Friday, 12 August 2011

Because we have no imagination…

Because we have no imagination…
Susan Cross

The archaeologist is talking, pointing at the four panels that interrupt my view of Knowth and this landscape of  ‘passageway tombs’.  “Passageway tombs,” he says, “were created by ‘passageway tomb-builders’ – we call them that because we have no imagination”.  We laugh, hollow and echoing.

I look beyond the introductory speech, behind the barricade of panels. An Irish hare leaps onto one of the cairns. No one else sees. It is easy to be invisible, it only requires people’s attention to be directed elsewhere.  My attention, however, rests with the sitting hare. At this moment, misled by the shorter ears, I am thinking ‘rabbit'. I watch, wondering how many generations of rabbits have grazed this turf and whether, when they burrow, they kick aside human bones and molars. Then it unlooses long limbs, and lopes easily down the cairn slope, becomes a hare. It gains speed, runs over another cairn and threads a line away through the field towards the River Boyne.  I watch the hare run, follow the thread in land and time, until it is out of sight. I sense other long ago watchers, seeing the hunt and the magic of the animal and am nearer to a deep that may be past.

He is still talking.  He is trying to connect us, to tie us in to this ancestral place.  Sand martins sweep around the curved mound, their tunnels surround the western entrance and small faces look out. They are more comfortable than we with their ancestors in this mound. They have a continuing blood-line to the ones who first built into the hill, who created this place of pilgrimage, of rebirth. They return year and year, on small graceful wings and know just what they are doing here. Their rhythms of flight and return are unbroken in time and in space, like an easy heartbeat.

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