Journal excerpt: Having just spent a few days in Cornwall, I can testify that St Nectan’s Glen is a place not to be missed. This hidden, ‘triple the size of a tennis court ‘ glen, with it own waterfall, high rocky sides shielding it from the outside world is an unusual place – one steps into another ‘place’, a liminal space when you enter that mini-Shangri-La.
The ancient Celts would have called this place caol áit [pronounced ‘kweel awtch’], a ‘thin place’, where Here and the Other ‘touch’.
To some it is the place where carvings have been found (nearby) that are over four thousand years old. To others, it is the area St Nectan, aound the year 500AD ‘fashioned’ this place and prayed, and still others, will tell you it’s where King Arthur (the ‘once and future King of England’) and his knights rested. Perhaps all these events and more took place here. There’s even talk of fairies, piskies and ‘ghostly monks’. It’s England. Legends abound. But, ‘behind’ all these stories, for those that visit, there is a positive and refreshing ‘energy’ here. It is a sacred place, drawing men and women over the millennia, and drawing them still, today. And, here I am. Drawn, too!
The roar of the waterfall continues. I can see coins, pennies, half-pushed into trees, as an offering when pilgrims have asked a prayer. Others have tied brightly couloured ribbons to tree branches for the same purpose. The water flows away along a wide and shallow rivulet. I’m careful how I walk along its course. Periodically, I encounter small piles of stones – each pile consisting of about five or six rocks, each getting smaller as it balances on a foundational stone beneath it, and standing a total of 6-10 inches high. These are memorial stones – in memory of those that previously visited here, or perhaps to remember the life of a loved-one [Joshua 4:6 also mentions something similar]. Others have left palmstones with names on, and an assortment of gifts and offerings for the prayers they prayed.
Regardless of ones religious outlook or spirituality, there is something ‘deeper’ here that cannot be named.
To call oneself ‘conservative’, or ‘evangelical’, ‘catholic’, ‘orthodox’, wiccan, buddhist or any other name misses the reverence this place exudes, misses the Nameless One that inhabits this place and who calls us by our True Name, and not by our tribal allegiance.
Surrounded by such ‘primeval’ beauty, my verbal prayers soon give way to silent prayers. And soon, even those thought-prayers stop and for one brief moment I’m ‘there’. I call it ‘the clearing in the inner forest’, some call it ‘the zone’, others call it ‘the garden’, Thomas Merton calls it ‘le point vierge’, the ‘virgin point’, the ‘place’ within each of us where our True Self resides and which we always have access to, but visit infrequently. Both he and other mystics such as the Lady Julian of Norwich equate it with our sinless soul.
Surrounded by such awesome, ‘raw’ and naked beauty, something catches my attention. A thought follows, and I’ve left ‘the clearing’. Thought does that. It’s inevitable. The moments we spend with the Divine, no words are needed – indeed they get in the way. But, thoughts distance us from that ‘solitude-with-the-Divine’, but it’s all right. For one brief moment – was it a few seconds or an hour, it doesn’t matter – I was there. For one moment, I was alone with the Alone. And that was more than enough.
And now I’m back. Energised. Refreshed. Communed.