“Sometimes, if you stand very still in the shadows of those places, you can hear songs on the wind, whispers in the trees. That is why I travel.”
from The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu
We have all (I hope) had the enormous pleasure of stepping into a place, a space in nature or that humans have constructed, and felt that little shiver or the sense of belonging in a space. I felt a calm, a sense of belonging when I stepped into the Muir Woods and in places in the Black Hills National Forest. I felt it when I was a guest in the house that is now my home. I had that same sense of belonging on Crane’s Beach on a frozen day in February, staring into the Atlantic.
The shiver is a slightly different feeling.
That feeling often happens when I am in a space that has seen people for hundreds of years. Sacred spaces are often, it seems to me, sited on top of other sacred spaces. Part of this is a dominant culture strong arm tactic, but think also there is a certain magic to places. Michael Chabon wrote about these places in his book Summerland. Where the branches of the tree of life cross and touch, magic can happen – beings can cross from branch to branch at those places.
I was in a number of these places in Spain. The Mezquita in Cordoba and places in the Alhambra in Granada of course. At the Palacio de Viana, all the magic spaces were outside in the courtyards. In these places it made sense to stop moving, to rest and breathe in the many hundreds of years of prayer and life, of work and pleasure. Like the kami of the Shinto, there are spirits in these places, natural or constructed. They can be welcoming or wary, but they are tangible.
Look for those voices, the “songs on the wind, whispers in trees.” It’s magic when that happens, when they appear.