The sun peeks through goldening September forest land as we take to country roads, optioning out of the city for the day and into the waiting arms of Appalachian foothills not so very far away.
Our destination is the mystical Serpent Mound, an internationally regarded effigy mound, crafted in the shape of a snake in a time before written history.
We arrive at the park amidst other touring travelers, motorcyclists out for a day’s drive, families of multiple generations exploring the museum and grounds. There is much Native American trinketry to be had, little arrowhead reproductions to purchase, crystals and dreamcatchers, sage bundles, and many books.
Much has been written theorizing why the mound was built. It is not a burial mound, as there are some of those dotting the grounds as well.
The sinewy curves do mark special times in the astrological wheeling of the year and so for all we don’t know about the folks who created Serpent Mound, we at least know they were likely wise and watchful and capable engineers at the least.
We have brought our sketchbooks but neither of us are feeling much like drawing. We do scratch a rubbing from the granite sign which marks the beginning of the path around the serpent herself.
The mound is best seen from above, and there is a viewing platform for those courageous enough to risk a trek to the top.
I wonder about how the grass is kept so cleanly cut. It seems like sacrilege to run a mower over these forms. Visitors are kept to an asphalt path.
We wander and wonder around the length of the Serpent. I have in my heart a similar uneasy sense about it all as to my visit to Chaco Canyon over the summer.
While in the museum, we take in the exhibit about the variety of artifacts found in the area over the years and what they mean.
I spy one which stops me in my tracks, as it is quite familiar to me.
The sign reads that these are ‘gorgets‘, like a pendant of sorts, worn at the throat. The one which has caught my eye is a quadriconcave gorget crafted from slate and it is exactly like one I had in my hand just the other day…
You see my Uncle Jim passed away a number of weeks ago and this has us all in a familial circling of the wagons state of mind. My mom and I going through old papers and pictures, visiting gravesites of ancestors long gone from this plane.
One of those ancestors, we think perhaps Joseph Kelley, a farmer, was ploughing the fields of his farm one day.
His horse drawn plough hit something out of the ordinary and so he stopped to pick the object up and see what it might be.
The story goes that the plough took a small chink out of this strange stone in its unearthing. The farmer might have dusted off the object and tucked it into his pocket to share with his family over supper that evening. This would have been over a hundred years ago, and ever since that day, The Indian Rock has held pride of place in the home of whomever in the family happened to be in possession of it at the time. The most recent steward of the stone was my Uncle Jim who had an affinity for local archeological finds and a knack for knowing where to look. Apparently he had quite a collection of arrowheads and tools and such which he picked up on his countryside ramblings over the years. But my mom had always treasured this one, and so now it resides with her.
When I spot the one in Serpent Mound Museum I know I must share it with her, as Now We Know what exactly our Indian Rock might possibly be. We had guesses as to it being a tool of some sort, but never were quite sure. What I wonder now is why does our stone lack holes in it? When the original stone-crafter lost this particular piece, was it perhaps yet awaiting it’s drilling? The style of our stone, the more looking around I do on the internet, seems to come from the Adena culture. I have never heard of the word “gorget” until today…
I love this. We all want to sparkle like a hummingbird, do we not?
I think about the original inhabitants of this land of ours, so very distant in the past, yet just as human as we are, with foibles and desires all their own and not so different from us after all. Their stories and lifestyles are but whispers on the winds compared to the native cultures which have stood the tests of time, in spite of rampant colonization. I wonder about who might have made our family’s gorget and whether they missed it when it was lost. I read that these stones are often found in fields here in the midwest and into the southern states as well. And they are indeed a lucky find and treasured by those who discover them. Mom is excited to take her stone on a wee field trip to Serpent Mound and chat up the archeologists there to gain more insight on this family treasure of ours.
I continue to try to slow myself down into a more stoney sense of time. A drive out to the foothills does this, for a bit at least. On our way home we are treated with Krista Tippett’s timeless interview with John O’Donohue, whom I consider a spiritual teacher of mine as his writings speak to my soul. It seems the world is coming at us reckless on most days. This chaos is at the global scale, and the personal scale as well. I do my best to merely keep above the fray, as best as possible, tucking in the magic wherever space allows, and sometimes even when it doesn’t.
How are you managing in these crazy times? I’d love to know. In the meantime, I highly recommend a day’s drive out into the country to slow things down and give a bit of perspective.
til next time…..