The Trek to Little Potala Palace

by Chris Pady

While visiting the town of Derge (rhymes with reggae) in eastern Tibet, my partner, Michele, and I learn of Palpung, the area’s largest and most important Kagyupa (White) sect monastery, locally known as the “Little Potala Palace”. 

Yet despite Palpung’s reputation, we have no luck hiring a guide through any of the town’s hotel staff, shopkeepers, or restaurant owners. Finally, we bump into an English-speaking monk who promises to arrange everything for us. “Meet here at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning”, he instructs, pointing to a designated spot. Nothing about the arrangement spells certainty, yet we’ve got nothing to lose. 

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Telling Stories in Cornwall

My husband, Gary, and I recently went to Cornwall to walk meandering paths with a small group. At least, thatwas the story. One morning over breakfast at Rosemerryn House in Lamorna Valley, one of our group revealed she is a professional storyteller. She described learning to take storytelling seriously. “After all,” she mused, “We don’t usually think stories are important. At least, not in the real world.”

I realized that often the word “story” is used as a code word for “false.” As in: “Oh, that’s a likely story! You don’t really expect me to believe you, do you?” Or it’s trivialized to mean something soothing, as in, “Tell me a bedtime story.” Of course, a story is much more than that: it is how we make meaning out of our experiences—as in, “telling the story of my life.” Sometimes I identify so much with my story that instead of me telling “it,” it starts telling “me.”


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Fogous and Creeps in Cornwall

Pendeen Fogou wasn’t a very prepossessing site. To reach it, the three of us—my husband, Gary, our guide, Cheryl Straffon, and I—had to unfasten three rusty metal gates to venture ever deeper into a farmer’s cattle yard. The broken concrete beneath our feet was covered with several layers of dried (or drying) cow manure. Cattle were lowing and resting in their own muck in the nearby pens. 

Our goal was a six-foot-tall stone structure with tall grasses and weeds growing out of the top and a yawning opening in one wall. Before we could enter the site, we had one more obstruction: a detached farm gate, which the three of us hauled over to one side. 

Bending low, we followed Cheryl down a steep, stone-lined passage deep into the earth. I was grateful I had my hiking staffs to help keep me from slipping. At the bottom, the rocky passage leveled out. My flashlight illuminated moss-covered granite walls and ceiling, the large stones carefully placed to construct the fogou. Pronounced “foo-goo,” it’s a Cornish word that means “cave,” and it refers to a human-made underground cavern.

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My Journey to the Union of Heaven and Earth

by Elyn Aviva

Join me on a journey into the unknown, where what you think you know melts away and is replaced by something something bigger.

For decades I have been drawn to sacred sites and powerful places, drawn to go on pilgrimage across France and Spain, drawn to place my feet in the footsteps of if not my ancestors then of the ancestors of spirit who have traveled these paths before me. Like iron pulled toward a magnet, I have sought out well- and little-known places of power ancient stone circles, half-buried dolmens, ruined Romanesque chapels, spire-topped inspiring cathedrals, thick forests, hidden holy wells, dark sacred caves. Seeking I knew not what, going I knew not why, except that I was driven by a simple but all-consuming question: What are these places? I think I hoped that, by going to enough of them, I would find the answer.

The first time I knew I was in a very powerful place was when I saw the alignments at Carnac in Brittany, France. My husband, Gary, and I had driven through the flat Breton maritime pine forest toward the coast. The nearly straight road reached a crossroad and there, behind green metal fencing, were rows of large, upright stones, some as tall as a person, stretching in rows as far as the eye can see. Brakes screeching, we pulled over. I jumped out and ran across the lane, twining my fingers through the barrier to get as close as I could. What were they? Who put them here? What purpose did they serve?

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Genuine or Hoax? Visiting a Crop Circle Formation at Avebury, England

by Elyn Aviva

The news rippled through our group like a breeze through a wheat field: a crop circle had just been spotted! According to a crop circle blog, it had appeared only two days earlier, on the side of Windmill Hill, close to Avebury, in southern England. We were told it was still fresh and relatively untrammeled. Even better news was that we were nearby, since our group was visiting sacred sites in the area—including Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and Avebury, site of the largest stone circle in the UK. 

Crop formations usually occur in fields of ripe cereal grains. They appear all over the world but are most prevalent during July and August in the Wiltshire district of southern England. The complex patterns range in size from just a few feet across to over 900 feet, although the average is about 200-300 feet in diameter, and they vary in elements from a few to over 400. The designs may be circular (hence “crop circle”) or based on other geometrical forms (hence “crop formation”). 

They are controversial. Some researchers believe they are encoded messages from either Gaia/Earth or ET/the Cosmos; others believe they are hoaxes perpetrated by tricksters. They may be a relatively recent occurrence, first documented in 1976 in the UK, or they may be much, much older. I’d been reading about them for years, but I’d never seen one—and never walked inside of one. I was excited at the prospect.

Before setting out, our guide, Jude Currivan, showed us a tantalizing diagram of the crop formation. It looked like a huge, blunt-ended sword, pale gold cut into the middle of a field of dark ripe grain. Jude promptly christened it “Excalibur” and called it “the sword of truth.”

The sword blade was composed of 16 overlapping circles. Each overlap formed a geometrical figure called a vesica piscis or mandorla, which is often found in sacred art. Extending through the center of the circular handle and out the top were 10 circles in increasing and decreasing sizes. The handle incorporated both a disk (representing the sun?) and a crescent (representing the moon?).

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Searching for Sunrise in a Megalithic Cemetery, Ireland

by Elyn Aviva

Cautiously, my husband Gary, our friend Michael, and I followed a nearly invisible path through the fog and up the side of Loughcrew hill, just before sunrise. A huge crow—perhaps a raven—flew by, its wings flapping loudly in semi-darkness. We were heading to the ridge top to see a twice-a-year spectacle: the rays of the equinox sunrise penetrating the passageway of Cairn T, a 5,500-year-old megalithic tomb situated 52 miles northwest of Dublin. The equinoxes, which occur around March 21 and September 21, are the two times of year when the days and nights are of equal length.

Distant drumming drifted through the swirling mist, along with the faint sound of voices. Others had reached the site before us. Soon we arrived at the top. A large mound of mist-sparkled green grass and rocks, Cairn T looked like an immense, squat mushroom, partly encircled with huge kerbstones. A number of ruined, exposed stone chambers and tumbled stones were scattered over the hillside. Clumps of people milled around, seeking shelter, chanting, or sharing mugs of steaming coffee and pieces of cake. The event had the mixed flavor of a class reunion and a revival meeting.

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