Stonehenge.  Once at Stonehenge, I was a little dismayed to find that the whole visit is very orchestrated.  You pick up an audio guide when you enter, which you then listen to as you view the stones.  You are made to walk around Stonehenge in a horseshoe shaped area, and as you progress there are numbered markers.  You punch that number into your audio tour device, and it spits out some bit of “tour” for you.

The audio tour is pretty revolting.  It’s watered down history that is intended to be palatable for anyone from about the age of 7 and up… which means that in reality it’s palatable for 7-10 year olds and anyone with the intelligence of a 7-10 year old.  Needless to say, I don’t believe I fall into that category.

I do find the history behind Stonehenge (and the various theories, as no one really knows for sure exactly how it was created, the exact original formation, or the exact use) fascinating, and the stones themselves do still have a distinct presence… but all of that was so overshadowed by the tourism of the place that it was almost obscured.  I couldn’t quite find the value and meaning in the experience.

I left feeling a bit let down, although glad that I’d seen it and experienced it for myself even if it wasn’t the most enlightening experience of my life.  As I was sitting on a bench waiting for the next bus back, a raven (ok, may have been a big crow, but raven sounds better, right?) flapped down and landed on the back of the bench within arms reach of me.  It turned it’s enormous head slightly in my direction, eyeing me with it’s beady, flashing black eye.  My attention was focused on its long, sharp beak, glossy feathers, and the aura of power it gave off.  I’ve always loved crows even though I know many people dislike them.  I’ve also heard that one crow is good luck (while group of crows – a murder of them, to be correct – is bad luck).  As I was sitting exchanging looks with this crow, I felt like I was being tested.  Would I look it in the eye? Stay steadily where I was and show no fear?  Or would I jump, flap my hands, flinch, look away?  I held it’s gaze with a keen awareness of it’s ability to injure me (its beak a stark reminder) mingled with a sense of excitement and the distinct need to pass this test, and after a long moment it flapped away.  It wasn’t there for long, but long enough so at least one other person noticed our proximity and watched our exchange.

I got the impression that perhaps I should have showed more respect to Stonehenge.  Or that the message was: “don’t take us lightly, human.”  “Us” being some greater body than crows.

Although the touristic crap of the place was irritating, on the whole I’m immensely glad I went.  After the visit, I returned to Salisbury to fetch my luggage, and I stopped for a moment to take some pictures of Salisbury Cathedral.  From there, I returned to London to prepare for the third portion of my adventure: a two week intensive course about e-publishing hosted at UCL.

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