Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Well . . . sorta

"I've always wanted to go to Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice," a fellow traveler commented, and this was the beginning of many poor jokes from those of us who ventured to this remote site on the Columbia River.  Frankly, I was a bit disappointed there weren't scantily-clad pagans dancing around the pillars, but nope . . . just us pudgy fully-dressed tourists who had to satisfy our curiosity and make bad puns.

But really . . . how could I resist?  Maryhill was just across the river on the Washington side.  This I could do.  England was a bit too far.  And although I was too late to see the sun rise above the Heel Stone on the outside of the circle, the stone is accurately placed, as are all the pillars and archways of this full-sized replica.

This Stonehenge is the brainchild of Samuel Hill, a prosperous businessman who fell in love with the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900's and who made his fortune building roads.  Because giant stones weren't available, he used the material he was now familiar with--reinforced concrete.  He had visited the original site during the first years of World War I and was told that it was used for human sacrifice.  We now know better, but that erroneous statement planted an idea in his mind:  To build a monument honoring the men who were "still being sacrificed to the god of war."

The jokes stopped.

As we walked around the inner circle and read the names and dates of the men of Klickitat County, Washington, who lost their lives during the war, we were struck by how young they were.  Almost all of them were in their early twenties.   Having two sons that age, I realize how lucky I am that they have been spared the horror of fighting in a war.  A newer monument has been erected down the road and more names have been added; the war in Afghanistan being the latest to claim a young local's life.

Suddenly this fake Stonehenge took on a more somber meaning.  It no longer seemed silly.  It seemed quite profound.  The lyrics of that familiar folk song kept popping into my head:  When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn?

As a War Memorial, Sam Hill got it right.  The site sits high on a plateau overlooking the beautiful Columbia River.  The original Stonehenge was built almost 5,000 years ago by the ancients who wanted to measure time and mark the seasons of the year.  It was a place of reflection.

And so is this one.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know this existed - a concrete version, and a war memorial at that. Yes, somehow it is a fitting place to reflect on so many lives lost.