Monday, June 22, 2009


A newspaper article yesterday read as follows:

STONEHENGE, England (June 21) - Pagans and partygoers drummed, danced or gyrated in hula hoops to stay awake through the night, as more than 35,000 people greeted the summer solstice Sunday at the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge.

Despite fears of trouble because of the record-sized crowd, police said the annual party at the mysterious monument was mostly peaceful.

"It's the most magical place on the planet," said antique salesman Frank Somers, 43, dressed in the robes of his Druid faith. "Inside when you touch the stones you feel a warmth like you're touching a tree, not a stone. There's a genuine love, you feel called to it," he said.

My reading came to a halt at that point. Those people, pagans and partygoers, got to touch the stones at Stonehenge and when I was there in 1985 I couldn’t get within a football field’s distance of the stones. How can that be, I wondered? Why pagans and not me?

When Jerry and I decided to take a month-long trip to England that year, I drew up a list of things I HAD to see. Among them were Westminster Abbey, Sherwood Forest, Oxford University, the Yorkshire dales, a tiny town called Goosnargh near Lancs, where my Helms ancestors worshiped, the famous book town Hay on Wye. But heading the list was Stonehenge. The other things were “want-tos” but Stonehenge was a “must.”

All went as planned. We had three weeks on the road, heading up the east side of England, across the dales and right up to Scotland but not stepping over the border, then down through the lake country and the west coast, making little forays into the center of England to catch a few things, just as we did from the east side.

I was so excited as we neared Stonehenge but you can’t imagine my dismay when we found the whole area roped off and huge signs saying that visitors were not allowed to get any closer to the monument than the ropes. And there were guards to see that it didn’t happen. Yes, I had a 200mm lens for my camera, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to walk among those stones just as I had walked among the temples at Karnak in Egypt. I wanted to look upward and see those massive stones hulking over me. Apparently the ropes were in response to some vandalism. I could understand this action, but for me this was a trip of a lifetime, and to say I was disappointed is an understatement.

When I read the newspaper today and found that all the weirdos (pardon me) got to do what I couldn’t, I was a bit miffed. It doesn’t pay to stay miffed, so I quickly gave it up. But I really do need to go on record here and let you all know that I got cheated!

I did, however, get a bit closer to the prehistoric white horse on the hill in Uffington, but that is one of those things that looks better the farther away you are from it. I’ll show you what I mean. Here is the picture I took from up close to the horse:

And here is what you see if you are in the air. But at least I was a whole lot closer to it than I was to the stones at Stonehenge.

I loved England. As a genealogist, I have learned that I am rooted deeply in that country. As I walked around, not only to these places that were tops on my list but also in the little villages where we overnighted in B&B’s, I had this strange feeling that I was, in a sense, home.

But as a genealogical "native" I sure wish I’d been able to get closer to my Stonehenge.

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