Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Effigy Mounds

We recently got in a late autumn hike at the Effigy Mounds National Monument in north-eastern Iowa. I've wanted to visit for 17 years and the timing was right last Sunday. This 2,000 acre site sits right on the Mississippi, where river and delta seem as wide as the world. Early American Indians incorporated mound-building into their culture for almost 2000 years. Thousands have been lost to history, but this particular area features 31. The earthen mounds rise up from the woodland floor, some conical, some linear in shape, like dots and dashes. Some shaped like bears or birds. Many were used for burial, created one earth-filled basket at a time by a community of long ago Iowans.

As we made our way up the medium grade to the mounds, only the creaking of hickories, red oaks and basswood could be heard. That and the occasional call of a red-headed woodpecker. A carpet of leaves, golden brown, had fallen evenly on the ground. The entire woodland was dressed in a mellow light. The mounds themselves stood out from soft grassy areas. Beyond them, spectacular drops from the limestone ridges to the river valley below forced your mind to take in this sacred space.

I've been reading about reverence to nature lately, and how one practices it in small and big ways. You can't help but feel reverent in a place like this. I can't wait to see the mounds again in the other seasons. Go visit if you can.

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