Elyn Aviva traveled to Malta to experience sunrise at the 5,500-year-old Mnajdra Temple on the day of spring equinox. Unexpected insights are revealed when the event wasn’t the sacred experience she’d anticipated.
When Nancy King celebrated her 80th birthday with a vision quest ceremony in rural Quebec, she carried a lifetime of self-doubt into the forest with her. Today, she's free from all that. Find out what happened.
Not everyone celebrates their 80th birthday alone in the wilderness for four days and four nights . But that's exactly what writer Nancy King elected to do when she signed up for a spiritual Vision Quest. Discover how she manages to tamp down fear and ready herself for the woods as she prepares for the big event.
Mary Ann Treger is a talker. When she's not talking, she's texting or emailing or surfing social media sites. Being connected is her cocaine. Even alone at home, political pundits yak on the television in the background. So why would this motor-mouthed writer go cold turkey and sign up for a silent retreat in an isolated abbey where shutting-up is the numero uno requirement? Read on...
I am sweating profusely. My pores are so overrun with liquid that I fear I will float away in a river of my own perspiration. Since I am molting inside a sweat lodge, I figure I can’t go very far. Temporarily reassured.
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.
Unkempt little bodies jump from stone to stone. Lithe and agile. Darting now towards, then away from the never-ending stream of tourists flowing over the raised wooden causeways of Beng Mealea. They claim the messy jumble of unrestored stones of this temple, 40 kilometres east of Angkor, on the ancient royal way, as their playground. Nearly nine centuries of heat and humidity have played havoc with the precise placement of the blue sandstone blocks. Gone is the former wealth and glory of the mighty Khmer Empire. In its place poverty reigns.
At each consecutive temple I visit they keep buzzing around me in swarms. Irritating little mosquitoes. Sometimes noisy and persistent, other times quiet and watchful. Even if I try, I cannot seem to avoid their persistent onslaught. “Lady! Lady!” Dirty little hands push tacky souvenirs I don’t want in my direction. I am determined not to make eye contact. I don’t want to see them. “Only one dolla!” I hasten my pace, and keep my face stern. I focus on the beauty and splendour of the temple in front of me. They give up, and turn their attention to their next victim.
We trudged up the bleak hill, brown and barren. My husband, Gary, and I were hiking with a small group in desolate, wild Dartmoor National Park to a place we’d never been, following a faint path through the moor, a track barely visible in the water-logged, peaty soil. Our guide informed us that people can easily lose their way on the moors—experienced hikers, skilled in reading maps, disappear, their bodies found years later.