The Trees of Clava Cairns

by Luna Sikkens

Image provided by Visit Inverness Loch Ness

...when there is no one else and you are left alone to listen, the earth speaks and her memories are truly real once more, even if only for a moment.

The Clava Cairns are surrounded by trees older than my grandmother. The first time I visited, there were lots of people around, circling and entering the stone circles, touching in awe and taking photographs, reading about how the stones had been discovered and dug out, as cars continue down the road that goes straight through the third circle. I thought little of it then, until I visited the cairns at night the next time and suddenly realised, in the quiet, what a powerful place it is. Those trees, motionless apart from their leaves rustling in the wind, the unchanging face of the stones that were erected thousands of years ago, started to feel alive. I didn't enter the circles on my first visit because of a lingering sense of superstition, and I didn't enter them the second time because it didn't feel as if I had a right to disturb whoever lived there. As any Highlander will tell you, trust your intuition.

Entrance to the Clava Cairns. The low lying, long cairn is flanked by stone pillars.

Image provided by Visit Inverness Loch Ness

Looking north on to the entrance of the Clava Cairns.

I only come at night now, when it's sure to be quiet. Last time it was a full moon. The light shone through the trees and, in the dark, seemed to form a path that led in between two trees. There I sat on the grass with my friend and felt with unwavering certainty that we were being listened to, our jokes laughed at, our respect at the boundaries created by the circle appreciated. A bit of company to those who so long ago were forgotten.

That is what the Highlands are to me: superstition in daylight, surrounded by tourists who are inexplicably drawn to the places the ancients worshipped, and belief at night, away from towns and villages and busy roads, with the moon and stars and faint bleating of sheep or mooing of coos in the distance. Then, when there is no one else and you are left alone to listen, the earth speaks and her memories are truly real once more, even if only for a moment. And the trees of Clava Cairns witness it all like the passing of flies before their mind's eyes.

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