I live in central Ohio, land of the Ohio State Buckeyes, pickup trucks with gun racks on the back, and rolling cornfields. Of course there is more to us than that, but when I think of the most magical places on earth, central Ohio certainly isn’t immediately one to come to mind. But despite our strip malls and Walmart stores, small-town streets laid out in a grid, we have a pretty large secret, and I tend to forget sometimes how powerful it is.
I have a new friend, Rob Wildwood, who leads tours in the U.K. of sacred sites and natural wonders. He is in the United States right now, visiting with friends and seeing various natural spots that are sacred or powerful. And one of the places he made a priority to visit is here in my tiny mid-Ohio town.
See, our secret magical space here is the Newark Earthworks, or Indian Mounds. Built between 250 and 500 A.D. by the Hopewell people, they were once the largest earthen structures in the world. Now, they are three: the Circle Earthworks, the Octagon Earthworks, and the Wright Earthworks. The Circle Earthworks are literally about five minutes from my home, and the Octagon Earthworks are about 200 feet away from where I work.
So Rob was visiting the Newark Earthworks, and he stopped by the library where I work to introduce himself in person. We were talking about his experience that day, and he mentioned that the Eagle Mound at the Circle Earthworks (where I had been only two weeks earlier on a pleasant day with my husband, and felt in-awe of the presence I felt) had given him an incredible “hit” of energy, among the strongest singular feelings of power that he’d felt at any site he’d been to. He also remarked that he was impressed by how much wildlife he saw at the Octagon Earthworks…deer leaping over the mysterious hills. It was like a slap-jolt to the face…like the universe was telling me that instead of wistfully pining away to visit the ancient sites and magical places of England, I should open my eyes to the magic and wonder that is literally right outside my door.
It reminded me of a quote from Brian Froud I read in a roundtable discussion between Brian Froud, Wendy Froud, Howard Gayton, and Rex Van Ryn (I highly recommend you read the whole transcript of the discussion as it’s excellent.) I never forgot this quote, but sometimes I tend to misplace the lesson it seeks to impart. Rob’s observation about the Earthworks here in my own city reminded me of this quote immediately.
“Years and years ago, when I first went to America and I was Guest of Honour at a World Fantasy Convention, I had been looking at American fantasy art, and before I arrived, I was convinced there wasn’t a single tree in America. But when I got to San Fransisco, the first thing that I saw was this wonderful tree! So I asked these young American artists, what are you doing, why are you not looking at your own landscape? You’re just looking at other people’s art, which has no relation to your own life. Look at where you are! Look at the land, and it will inform what you do.”
Magic is not just in the forests of Devon, dripping with moss and twisted with troll faces in the gnarled bark. It could be in a mourning dove nest built in the tree in your back yard. It could be in a tiny grove of trees at the end of your street. And yes, it could be in an ancient magical circle mound you somehow tend to forget still exists, right next to the car dealership and past the highway, just a five minute drive from your little suburb house.
Photos c. Rob Wildwood, first image is Circle Earthworks, second is a deer on Octagon Earthworks