She was also able to fill me in on the details of the anecdote about the stones' revenge. Since she was quite a young thing, she has had a fascination with standing stones, and has toured most of the megaliths of western Europe. Many years ago she persuaded her less interested parents to take a trip to Morbihan to visit Carnac. This involved a deal of travelling and traipsing, and my brother was making no bones about his weariness with what he saw as a pointless hippy pilgrimage to a collection of stones of no significance. In the middle of his grumbling, he stubbed his toe hard on a concealed stone. As they drove off, a small stone flew up and into the windscreen, cracking it. Later that evening, an anonymously thrown stone broke the window of the gite where they were staying.
So the story goes. I warned Tom about it when he was grumbling about the non-experience of Carnac; don't say it too loud, I admonished, they may exact revenge for your unbelief. But in fact, most people seem to find themselves disappointed with Carnac. Its impressiveness lies in its extent, not in imposing massiveness, and, of course in its unexplained mystery. But that too is a frustration, the enigma blocks rather than beguiles: what is the point of this? one finds oneself asking. I've concluded that where standing stones are concerened, size matters. the bigger specimens were more striking,
and those which could be seen to possess faces, or characteristics, caught the attention more. This one below, with its benign and distant gaze, put me in mind of the episode of Noggin the Nog ( anyone else have a soft spot for Noggin the Nog?), called 'The Firecake', where Olaf the Lofty invents dynamite, and awakens the sleeping stone people, one of whom attaches itself to Little Knut and follows him... (oh do shut up you sad woman, you'll never be taken seriously again!)
This one is, I believe, much beloved by New Age pilgrims for its resemblance to a whale. Very like a whale.
The alignments have been so much frequented by tourists over the years that now they have been fenced in with robust, chest high, plasticised green fencing, else the erosion of all the feet going over the soil around them would cause the stones to fall over, and what is the point of a standing stone no longer standing, especially one which takes it on itself to squash a well-intentioned visitor? The mesh around the burial chamber had been prized apart a little, presumably to make an aperture for a camera lense, which I took advantage of.
It came to me later, though, what the experience brought to mind: walking around a zoo of dispirited and decontextualised animals. The larger ones, the elephants, buffalo, hippopotami, et al, will inevitably impress by their mass, the herds of small unremarkable grazing herbivores soon cease to interest, but with all of them, something is gone out of them. The beautiful and mysterious images of Carnac one sees in books and postcards all appear to have been taken in misty sunrise or sunset. On a chilly afternoon in early May, in the company of a few handfuls of other tourists equally nonplussed as onself, the stones are mute, grey, lifeless things, ungiving, absent. Whatever or whoever the beings or spirits who raised them, they walk here no longer, except, perhaps occasionally, they may pass by fleetingly at those threshold times of half-light and solitude. I wouldn't know.
Ah well, tell them I called and nobody answered.
The evening we walked on the beach, I bent and picked up stones, aimlessly, as you do. Why does one pick the ones one does? Later that night, I took them out of my pockets; just three, unintentionally, one for each of us. The middle one is evidently Molly, small, bright, intense, shot with colour. Close your eyes, I said to Tom, pick one for you. His hand closed over the whiter, rounder bulkier one, slightly damaged and uneven, with a trace of a face in it. That left the flatter, more amorphous, translucent but more coloured one for me. Who's to say stones can't be imbued with spirits, with a touch of light, and imagination?