Pride of Place


Today I am going down to a particular bend in the river, where the essence of past conversations collect and distill themselves. They hang like fog. Walking along this circular footpath I pass through them, like easing in and out of wisps of perfume left in an empty room or the lingering scents of cooking from the night before. Permeable pockets of prose, power, and prophesy. Cloying clouds of intimacy. I am the gentle interloper.

My body becomes magnetized as I filter these ethers with skin, hair, breath, and lumins. I pick up particles as I orbit. Desire. Secrets. Ancient truths and lies playing on repeat. The taste of something bitter and green. The touch of something threadbare and windblown. Salt. Dirt. Juice. Cream.

Coyotes sing from the ridge. Deer quiver at the epicenter. Pilgrims along the path surrender to helpless smiles as they deliberately move in the moment yet involuntarily surge with memory. No one can help it. No one can name it. Everyone thinks of holidays and snakes and screenplays. If we walk accompanied we deposit conversation to cope with the public display of spiritual chemistry at work. If we walk alone we become hyper-aware that our choice to be present in this place breaks any previously established spiritual sobriety, and we are softened before we can stop it.

People bring offerings to this place without believing they are doing so, but this lessens not the potency of the tribute. They bring music and food. They bring color and energy. They bring children to witness and the elderly to dedicate. All of their leavings and respirations swill and circulate, separate and conjoin. Building mysteries. Polishing principles. Every time humans claim not to know why an ancient site such as this was so significant to the civilization inhabiting the site, this is the reason.

The distillate remains after the generations pass on. We can’t be there without being part of it. The conjuring of virginity, sacrifice, fertility, and prayer is more memory than fantasy. The concentration of our collective artistry and savagery lives on in the dust, the puddles, the vegetation, the rot. We activate the magic with our presence. We charge those particles anew. We move in ritual circles unable to name or explain. All we know is that the place is undeniably alive, compelling, and abundant with echoes.

We decide with our modern minds that these places were probably sacred. We are inexplicably drawn to them, content to make pilgrimages without having to justify them. Our modern minds ought to recognize this as evidence of definitely, not probably.

— Mercy

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