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Quest for Sacred Space lures us all

Wind driven clouds file past the craggy shore of Westpoint in Prince Edward County on a bright autumn afternoon. For centuries a panorama of human history has captivated observers. Donald McClure photo

Each of us has within us images of natural or man- made space which lingers in our consciousness held by feelings of respect, admiration and awe.  It might be the first view of a mountain, the vastness of the ocean, the potent power of a glacier or the dew on a spider web early on a summer morning.

Something about that space lifts us out of our daily routine and puts us for a brief instant in touch again with the universe around us.  The impression left behind can be powerful and remains to be brought out and examined from the inner recesses of our being to refresh us or remind us what we took away from the scene.

We are left with a deep-felt realization that we exist as small but important specs of energy in the vast scheme of life.

Canadian Photography legend Courtney Milne wrote about his personal 10-month pilgrimage to 12 of our planet’s suggested sacred places in his epic book The Sacred Earth – a decade ago.

Magnificent crater of the sleeping Haleakala volcano in Maui is the second largest in the world. The vastness and power of the explosion in 1790 that created it almost overwhelms the onlooker. Judith McClure photo

The places named are recognized sites which people have associated as special and included The Great Pyramid in Giza in Egypt to Mount Fuji in Japan and the stark, startling Ayers Rock in Australia.   From his list I have only shared one of his choices – the awesome, sleeping volcanic crater of Haleakala in Maui.

What Courtney found in his quest was that there were many more Sacred Places than the dozen listed.  In fact in my estimation there are likely as many special sites as their are folks on this earth.  Because for each of us, spaces or conditions exist which excite our imaginations and fire our inner longing.

The sheer power of the huge crater (49 sq. km) of Haleakala is a definite yes for everyone who stands in wonder at its vastness and sheer raw splendour.  I carry the breathtaking image with its surprising lustre that Judy made on our early morning visit always on my computer screen.

A few others that we would name which hold a special meaning in our consciousness is a frosted wild blueberry hill in New Brunswick illuminated by the breaking dawn where photographer Freeman Patterson took us one crisp November morning.

Another would be The Angel Glacier on Mount Edith Cavell near Jasper where we hiked through the snow, pierced here and there by the bejewelled pin cushions of moss campions. I still hear the ice cascading from the angel’s wings and into the valley below.

We carried away a deep impression of loneliness along the stark trails and rock emplacements of Hadrian’s Wall winding across the North English countryside in the dewey morning.  We felt misty-eyed at the battle fields of Culloden in Scotland and on the field of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which witnessed horrendous human engagements.

And the anguishing drive down the narrow, boulder strewn
hillside of The Crown Range near Queenstown, New Zealand, my knuckles nearly fossilized on the steering wheel in our fearsome descent.

Also the view of the quiet sanctuary of a granite hillside behind our home in Muskoka with its magical panorama of lake and islands sparkling in the sun, or reflecting the storm clouds of the seasons, still beckons.

Right in our midst the energy generated at Westpoint, Prince Edward County on late a September afternoon framed with the black/blue clouds, the maples struggling to hold onto their orange-gold leaves as the wind turns the waves to white froth – will always hold special enchantment.

Just think of the panorama of history which has paddled and sailed past this site since man first arrived on the Lake!

What about your sacred space?  Have you experienced places which made your heart beat faster, your breathing a little tighter and your memory banks explode with emotion?  Love to hear about it.

Frost coated blueberry leaves near Shamper's Bluff, New Brunswick, glisten in the early morning sun turning the hillside into a magical kingdom of light and colour. Donald McClure photo

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About the Author: He can tickle your funny bone or tug at your heart strings. County people may know him as a chronicler of everything that happens (or should happen) in the garden, but his interests stretch across the natural world. His unique sense of observation takes in a wide expanse of living and may even point out some truths about our own condition as managers of the world around us. With Loyalist antecedents in his family tree his roots go deep into the Ontario countryside.

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  1. Donald says:

    A helicopter ride would be a thrilling way to experience the volcano Kelly and you are fortunate to hold such an amaxing memory.

    Water doespossess a special meaning to all of us Kelly and provides us with a background for clearing our minds of the routines of the day and often sets the stage for inner contemplation and relaxation. Thanks for you thoughts. Donald.

  2. kelly says:

    I too have been to the volcano at Haleakala in Hawaii several years ago – by helicopter. We dipped into a creavice which dropped thousands of feet into the rain forest – Maui is so gorgeous! While I was there I would sleep on the balcony to drink in the sounds of the ocean at night!

    Love the story Donald! My sacred spaces are almost all around water – the sound brings me profound peace.

  3. Donald says:

    The Beothuk Interpretation Centre near Boyd’s Cove sounds like a ” must see” on our next visit Louisa. Another place we enjoyed immensely was the remains of the village built for the movie “Random Passage” which caught the flavour of life on The Rock” in early ninteenth cemtury. Located on Trinity Bight near New Bonvaventure it really comes to life when you view the series. Regards Donald

  4. Louisa says:

    You are very complimentary, Donald, thank you! I do find it easy to speak about a place such as NL, that evoke such feeling.

    Last summer on our visit to The Rock we visited the Beothuk Interpretation Centre near Boyd’s Cove (just south of Twillingate), and took the trail to the location where a site was discovered. Standing there beside a clear stream cascading over rocks flowing into the ocean in a secluded, treed inlet, you could really imagine the ‘red people’ living in their community there in the clearing, along the water’s edge. All there is now is numbered, crater-like land formations in the grass, where the homes stood. You could really feel their presence there – it was a beautiful place.

    I wish I could send you photos.

    Keep up the great work here on your blog – it is most entertaining and informative.

  5. Donald says:

    Thank you Louisa for your wonderful note –one of the best I have ever received. You have also revealed that you are an excellent writer with a a strong command of the language and keen insight into your subject,

    We both share an immense respect for the magical spell of Newfoundland. Perhaps nothing has said it better than the sensitive provincial travel ads made for television in the last few years which capture the unspoiled beauty and mystery of this ruggedly alluring land. Spread across the Rock of course is the distant spirit of the extinct Beothuk people which ceased to exist when the lovely Shanawdithit died of tuberculosis in Botwood on June 6, 1829. Somehow you still sense their presence in the background.

    Even today as life on the island is rapidly changing the beauty and peace of the place is unique and captivating — waiting to be shared by people searching for special places. Best wishes Donald

  6. Louisa says:

    Absolutely, there are many of those special places that have the power to bring up and out some strong, intrinsic emotions – of either having been there before, or having the power to bring total peace. I love to discover these places and moments. I’ve often wondered why some scenes bring about such emotion in us? How powerful the eyes are, and their connection to our brains! If we were blind or deaf, would we not have these moments of shear awe and appreciation? (or other senses would kick in and it would still happen?) Or is there also something in the ‘air’ of a place that would get to us regardless? For me it is the ocean and specifically the ocean around Newfoundland. The cliffs of Cape St. Mary’s with their hoards of raucous sea birds wheeling over and nesting in the odourous, briny fog or winds, and the 1,000 foot straight drops to swirling depths off Bell Island in Conception Bay, and the jagged, barren, windy cliffs again at Spillars Cove near Bonavista, transport me to other times it seems, yet with something of the familiar and serene that almost baffles me. Nothing else matters and I just ‘be’ as I wander the moss encrusted rocks and tufts of wind-stunted spruce and ground-cover plants.

    I think, too, this awe is in us all the time, and scenes of vivid beauty, size, colour and even danger, have the ability to bring out what is already in us (when we insist on living in the present moments and not turning away from what is right in front of us). It comes out in me when I walk the North Beach in the County in a high wind, waves crashing so loudly that there is no other sound to be heard and even thinking ceases. Or in an evening when the ducks and geese and swans congregate against the sunset sky over Pleasant Bay and Lake Ontario, filling the air with black silhouettes and their voices filling the air with excited energy. Or walking a woodland path solo, and there is a particularly vibrant cap of moss on an old stump in an otherwise uni-coloured setting. The natural world is just so gratifying and stabilizing isn’t it?

    Sorry this is so long – you really touched on something that resonates with me. The photos you’ve shown here are just gorgeous!

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