I’m an American. Relatively speaking, America is a very young country. So when Ailsa at Where’s my backpack? issued her “ancient” photography challenge this week, I really got to thinking about how the place where a person is raised can affect that definition. As an American, living in this relatively young country, pretty much anything older than 100 years seems ancient to me (apologies to the fine folks on Willard Scott’s Smuckers jars each morning). I know by formal definition that existing for a century hardly qualifies something as ancient, so I dug through my archives to see if I could find anything that really fit the bill.
First stop, ironically, is in America! While in Hawaii in 2004, the hubby and I visited Halemaʻumaʻu Crater on the big island. In the light of the sinking sun, we were the only two at the crater. In fact, save for a few hardy plants not phased by the inhospitable soil or sulfurous gases, the whole area seemed fairly lifeless. But at the edge of the crater, I spied a pineapple on a bed of palm fronds, offered up, no doubt, by a native Hawaiian practicing an ageless ritual, and I immediately felt we had been transported back in time.
While I was living in Japan, a rather fierce windstorm roared through the Kanto area March 9-10, 2010. An ancient and much-revered ginkgo tree on the grounds of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura succumbed to the gale and was found uprooted early on March 10. So great was the love for this 1000-year old tree that experts scrambled to find ways to save it. A large section of the trunk was sawn off and planted next to the original roots, which were righted and set back in their original location. By the time I visited the shrine with my mom in November 2010, leafy shoots were vigorously growing from both the transplanted trunk and the original roots. It was impossible not to be moved by the hand-written sign next to the thriving remains of the ginkgo, encouraging the new shoots on the once-majestic trunk to “Ganbare!” (go for it, you can do it).
One of the most truly ancient sites I have ever seen was the Skara Brae settlement on the wind-swept shores of Orkney in Scotland. Discovered purely by chance when a vicious coastal storm in 1850 washed away the sand that had covered the village for centuries, archaeologists have now painstakingly excavated the settlement. It was very surreal to look down into the remains of a 5,000 year old home and see so many similarities to my own modern-day home, like the dresser on which they proudly displayed their most-treasured items.