The Deer Stones

Oh, dear – Just as I sit down to start drafting a blog entry, the 4 o’clock sleepies have come to gum up my synapses. But I’ve promised myself I’m gonna shit one of these out once a week rain or shine, so here it is.

[yawn]

I write these at work. When I write anything I write it at work, because I am not one of those people who is capable of just rolling out of bed and self-motivating. My brain doesn’t really turn on unless I’ve already slept through 4 alarms, flung myself out of bed in a panic, rushed pell-mell through the morning routine, and skated in to work just under 8:00 AM wire. It makes me feel alive.

One of my favorite activities when I’m drunk at 4 in the morning, or possessed of the sleepies at 4 in the afternoon, is to browse the geo-tagged photo mosaics that Google has in place of Streetview in the distant and forgotten or politically unstable places in the world. You see some wacky shit every now and again, like this.

Or, if you are leery of clicking on links on  seedy blogs nobody’s ever heard of, here’s a photo of something similar:

5152868452_67d97828ac_b
civ33 on Flickr

They’re called Deer Stones, and apparently they dot the Asian steppe throughout Siberia and Mongolia. Whoever built them left no written accounts as to why, and so we are left to speculate.

I don’t really care why they’re there; I would personally prefer that they remain mysterious.

Imagine: you walk the steppe. There’s ought but whispering grass and the occasional craggy hillock between you and the far horizon. The sky seems deeper here, where there are no trees or skyscrapers to draw the eye away. If you stand stock still and lean back your head, staring straight up and out into the impossible blue, you might feel your stomach doing a disquieted little flip. You lose your accustomed perspective, and all at once your eyes tell you you’re falling, falling, falling out into the blue, but the fine little hairs in your inner ear resolutely insist you’ve gone nowhere. Your brain doesn’t quite know how to process those conflicting reports, so it makes you dizzy until you snap your head around and bend down with your hands on your knees, breathing more heavily than you should be and staring down at the reassuringly immutable ground.

And when at last you’ve regained your bearings, performed the kind of mental re-orientation that astronauts have to do in zero-g to convince themselves they’re not falling uncontrollably, you tentatively straighten your back, and lift your eyes to the horizon. Only then do you notice that there’s something out there.

It awaits with infinite patience, the thing on the steppe. The grass whispers, and your footfalls seem a crude and unwelcome intrusion in this place so far from anywhere, under that impossible sky. It has waited there for a long time, and will wait longer still.

When you reach it, you run your hand over the glyphs that mark it’s surface. Anyone who knew their meaning has been dead and turned to dust for three thousand years or more, and so it’s just you, and this inscrutable monolith, and whatever thoughts you might have at that moment.

There’s just you, and the stone, and the whispering grass and, I like to think, a quiet and wordless sense of wonder.

(At least I hope you would feel like that. Maybe you wouldn’t. But it’s a nice thought, from here in a cubicle on the other side of the world.)

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