A WILD STRANGE PLACE
It was a wild, strange place, high on the moors. Wild, when the wind blew off the sea, bringing the rain and lashing the gorse and the heather. Strange because it attracted me with a curious fascination. I went there whenever I wanted to shout into the wind. I went to celebrate my happiness and to hide my despair. It was my own secret place. There was a beauty in it too, especially on a clear day when the clouds moved high and white across a deep blue sky. Then the view was outstanding: the moorland rolling down, dotted with granite boulders and occasional standing stones. Further on, the sea stretched out in almost every direction, sparkling green, blue, and turquoise in the sunlight. I could have gazed for hours, watching the ever circling birds and the changing shadows cast by the drifting clouds.
That was how it was when I went there on the worst day of my life. At least, it felt like the worst day of my life when I set out. After a few moments, sitting on a little patch of grass, surrounded by the heather and looking out over the western tip of Cornwall, I began to see everything in perspective. I was disappointed and disillusioned. My romantic dreams were unlikely to come true, as I expected far too much from a relationship. Perhaps the answer was to accept my single state and to put my energies into painting or writing. I had occasionally dabbled in both.
“Long ago this was the centre of a stone circle.” The voice interrupted my musings, and I jumped up to face the intruder.
“What do you want?” It was a rude reaction, unforgivable. The man had merely been making polite conversation.
“I wanted to tell you about this wild, strange place which dominates an old and magic world.” His brown eyes twinkled amusement at me. “You’ve felt it, I can tell, but did you know about it? Sit down, and I’ll tell you!”
For some inexplicable reason, I sat down and did not object when he sat beside me. I looked at him curiously; he was different. He was a stranger and yet there was something familiar about him.
“Who are you? Have we met before?”
“We have met again and again throughout time, and we shall continue to meet and part for eternity.” He paused and smiled. “Perhaps you will recognise me soon, but a name would not be a proper introduction in our case.” He stretched out and stroked my cheek. “We are more than names and more than time and space. But there are places which are part of us.”
Perhaps I should have demanded some sort of explanation, but a part of me understood what he was saying. I looked more closely at him, willing myself to remember something that was just out of reach. His dark brown hair was long, and his generous beard and moustache framed humorous lips. His strong Grecian nose was flanked by slightly prominent cheekbones, and his gentle eyes regarded me from beneath rather bushy eyebrows. With every moment, his face was becoming more familiar, yet I knew I had never seen him before.
Tentatively, I raised my hand to touch his beard. It was soft and silky. I smiled and he bent his head and claimed my lips with his. One part of me seemed to be standing outside, watching and condemning, yet unable to stop what was happening. He put his arm around me, and we lay side by side on the grass.
“This was a stone circle in long ago years. Heather and gorse have obscured the circumference yet, if we pushed them back, we should find a perfect circle of grass. Nothing else will ever grow here.” His arm tightened a little around my shoulders. “When the stones stood proudly, dominating the landscape, we stood here too. We were bound through earth, fire, air and water, and by the mingling of our blood.”
“A marriage?” I had read books about such pagan ceremonies.
“Our marriage, at the beginning of our eternity. Such a marriage binds forever, with cords of love and desire.” He smiled again and his eyes dreamed of times past. “In those days, the old religion was open and welcomed by all. The Goddess was loved through all the cycles of nature, from birth through death to re birth. We were wise then, and untrammelled by the curse of civilisation.”
I listened and knew he spoke the truth. Distant, half formed memories stirred within, and I heard myself speak.
“We were priest and priestess, Goddess and Horned One, meeting and parting and meeting again forever.”
“So many meetings and partings through the ages. And between, the endless searching: the fear and disappointment that brought you here today.” He looked at me, and I knew my dreams had not been purely romantic imagination. “Your need cried out through the ages. I had to come.”
Even as he removed my clothes and exposed my nakedness to the autumn sun, I watched from outside myself, no longer protesting but knowing this was right. He opened my body to him, taking me slowly and gently at first, then riding with me into ecstasy. As my body arched to meet his, I saw the shadows of the long stones around us, protecting us from the world. Tears mingled with laughter as he poured his seed into me, worshipping me as Goddess of life and earth. Then I lay beside him, burying my face in his beard and inhaling his wild fragrance of wild herbs and woodlands. I tasted the salt of his skin and explored the strength of his limbs. Yet all these things were on the surface, new and unknown before this moment. The part I knew was far deeper and older an essence which had existed through time.
“You know now, and you will wait,” he whispered, cradling me in his arms. “Now you can go and live your life, without the need to search.” I moved closer to him, wanting to dissolve into him and never to be separate from him again. “You may not meet me again for some time, or we may find one another tomorrow. I may be a child, or an old man, but you will know me. And knowing you will wait until our time comes again.”
“I’ll wait.” His words were strange, and yet I understood him in the hidden depths of my being. “You are what I am, and I am you. In the mists of the beginning of time, we were one.” I do not know how long we lay in that grass circle, caressing and making love. Our bodies knew one another instinctively. Their coming together was ancient perfection. I knew nothing else could compare with this, and I knew I must wait for him.
When he went, it was no surprise. I did not see him go but I awoke later, fully clothed and warm beneath the watching sun. For a moment I saw him again, shadowy in the strange, white robe he had worn. Then the vision faded, and I was only aware of the gulls circling above, crying their lonely calls. I went home and began to paint.
Years passed and I lived for my painting. There was no aching need in me any longer, for I had my secret knowledge of destiny. My wild, strange place called me back many times, and I painted there strange canvases of times long past. When people complimented me on my fertile imagination, I smiled secretly, knowing I only painted what I saw. Now and then, I knew his spirit was nearby, comforting me in my aloneness.
When we met again, he was different, but blue eyes and iron grey hair
could not disguise the one I had waited for. We knew one another immediately,
although he had no memory of our meeting in that wild, strange place. Yet,
when I took him there for the first time, he knew the place in a way that
others would shrug off as déjà vu. We had both come home,
together at last, and we knew we would return in other shapes at other
times to mingle with the shadows of our long, long past.