“Where are those stones?”
The answer may only deepen the mystery!
These are standing stones known as the Cromoleque dos Almendres. Cromoleque, or Cromlec, appears to be a word derived from the Brythonic, or Breton/Welsh language, and is used to describe megalithic stone structures in western Europe. These stones are in countryside not too far outside of the small city of Evora in the Alentejo of Portugal. I took this series of photographs there about 2003.
Nearby, though photographed on another day stands a monolithic Menhir. The same stone, but where the Cromoleque is so physically female, the Menhir is as clearly male.
My most distinct impressions of these stones, which I hope come across even in these small images, was of the life they hold. These stones were shaped between five and six thousand years ago. They lay toppled and buried until about forty years ago and now have stood again just long enough to have had the landscape heal around them. None of the hazards of time or even their restoration has damaged their power to convey the essence of life within and through the carving and positioning of stone.
The power of these stones to embody these essences rivals and surpasses that of most of the art made since their time. After another equal span of time, I doubt any of our more recent works will have any presence left at all. These will still carry their life within them until they’ve been fully reintegrated into the soil that surrounds them.
The most striking thing about them might just be their modesty – not a sexual modesty! – a modesty of means. Compare these with any monuments from the Pyramids onward and what we see is a contrast between what a band of people could accomplish with much effort to create a place that celebrates life, and what a domineering hierarchy could compel masses of people to do so as to worship death.
Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, Africans, and various islanders have more recent examples of these life celebrating cultural artifacts to draw on. For those of us from Western Europe these remnants of mostly Celtic or pre-Celtic megalithic remains are our most recent touchstones with this heritage within our ancestry.
It’s important that we all reestablish some direct contact with the living stone. Lie among the Cromoleque. Embrace a standing Menhir. Enter within a Dolmen. Or simply find a stone that speaks to you and hold it in your palm. Give it your warmth and feel its answering response as you caress its curves and feel the paradox of a life exuding from unyielding rock just asking for and ready to respond to a kiss.
Stone Soup begins with a stone. It’s not just a metaphor for an arbitrary and useless item with no place in something intended to nourish us. It is there as the elemental, along with the water, the fire and the air we all breathe. It reminds us of the ground on which we stand and from which we spring. It shows us the extent of our community and the range of our communion.
Feel this connection and you’ll never fail to see the violence done in every excavation. The earth is not “resources” for us to plunder. It is the foundation of all our life.