There is something magical in rising before dawn and setting out to greet the sun. We had changed things this year; the traditional hillside ritual had been replaced by a visit to the Cave of the Seers… but it would not have felt right to forget the hills and stay cosily indoors. The landscape has always offered itself to our needs, seeming, almost magically, to provide what we have asked of it, even when we haven’t been certain what that was going to be. In some way, the Saturday morning walk through the pre-dawn light was both an expression of gratitude and the renewal of a bond.
It is even more than that, though; the connection to the land of this place runs deep. The hillside that has seen strange figures in the luminous dawn is part of an ancient settlement and an even older dance of earth, sky and Man. We spend so much of our time on concrete and asphalt, ruled by the ticking of necessity, that to choose to rise before dawn and walk into silent fields for no other reason than to greet the sun allows us to break a long fast and simply be a part of the flow of life again.
We feel it through the soles of our feet, through the song we raise, and the air we breathe. The chill of dew, the rolling green starred with the gold and silver of celandine and daisy still waiting for the kiss of the sun to unfurl their petals.
We climbed the stile and walked through the fields to a natural portal… a gap in the curtain of trees that, quite appropriately, separates the lower from the higher, and there we waited. Two stood cloaked and raised an adaptation of the ancient Hymn to the Aten, penned over three thousand years ago. The rest, in an arc like the bowl of a chalice, joined their voices in a song penned just weeks before, especially for the River of the Sun.
Do we worship the sun? No, of course not… but we revere its light as a symbol of a greater Light and that, perhaps, is something the ancient ones whose shadows walk the land would have understood, for just as the rays of the sun give life and growth, so too does that Other Light… and perhaps that is the greater of the two.
A small flock of sheep, led by one with a darker fleece, slowly climbed the Mound of Creation… a small hillock we had used the year before and which, to us because of that moment, is very special. They stood and watched, facing us all the while. I had to wonder if one of them was the lamb who had greeted us before dawn on that morning two years before, when a silent company had shared a moment’s delight and wonder. The Lamb too, reflects the Light.
The clouds did not break. The sun did not appear in the east as we had hoped… and so, when the sky had brightened, we turned back. It is not about the sunrise itself; that too is a symbol. Ali, for some reason, began to recite poetry… and arm in arm, laughing through the lines of Lewis Carroll, we headed once more for the stile. And the sun broke through the clouds, as if in response to our laughter.
We turned as one, the whole group, and watched the pale opalescence unfurl in the heavens; in silent peace, sharing a moment and our smiles. Something greater than we held centre stage, and in our very smallness we grew.
“We become panoramic…”
We were quieter on the way back to the centre… the line from the song played through my mind, knowing we would be using it as part of an innovative meditation on perception designed by Stuart. It seemed perfect for the feeling of those moments.
We had risen before the dawn and, at the end of the day, it seemed as if we were given the blessing of the sun itself in answer as the sky went up in flames…