“Faraway places with their strange-sounding names” have been calling to me since I was a young child, mesmerized by magic carpet stories that flew me regularly in and out of exciting experiences. How fortunate to be able to play out some of these adventures in real life, and with an equally dedicated Travel Companion (TC), my husband who shares the journeying.”– DFK
Climbing the Glastonbury Tor on a sunny day in Somerset, England, my TC and I compared the incline of the path up the steep conical hill to the trail up the back of our isle’s Nounou Mountain, minus the forest.
Circling up and up, my mind spiraled back to the mists of Avalon, the ancient “Isle of Apples” central to Arthurian legends of medieval times when waters lapped at the base of this tor.
Then, there were the interweaving accounts of the Holy Grail, supposed to be buried deep within the Chalice Well at the base of the tor.
It was well worth the huff-and-puff when we arrived at the summit, a geologic and historic high point. I snapped photos at all the cardinal points, marveling at views of the quilted meadows offset by darker seams — trees growing beside remaining waterways.
To recapitulate briefly from last month’s “FarAway Places,” we chose to make this day trip to Glastonbury (which holds an allusion to glass in its present-day name) from the lovely, Edwardian city of Bath in southwest England. An economical modern coach conveyed us in comfort. After about an hour’s ride, the new adventure unfolded.
Atop the tor there remains a tower that provides views to far horizons that could have forewarned of any approaching invaders. Several other pilgrims to the sacred site also were taking in the views; some were inspecting the gleaming metal disk inscribed with compass directions and how many miles to England’s noteworthy locations; a few perched on the grassy shoulders to reflect quietly on the place.
We stepped briefly within the dark shadow of that crowning tower where, three centuries ago, the last abbot of Glastonbury was hanged — part of the long and involved tale of England’s Reformation.
I shook that vision off, narrowing my eyes to instead imagine fluttering pennants, armored knights on horseback, jousting, the Round Table, and Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword. Chivalrous tales of the legendary king and his knights, Queen Guinevere, and all the bravery, romance and passion, and religious fervor that enwrap that literary mythology that continues to fascinate people.
Likewise, the legends of Joseph of Arimathea, who is said to have brought the Holy Grail to England after the danger-fraught days he and his followers experienced following his flight from Palestine after the crucifixion of Jesus.
The two legends intersect at one point — in Glastonbury, where this Joseph (thought to be Jesus’ uncle) supposedly founded the church that became a monastery and buried the Holy Grail on land granted to him by the king.
The energy field I experienced, whether from the day’s unfolding discoveries, or whether imagined or emanating from the ley lines to which some attribute this source of power, was — for want of better words — certainly interesting.
After span of unmeasured time, we scurried downhill. We didn’t find the Chalice Well before the afternoon’s last bus came, but I stopped briefly to photograph an ancient stela fitted with an iron bell and inscribed with two modern pictographs of swans.
Back in the little town, we ambled walkways of the old Benedictine Abbey, enjoying watching swans (and ducks) on placid ponds set within green swathes. Massive walls of grey stone block contrasting with the warm, golden stone of the Lady Chapel. My eyes played over the repeating vaulted arches of St. Mary’s Chapel, and I experienced extreme sadness for all the lives that had been lost in supposedly “holy” wars, crusades over the ages, and the bereft families on all sides.
Some time ago I read a riveting account of a high official of the Church of England who (similar to Schliemann and Troy) intuited where to find the buried ancient Mary chapel that predated by far Glastonbury’s Lady Chapel and St. Michael’s Church.
The information the good man provided to archaeologists, although “dead right,” brought his downfall. He was charged with something akin to wizardry, and defrocked. I was purely shocked by this outcome. But then again, the world is full of doubters of extra-sensory perception..
On these grounds that connect historically with St. Michael’s Mount near Penzance we “found” earlier (“FarAway Places” — Feb. 12, 2017), apertures within the oldest walls framed glimpses of tangled gardens and spring-fed rivulets. Time seemed to elongate, if not stand still, before we exited the dream of ancient Avalon and Arthur’s capital of Camelot to catch our return bus to Bath.
The next day’s train ride returned us within hours to the bustling, double-decker energy of London town. Our final day in England, we rambled miles along the Avon River by the London Eye and the Royal Opera House, visited the Museum of Modern Art and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We chose to attend as the trip’s Grand Finale a Shakespeare performance at the Globe Theatre: “Romeo and Juliet” (what else?).
Flying toward home, my TC and I had nothing but time to review all the British Isle experiences. Etched deeply into our memories are heartwarming meetings with cousins and a dear sister, the nucleus of the trip.
How fortunate that our newly found cousin happened to settle close to Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge, places that often appear on travel wish lists besides mine. We had my (sad to say now) late cousin Eric as a personal host and guide to introduce us to these iconic places.
I treasure the photographs that speak the thousand extra words that seem superfluous to type onto my trusty keyboard.
Poet and author Dawn Fraser Kawahara, a rooted Kauai transplant has, since her birth in British India, called India, Burma, Australia as well as California, Illinois, Ohio and Colorado “home” at various times. Kawahara for many years led and instructed travel groups to Hawaii and Pacific nations. She pens “The Green Flash” column published every other week in The Garden Island. Further information about the writer and her work may be found through www.kauaiweddingsandbooks.com.