The next morning, my husband and I returned to the site of the dragon/lizard, leaving our two teenagers behind to sleep in. The night we arrived in California, the moon was full. Three days later, it had begun to wane but the morning held onto the image of its fading face as we set out into the dry, dusty landscape of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks once again.
This time we lingered at the junction of paths, debating whether to venture left towards Paradise Falls, or take a sharp right up the hill. The coyote from the day before was nowhere in sight, so we followed the tug of the hill and took the hand of chance. Actually, we both borrowed baseball-sized rocks from Earth, holding them in our palms just in case…before returning them on our descent.
The journey up the back of the dragon, although shorter in distance than the day before’s path, was quite strenuous. It didn’t take long for the heat to build inside us and soon we were both peeling off our outer layers to be tucked around our waists. We could not help but chuckle at the two hikers coming down the path in their matching pink windbreakers, zipped tight to the chins. “Must be locals,” we concluded.
Aside from the the passing by of the two ladies in pink, our hike was almost eerily silent. No coyote. No snakes. Not even a raven…Somehow, like the prior day’s encounters, today’s lack of visitors seemed perfectly fitting. But I’m not being entirely honest either. There were the watching stones that filled the spine of the dragon, bringing the kind of discomfort that makes one turn to look over one’s shoulder. More than once.
But I’m okay with watching stones. I’d have been rather disappointed with the alternative. Watchers remind us of the living spirit(s) that embody the land. In such a place as we were, they are expected. No wonder the coyote had watched us the day before. Testing. Seeing if we were worthy of the climb.
I don’t know if we passed the test, but we were, at the very least, allowed to enter a space still bearing the imprint of magic. That, to me, is enough. I have learned the land’s secrets are not always revealed in one (or two) visits, if they are to be shared at all. Most often there is first a test (the coyote) before initial entry is allowed. And, sometimes the stories unfold in their own time. Imprinting the cells with a whisper before they dig into the marrow of magic.
There was, though, at least a glimpse of what once was, and what could still be…In the distance, uncaptured by camera, I spotted the head of a second dragon. Miles away from the “Lizard Rock,” it jutted over a faraway valley, tracing the undulating length of the spine we had summeted. And I wondered, for a long moment, what it might be like to walk the entire length of the body…
It was yet another place I didn’t want to leave. Whereas I had felt the exhilaration of life at Castle Hill, the more I immersed myself into the energy of Wayland’s Smithy, the more I felt at peace. As the sun wove its golden light through the guardian trees, I walked over the long barrow and around it. Time slipped away and the veil thinned. The air was gently electrified, and I could feel the elemental kingdom and all the guardians of this sacred site watching, but also welcoming us. Below my feet, amid the last year’s fallen leaves, white feathers appeared on the path.
I was, without a doubt, walking holy ground in a landscape of the dead that was very much alive, revered and protected by forces more felt than seen.
“Look at the trees,” Larissa remarked. “Each one has a patch of white flowers.” Not planted, but growing as though in nature’s reverence. It felt like magic, in the purest sense. Each piece a deliberate part of the whole. And, as I walked, I could hear the whisper of the ancient stones.
Pairs appeared in stasis, like long married couples set in their ways, yet determined to protect the love they hold.
It’s quite something to think of the work and care that went into the construction of this long barrow. A tomb to house the dead whose bodies were prepared with care that rivals that bestowed upon the pharaohs of Egypt. A tomb supported with carefully selected and placed stones. Huge sarsens, like that of Long Meg, mark the entrance to the inner chamber of the long barrow. All this work, including the massive stones, once covered entirely in earth. A house built for the dead, 196 feet in length and 50 feet at its widest point.
“You need to leave a piece of silver for Wayland,” Sue revealed as we gathered before the entrance. “To shod your horse.” I didn’t question her words. I had silver in my pocket and I crawled inside the chamber to find a place for it.
“Can you find Wayland, the spirit stone, the totem stone?” Sue continued as we peered at the massive rocks before us. The faces on their surfaces morphing and changing with each angle. All for the dead…
Then Sue began to tell us the story of a visitor before us who had asked a question of one of the sarsens. Within moments his answer had appeared in physical form and still holds true to this day. While she spoke, I watched a bee circle around me. A February bee, but I had already seen two butterflies during my visit to England, so perhaps it was not too unusual…It made me think of the buzzing I had heard, low, but constant, as we were walking the path from the car to Wayland’s.
I chose my stone, as the bee continued to circle my neck, and pressed my forehead upon its surface. I didn’t have a question. Instead, I wanted only to receive whatever might be revealed to me.
The mound appeared before me in the full splendor of summer. Upon its green back, a white horse emerged, strong and sure. It stopped in wait as a figure cloaked in white descended and began to walk toward me. The landscape opened to beyond the barrow, to where people long passed gathered inside a great womb. I saw the path weaving in union between the land of land of the living and the land of the death. It became a processional of people coming towards the barrow. In the middle of the trail I saw a small circle of stones.
The visitors gathered around the mound of Earth, upon which the white horse stood with the figure cloaked in white. I could not see her face, but I knew her energy to be both feminine and strong.
The vision turned inward, and I felt as though I had entered an inner chamber. A shadowed form of a great bear appeared beside me, then morphed into a great serpent whose head rose behind mine. In front of me, a hawk of the sun passed before my vision, circling until all disappeared and I felt my body again. Each cell buzzing with renewed life, as though in those few moments of connection I had been washed with light.
It was soon time to leave, but before we left we placed more offerings for the spirits of the stones. It has been a true gift of a day. Full and complete in and of itself, even though it was just an hour passed noon.
As we collected ourselves back into the car, even Ani appeared withdrawn into her own thoughts, refusing the small bits of sandwich we offered her. Each one of us quietly processing our return in our own way as we paused before our descent back into town.
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