Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sacred Ground, A Visit to the Jeffers Petroglyphs: Tuesday's Reflection

Below my feet I feel the presence of the great rock. Among the markings, barely visible, I see the outlines of an ancient hand, scratched there tens of thousands of years ago by an unknown traveler. Without thinking, I get down and place my hand against the outline. It fits perfectly.

My hand is warm. The stone is cold. But in the touch something is passed, and I am humbled beyond understanding.
                   Voice in the Stones
                   Life Lessons from the 
                   Native Way
                   Kent Nerburn

Older than Stonehenge. 

Older than the pyramids.

Nestled in the native prairie, grasses swaying to their own music, red rock, Sioux quartzite, emerges like the back of a whale from the ocean. And on the back of these landed leviathans are ancient carvings ranging from 7,000 years old to a mere 250 years old.

Where am I? The Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota, not far from the South Dakota border.

Our guide asks us to remove our shoes before stepping off the trail bordered by the waving grasses. I remember removing my shoes before entering a mosque in Malaysia and Buddhist temples in Thailand. I always remove my shoes before walking a labyrinth, before doing T'ai Chi, and most of the time as I enter our home. 

Sacred Ground. Sacred Space. A place of worship.

I walk carefully, slowly, knowing deep within that I am now walking where for thousands of years others have walked. 

In reverence. In wonder. In gratitude. 

As our guide points out the pock marked carvings of circles, people, buffalo, thunderbirds, my eyes adjust and I, too, begin to see the abundance of markings. Long-legged people. Crescent shapes. Turtles. Hands. 

 They are everywhere. 

Like Nerburn, I, too, bend to place my own hand in the hand carving. My hand nestles in the indentation. I am holding hands with those who have walked before me. 

To American Indians rock formations emerging from the earth provide a link between the physical and spiritual worlds. Much is unknown about why this place, what the specific symbols mean, and who was responsible for these gifts, but one thing seems clear:

            I was tied to the earth, and to all those who have 
            walked upon it, in a way as solid and fundamental 
            as the very rock itself.
                                                  Kent Nerburn

An Invitation
Where have you experienced sacred space? I would love to know. 

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