Not far from where I live is an ancient (now abandoned) Chumash village. I like to walk the path through the narrow valley, following the trail to its end.
Along the way there are two spots that I will sometimes stop just to enjoy the peaceful solitude.
The first is where there are a few large flat rocks. One has several places where the Chumash would grind acorns to make meal. Some of the hollows are five or six inches deep. How many generations of hands must have done that work to make such a deep and lasting impression? What kinds of things did they talk about while they worked? What were their hopes, their dreams, their fears?
A hundred feet or so farther up the trail is a rock formation about 15 feet tall. It has the distinctive shape of an elephant when approached from the west, which is the direction of the village. For anyone that has ever seen an elephant, the resemblance is remarkable and immediately recognizable.
But I often wonder what these ancient peoples thought of this rock. Wooly mammoth remains have been discovered not far from this spot so perhaps they were familiar with them from their very distant past. Did the elders pass on tales of an unforgotten, but long-gone monster? Surely the last Chumash that lived near here would never have seen such a beast. So maybe for them this was merely on oddly shaped rock resembling nothing familiar or recognizable and therefore was meaningless to them. Or did their imaginations allow them to conjure up stories of a mighty, mythical beast inspired by the lines and shadows of this living rock sculpted by nature alone?
Even though this place is well known locally, it’s easy to find times to go there when there are few, if any, other visitors. Because of how it’s set in a small, narrowing valley it can be extremely quiet there. Except for the intrusion of an occasional plane passing overhead, I can enjoy extended moments of near total silence there, immersed in only the sounds of nature.
It is a sacred place.
Perhaps I’ll go there this morning.