We have just been on a pilgrimage to see the sun rise at Stonehenge on the solstice with an estimated 25,000 other people (ok so we didn't go with the 25,000 people, there were 15 of us as it happened).
It has been an ambition of mine for some time and with the 40th birthday fast approaching it gave me a good excuse to drag along a whole heap of spiritual and not so spiritual (but happy to embrace the spirit) friends.
So we rented a glorious farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in the beautiful countryside of North East Somerset and together we retreated from the world. I found this marvellous quote in this little "Retreats" book that Ewan picked up for me in a charity shop on our last trip to London that reads:
"Why do people make pilgrimage? Sarah Maitland writes of England's national pilgrimage to Walsingham that it 'celebrates the Incarnation - God made not simply "flesh" but a drinking, laughing, food-loving, friendship-seeking, party-going human being...It refreshes the parts that other [Anglican] practices do not reach..."
We did this. We enjoyed some beautiful freshly made food (if I do say so myself and a huge thank you to Laura and Steven for helping me), we drank wine, we danced, we laughed, we chatted, we made friends and we watched the sunrise.
The next day we enjoyed the solitude of the rural living, and some ventured to Glastonbury for crystals and Tor climbing, and others rested and meditated and chatted and soaked up the energy of a life lived outside. We walked and I practiced yoga outside amongst the rose bushes while Elijah ran around.
We took an early night before our early morning 2am drive to Stonehenge for another more focused sunrise. What an experience indeed, many had been camping all night long, the Hare Krishnas were chanting and the Druids were drumming and some were high on alcohol and others on drugs, and some were smoking weed, and others were drinking coffee, and some like us were simply soaking up all this marvellous liberating energy.
We got to touch the stones. Phew.
I tried to have no expectation of this, I knew it may be possible, but I didn't also want to be bitterly disappointed if the opportunity did not present itself, especially as I had Elijah in a sling on my back. But we burrowed our way through and while I would like - next time ha - to spend more time feeling their energy without the craziness of the crowds, it was an honour and a gift to have this opportunity to place hands to two stones and feel their warmth. yes their warmth!!!
We retreated onto the ridge a little higher than the stones to await sunrise and the most amazing thing was the fact that the clouds built up as time went on BUT they stayed hanging some way above the horizon so that the sun actually rose, it actually rose shining bright, hoorah, hoorah, thank you Gods, from the horizon into the sky and yes, we saw it rising and flashing light through the stones, such grace, such beauty, I am still inspired from the experience, there is still so much we do not know about this world and those who lived before us.
We returned home and took to our beds, and after a few hours I rose again myself and took to my mat to give thanks. I cannot wait to return another year and spend the whole evening feeling those stones and allowing my heart to beat to the sound of the drums and my whole being to be filled with the light of such a holy and indeed spiritual place.
With much gratitude to my fellow pilgrims and to all those who have trod the path before us and have welcomed and celebrated the sun, the provider of life, on the solstice with such open hearts and minds.