Final Stretch, 27 & 28. The Past Under Our Feet.
Today, it's cloudy and from time to time, and the sky cries a little, just misty tears. It feels more like early May than early July, and the forecast is for more rain and lower temperatures until at least the middle of next week. I can only say, at least we're not suffering from a heat wave.
Yesterday afternoon, while not that hot, the sun did warm me while I went walking. Enough, that I realized morning walks are much better than afternoon walks. Unless it's winter. My daughter had gone for a walk down to the river, and I had decided to follow her. When I approached the last leg, there she appeared, ready to come home. So, we went back home along a different dirt lane.
As I was trudging along behind her, realizing my mistake of walking in the afternoon, I was looking down, more than anything to avoid stumbling. I passed a bluish stone in one of the ruts and continued. But the color had caught my eye. It wasn't like any other stone embedded in the dirt.
I turned back. My daughter, upon seeing I wasn't following, turned back, as well. I bent down and started prying the stone from the earth. It finally came loose and I picked it up. It was a hand axe, probably Neolithic, since it was well polished down to the sharp edge. The smallest end looked broken off, though it might have been left that way on purpose when the stone was worked. I don't know what kind of stone it was, except that it was a bluish-grey. I assume it had lain in that spot for a couple of thousand years, and as the path eroded, the layer of dirt disappeared until it was left in view. The part that was exposed was rougher and lighter in color. Most likely, people passed over it without ever realizing just what it was.
On the bottom, the grain of the stone can just be seen, as if the ancient polishing had brought it out. We stood there, turning it over, the warm sun beating on our heads, wondering how it had ended up there, and what it had been used for. We idled over whether it might not be a good idea to try and dig in that spot, to see if anything else appeared. We also wondered if perhaps there had been a hillfort nearby. There are tumuli just ahead on the lane; humans have inhabited this area for thousands of years.
We speculated that perhaps, the reference to a "preserve" in our village was really a half-forgotten knowledge of some earlier settlement. Years ago, it seems that someone in the village received a letter from somewhere abroad, written by a person curious to know about the "coto", preserve, that was supposed to have existed in the general area of where we found the hand axe. There is no record of any kind of religious building (a coto would have been a monastical preserve in the distant past), or otherwise, in that area. Perhaps the person found a reference to what was erroneously called a preserve, and was actually a reference to the tumuli. Or, perhaps to a hill fort that might have existed in the area. Even now, tumuli are sometimes referred to as covas de mouros, which can be translated as pixies' caves, or moors' caves. It's not such a long jump to calling them preserves.
As we go about our daily lives, so anxious about events in our lives and our world, we tend to forget that we walk where people have walked anxiously for thousands of years. The person who dropped that hand axe had hopes and dreams. He was probably worried about his children because of a rainy year and bad crops. Or perhaps a hot spell had dried the wheat before ripening, and they were facing a hungry winter. Maybe a bear had terrorized outlying fields, and they were planning to hunt it down. So many different things over so many years. We're not the first ones here, and we won't be the last.