Friday, August 7, 2009

Cahokia Mounds, Part 2

Even though a few weeks have passed since we were there, the scene at Cahokia is still on my mind. Part of it is the fact that for hundreds of years, this was the center of a busy, progressive civilization . . . that has vanished. That is always a sobering thought.

But I also keep returning to the fact that they built a mountain where there had been none. As a community, they did this. Why? So there could be a mountaintop for their leaders to stand upon.

I have always been mindful of the connection between landscape and inscape, so to speak—the symbiosis between geography/scenery and mood/attitude. There are certain landscapes that seem to have an almost universal influence on our human psyches—the river makes us mindful of constancy, progress, inevitability, change, flow. The ocean, with its monthly cycles of tides and its breathing pattern of waves washing in and out, gives us a sense of peace, of completion, the circular unity inherent in the notion of polarities.

And mountaintops make us feel like Jesus. The broad view, the elevated mind, the scaling of heights, the reaching of accomplishment. I think that every human religion has at least one or two mountains that are held sacred—Mount Sinai, Mount Fuji, the Himalayas, Kilimanjaro . . . the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona from which the Kachinas are said to originate . . . even the New Agers in Sedona imbue the cliffs and buttes of that region with spiritual power.

And I think back to all the places where I have gone repeatedly to commune with nature and with my higher self (for want of a better word), or with God or Brahma or whatever you want to call it, and in nearly every case, elevation was involved.

South Mountain Park in Phoenix, where I could see the entire Valley of the Sun spread out before me.

Shooting Star Bluff at Gans Creek, Columbia, Missouri, where I can see the creek burbling along below and deer and turkey wandering around on the flat bottomland beyond that.

The mountains at Priest Pass, Helena, Montana. Or Mount Ascension. Or even just Sugarloaf, the relatively minor hill overlooking our house when we lived there.

There is nothing like the view from a bluff or a mountaintop to help me clear my head. It is interesting to know that that sense connects me with prehistoric humans, as well as those who will succeed us.

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