When I was a little kid and I couldn‚Äôt sleep, I would sneak off to my Papa’s room to crawl in with him. In order to put my mind at rest, he would tell me stories of his life‚Äôs adventures.
I’m sure that some were made up and most I never remembered anyway, but one always stuck out in my mind, and I would often request this story over the rest. When he was a younger man, he and a few of his friend had the inclination to go see Stonehenge. By the time they had arrived at the sight however, it was dark and so they decided to camp out for the night in order to see the wonder in the morning. When he woke, it was sunrise and he said it was one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen in the world.
I do not have many ‚Äúbucket list‚Äù-esk aspirations for my life but after being informed I would have the chance to see Stonehenge on my SAS adventure, I was determined to see it at sunrise.
I had been talking to a few friends over dinner one evening before port about our plans for England, and I casually told them my intentions. They were all for the idea. Once we reached Southampton, we were one of the first people off the ship to to catch a train to Salisbury, which is the region where Stonehenge is located. We arrived and wandered through the beautiful city of Salisbury for the day, taking various photos, seeing the cathedral and eating too much.
After our dinner at a local pub we began our pilgrimage to Stonehenge. We got our supplies for the night at a local supermarket, caught a cab, and arrived at the sight right as the sun set. The area was fenced off and a security guard, who was eyeing us suspiciously, informed us that if we hopped the fence, we would be fined 3,000 pounds- a reality that none of us wished to test.
We asked where we might stay for the night and he pointed to an adjacent field and wished us ‚Äúgood luck.‚Äù No one was prepared for the night that we were about to have.
As the night grew cold, we sang songs and told stories, anything to keep our minds off the fact that it was about 5 degrees Celsius and we all could easily parish from hypothermia. Once the fog began to grow thicker, our mood changed from ‚Äúthis is going to be the best night ever to‚Ä¶who cares about that pile of rocks!‚Äù I felt bad for dragging these wonderful individuals out here. As the night progressed we all grew closer both figuratively and literally as we now classify our sleeping situation as ‚Äúsurvival snuggling.‚Äù
Once the tar blackness started to change to a lighter grey, everyone was up. We left our stuff in the field and made our way to the sight where we met the same guard from the night before. He bid us good morning and was ‚Äúhappy to see us alive.‚Äù It was still quite frigid (one of the backpacks had ice on it) so we all huddled together until the first ray of sunshine shone from behind the far mountains in the distance.
I have never been so floored in my life.
The light pastel colors that that sunrise emitted soon began to fill the horizon and became much more dark and rich. When I looked to the faces of my fellow academic adventurers, I knew they were thinking the same thing. A feeling of complete ecstasy and elation swept over me and I burst out in the most gut wrenching laughter of my life.
I was doing exactly what my father had done years ago; a different era, different people, different sunset, but the same wonder of the world, and what a wonder it was. The security guard (Pete) then asked if we would like pictures taken of the sight for us which we thought of as just a snap over the fence; however, he went literally into the monument and took more close up impressive shots than any I have ever seen before, even on billboards and postcards. We all huddled together and watched the sun as it kissed the sky and brought life to a dark world, with Stonehenge, a mystery and wonder just a few strides away.
*Pics by SAS student Josie Murray from New York University*