A light drizzle was enough to fog up the bus windows almost entirely. The air outside looked frigid, a dark sky swooping low to the ground. The ride from the information center was only about two minutes or so. I sat, camera looped around my neck in my narrow seat. Tourists from around the globe packed the rows behind me, chatting in their native tongues. I leaned over my boyfriend, pushing his head out of my way teasingly, trying to see if it was finally in view. All I saw were miles and miles of emerald green grass, damp and dewey. A single raindrop slid down the window right as I was about to turn my head. For some reason, it made me smile. The raindrop created in its own path, down to the window frame. I thought of the bus creating fresh tracks in the muddy road beneath us. The bus halted sharply and the doors swung open.
I grabbed my boyfriend’s hand and stood abruptly. We had to be the first one’s off the bus. I had no patience left. The air felt even worse than it looked once outside. The drizzle of rain had turned to sleet and hail, hitting us in our eyes and ears. It was painful and hard to see, but when my eyes adjusted to the light I’m sure they nearly fell out of my head. I felt like fainting – and it had nothing to do with the fact that I was in a foreign country, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, during a painful hailstorm. I was here. We’d made it. Stonehenge.
Suddenly the stress of the morning – getting lost on our way to the car rental, nearly running out of gas mid highway (while driving on the opposite side of the road), dressing inappropriately for the weather – slid right off my back, just like the raindrop slid down the window.
Three months earlier, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September, I learned about Stonehenge in my art history class. My professor, the brilliant Dr. Christa Irwin, taught us students about the mysterious megaliths. Stonehenge is located in present day England, near the town of Salisbury. There are many different theories and speculations as to who created it and what for. Some say it was used as an astronomical calendar, some say it was a crematorium, and some say it was a healing/medical center. Some of the stones used to create the Neolithic monument were from over 100 miles away. How could people during this time period transport these tremendous rocks without cars, cranes, or any type of modern equipment? Once transported to this location, how were they lifted and stacked on top of each other? Was it the working of gentle giants? Was it magic? Was it really really really strong cavemen?
The stones were covered in moss and algae – bright and lime when we first arrived, but becoming dark and forest-like as the sky above us blackened. The atmosphere was gloomy and eerie. The air was becoming hazier by the moment. There was no sign of civilization any which way I looked, other than the visitor center where the shuttle buses loaded and unloaded groups by the dozen. There was a very small rope barrier around the stones that prevented visitors from getting too close. I wondered how small I would look in comparison to the stones if I could walk up to the base of one of them.
Having some knowledge of the famous site before visiting was definitely helpful. Other tourists bombarded workers and guides with questions, looking for specific answers to their millions of questions. I knew better than to do so. I spent my time appreciating the weirdness, the mystery, the puzzle of it all.
When I reminisce on my visit to Stonehenge I feel the same chill down my spine as I did that very day. My clothes soaked through from the rain and hail, my boyfriend’s huge smile, his soft voice saying “This is amazing!”are visions far too clear in my mind to ever forget.
Seeing Stonehenge in person was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I love feeling small in comparison to the world – knowing that there is so much more to this life than I could ever learn or see or experience. Knowing that there are so many things that go unanswered and accepting that – learning to find beauty in mystery, in the unknown, in the wonder of it all. I am beyond lucky for the adventures I embark on and hope to spend the rest of my life seeing as much art and as much history as I possibly can.