The journey was a long time coming. Plans were made and delayed. Mostly I felt wary of the long car journey with baby. My yearning to go to this place enveloped my whole family, everyone would come, my parents, my daughters. But we would decide to go one day only to wake in the morning and collectively decide it wasn’t the right day, or someone hadn’t slept well, or actually we’d go on so and so day instead. As the end of my trip home drew closer we made firm plans to go on a particular day and then my mum had a terrible toothache and so once again the trip was postponed. This all formed part of the experience, part of our story and our relationship to the place. When we finally managed to gather ourselves, sleep well and cure a tooth it was the day of a full moon, it was purely coincidental but it delighted me.
Long Meg is a stone circle in the Valley of Eden in Cumbria, third biggest in England and sixth biggest in Europe. In the lead up to the visit I did a lot of reading about the stones and the stories connected to them. This added intrigue to our visit, especially alluring for my 8 year old daughter. One legend says they are a coven a witches turned to stone by a powerful wizard. Another tale tells that the stones are enchanted and impossible to count (it is quite hard as there are 59) . Another interesting story involving the stones is that of the eccentric Colonel Lacy who devised a plot to blow them up, supposedly hunting for treasure, the promise of which was whispered by an apparition to a passing vagabond. The plan was abandoned after an epic thunderstorm was taken to be an ominous warning.
And still they stand, after all this passage of time.
There are various theories about the stones and their purpose, of astral alignments, portal stones, there are crystals in some stones and spiral rock art carved in others. They are aligned not only to solar but lunar timings, the shadow cast by “Meg” the largest stone reaches the centre of the circle at the winter solstice. In some ways the circle seems like a big clock that we have lost the ability to read.
I knew I was going to a special place. I could feel it from afar. I dreamed it. I recounted the experience of the pre journey because it feels so relevant to my story, the story of my relationship to the place. That the visit coincided with a full moon also meant something special to me, a whole moon, full of bright light, an element of the journey, of the story.
And a funny thing happened. We went walking, a circular walk that takes you to the stones, lovely country paths by the river. I could imagine coming to this place from the surrounding hills, tribal. The stones along the footpath marking, the drum beat sounding, the anticipation of a gathering. Whilst my mind wandered these thoughts dream day like, my dad bumped into an old friend on the path. We had been walking for a couple of hours and hadn’t seen one person, then approaching the stones my dad meets an old friend he hasn’t seen for years. And again I was reminded of the bringing together of people, of connections.
Something of the journey brought a union to my family, a whole. I entered the circle filled with stories. She welcomed us, Long Meg into her circle. I read that the stones have transformative, regenerative properties. To me they brought something wholesome, whole, full and filling. This journey made together with my family at the end of my extended trip home like the closing of a circle, whilst entering a circle.
I finish writing this many months later because I remember, I still feel moved and so complelled to share my story, in honour of the place. It took me time to make coherent my words and thoughts. But the memory of my experience with this place stayed with me. Long Meg and her daughters, me with my daughters, myself as daughter.