Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Story: The Canyon Is A Magic Place

There’s something magic about The Canyon.
No, really: I saw it with my own eyes…or did I?
It happened about 15 years ago…or did it?

As a single parent I always found ways to entertain my son that were free, inexpensive and local. As an environmental enthusiast and Big T “local” it was a perfect setting to take my growing son every week of his young life to Big Tujunga Canyon (The Canyon for short). We hiked, gathered natural ‘treasures’, swam in the pools and waterfalls and loved The Canyon like it was our own back yard. But we never saw anything in our yard to equal what we witnessed in The Canyon.

There’s an outcrop of rock just past the intersection of Big T Canyon Road and The 2 Highway, before the dam overlook. We always called it The Flattop. It had a forest rangers station at one time, years ago. It stretches a rocky peninsula of stone way out into The Canyon’s natural crevasse. One of The Canyon’s purging fires wiped the station out and all that remains is the concrete foundation, stone planters and a series of flat levels that were bunkers, a helicopter pad and unpaved parking in better days; a deeply rutted road wends its way up to the top of the precipice. Winding and treacherous trails snake in broken pathways down the cliffsides and end in concrete outlooks. It is a glorious place to explore! My son Adam and I discovered that helicopter student pilots learn to fly up The Canyon, hover over Flattop and often land there. Perfect for a young boy to see!

So one weekday afternoon we packed a lunch and set out for Flattop. I nearly chose another destination for variety as we had just been there the day before…We parked in the little turnout across the road from Flattop. From the moment we got out of the car I knew something was different. It was so quiet it was like the sound had been turned off and all the natural things: birds chittering, winds sighing, ground squirrels scampering in the underbrush, were utterly absent. Silence loomed like a physical presence. I shook it off as my imagination and we hiked up the road to Flattop.

At the very first level I had planned to stop and cut ancient rosemary to weave into a wreath for my kitchen. I had my clippers at the ready but when we came to the flat area that stretched like an optical illusion into a sheer drop off, I crouched instinctively with clippers held like a weapon before me and drew my child behind me for protection…

Before me was an intricate Celtic Circle: a series of concentric circular pathways that covered the entire (every square foot) rocky shelf for a diameter of about 3500 square feet! It was made of hundreds of river stones, each the same smooth texture and the sizes grew progressively and minutely smaller as they marched inward. They had to have been brought to the site as all the stones on the precipice are angular not smooth. The pathway led ever inward to the center where a small barren tree had been planted and little objects hung from its branches. The entire Flattop had been swept smooth where the Celtic Circle was. Without thinking I began to walk the pathway, then caught myself and stopped in amazement at what I beheld and my acceptance of it; but that wasn’t all...

It felt as though we were being watched, like we’d surprised someone walking the circle and I imagined they had scurried for cover in the underbrush or might be hiding on the cliffside trails. As I cast my eyes about me looking for anything else not ‘right’, my gaze came to a complete shocked halt at an impossible sight (more so even than anything I had beheld so far).

There on the very point of the precipice was an immense and perfectly detailed 20 foot tall Wicker Man! As a person of UK heritage (and a nice mix of it) I can say my affinity for all things of that faraway land appeal to me in a deeply satisfying way… but this creation made my skin prickle and every hair stand up. It was shockingly ugly. It was both male and female with long branches of hair and skeletal limbs and enormous hollow abdomen. I believe it was not a good thing, yet how can I call such a mystery: evil? It was made entirely of branches; mud held it together and formed genitalia (both sexes) and it pointed one long arm with the index finger extended like a knobby hand down toward The Canyon in the direction I had come and directly in line with the setting sun. It was plainly spiritual and none of this had been there when we were, just the day before. 

Then, as only small boys can do, my son marched over to the circle, and before I realized what he was doing, he pried a stone from its place and flung it out over the cliff. I never heard it hit for the instant he threw it, it seemed as though a door had opened and all the sound that had been stored there came at me at once! It was a cacophony of noise: birds, winds, falling rocks and something else I cannot say… but very like a voice. I'd like to say I searched for it on the hillside but in truth our bodies moved of their own accord!

Our feet only touched the ground to take off and it seemed we made it back to the car in one long stride. Neither of us spoke all the drive home but when I got there my son said “no one will believe us” so I ran inside the house for the camera and he was still in shock in the car when I returned. We drove all the way back up to Flattop in record time.

It was gone. No… it was like it had never been. Even in the deepening dusk I could see every single stone was gone, not piled to the side but entirely absent. Not a twig or bit of mud remained of the Wicker Man and it was not thrown over the precipice. The tree was gone and every thing on it. The area had bits of debris natural to the setting strewn back in place. But our footprints from our earlier visit were also gone…

There was nothing to take a picture of.
Only our memory of the day remains…
The Canyon is a magic place.

Terre Ashmore © 2011

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