The tree stands out stark against the sky atop Enchanted Rock in the Texan hill country. This red basalt dome like a small Uluru, echoing its massive Australian cousin. It too, was a sacred place to the native people.
Working our way to the top, my son Tom and my dear friend Jim, sweltering in the blistering 99 degrees, we look around to take in the vista. The texan hill country is laid out before us stretching for miles in undulations.
What is it about these places that inspires a sense of awe. No wonder the first peoples named them as sacred.
Apparently called Spirit Song Rock by the native peoples it has many legends flowing from the red basalt. One saying that it was a portal to other worlds, another that if you spend the night on the rock you become invisible. The rock seems to be a place where transformation happens.
Once you reach the top there is a small entrance to a cave system, the aperture is claustrophobically small. Tom and Jim went in – discretion being the better part of valour I waited atop the rock for them to emerge. A group of American teenagers were also up there with us. One of the boys entered the caves with his iPhone blasting out a recent chart hit. Tom went on ahead of Jim wielding the flashlight and eventually left Jim behind.
Jim appeared after about 20 minutes – without Tom. Just as I was starting to wonder how I would explain Tom’s disappearance to his Mother back home in the UK, he emerged. Hot, sweaty, scraped and scratched; he had a huge grin on his face. He had gone down deep into the cave system, with two of the American lads in tow. When they reached a place where equipment would be needed Tom led the boys back out into the sunlight.
It struck me that the enchantment persisted. The small vignette of the hour we spent up there redolent with symbolic images. The young man leaving the Father, being taken into the dark by a tribal elder, having to face the challenge alone, finding his own sense of authority and leadership. Remerging Tom talked, for some reason, about how the baton passed on by the previous generation is always heavier than the next one expects. The enchantment obviously touching him too.
Though America is a relatively new country it is ancient in its geology and its native roots go deep into our collective inheritance. This place has been inhabited for 11 to 12 thousand years, and we, I believe felt the resonance of that history.