After a delicious Sunday breakfast buffet and a quick photo walk in downtown Parkersburg, Steve and I headed back into Ohio toward the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. Steve has always been drawn to Native American archaeology and has experience working for the National Park Service at Wupatki National Monument. The information we gathered at the Hopewell site was truly fascinating. The native Americans in the Scioto River valley constructed enormous earth works, mounds and borders of giant proportions, geometrical shapes duplicated exactly many miles apart. The burial mounds contained artifacts made with materials from distant regions. The scope of this culture, the complexity of the ideas they represent, is amazing. Of course, our conjectures about the meaning of the clues they left behind will never be verified. Mystery will always surround this place. The sense of a sacred reverence hangs in the very air, though. It felt, to me, very similar to what I felt when I visited Chichen Itza in Mexico. Time, space, geometry, astronomy, mathematics, religion, life and death coming together in physical art. These were a people who understood the interconnectedness of all things and represented that in a conscientious way. To say that it’s “primitive” misses the mark completely. It certainly seems more primitive to plow over the entire area time and time again to plant corn or bulldoze the hill to quarry gravel…which is just what the white settlers did and still are doing.
We spent the afternoon slowly embracing the place and then drove home in the dark on speedy Interstate highways. We were back by 11pm. On Wednesday, we continued our research on Native American mounds and early Wisconsin history by going to Madison and visiting the Historical Museum on Capitol Square and the UW Madison Arboretum (which has an impressive bookstore!). We are still in the process of discerning how we will contribute to the conservation of this sacred planet on a local level, to what work we will devote our energy, and how we will live in awareness of the impact we make here. It’s a time to stay open to possibilities and opportunities and to be ready to move with a purpose when a specific vehicle of conveyance appears pointing toward our goal.
Leaving the National Forest and re-entering the 21st century was a bit of an adjustment. How ironic that we fled from a generator only to find ourselves in a modern hotel room with no less than 14 electrical appliances to its 60 square feet of space! I immediately turned off the heater and fan and also a separate air purifier. I unplugged the refrigerator. Still, every 15 minutes, something made a punctuated whooshing sound. Eventually, I figured out it was an air freshener mechanism above the door releasing a neutralizing odor into our “smoking Queen” like clockwork. I learned how to sleep through it for a few hours.
Since we had traveled so far north in search of room in the inn, we decided to keep going on into Ohio. We crossed the Ohio River at Portsmouth and found our way toward Wayne National Forest. We stopped in at the public library in a light rain to do a bit of research, and there, Steve made a discovery that changed our course. We had promised ourselves a “splurge” portion on this trip. Paying more than $100 for a room at a franchised motel off the Interstate did not count. But now, we were within 2 hours of a bonafide historic hotel in a state that Steve had never visited. We decided to go east to Parkersburg, West Virginia, to spend the night at the Blennerhassett Hotel and then return to Ohio the next day to visit the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. From there, we decided we’d head back home directly. There comes a time when you know that your adventure has taught you something important and you need to pull back to your interior to focus on that. It’s like a mythical journey: leaving home, learning, and returning changed. But every hero needs some time and a place to figure out what he’s learned. We figured we were close enough to use home base as that place.
Nestled deep in our gear, we found dress shoes, a long skirt for me and a tie for Steve. We were off to enjoy a dash of historic elegance and some truly fine food, not cooked over a campfire. We were not disappointed.
Final phase: the Pre-historic. That’ll be my next post. Thanks for following so far!