I have been to Arizona for the first time in my life. It is almost impossible to believe that it is the same earth as the place where I live. For one thing, there is more sky than one can take in. The first time my brother visited, he described it as feeling naked, and I know what he meant. There is something about it that strips you down, makes you feel bare and small, exposed. But exposed to what?
We went to Sedona, a place of red rocks and light so lovely it is almost tangible. There are locations there that people call vortexes, and we bought a little booklet that described them. They are energy fields, spiritual places where one can tap into some kind of inner wisdom or special revelation. It is the kind of thing that New Age spirituality embraces – and so to be pooh-poohed by traditional faith, I suppose.
But it seemed to me to be a lot like the same kind of thing I heard described when I visited Wales, only there it was not vortexes but rather thin places. In Sedona, it is buttes carved from red rock; in Wales, it is holy wells.
And the question that I debate with myself is whether one has to go somewhere special to find the Holy. Do you have to meditate on a mountain in Arizona, or wash in the icy water of a Welsh spring? Do you have to be in a sanctuary on Sunday? Does God live in a particular kind of place? I want to say no, but at the same time, I cannot discount the stories of connection to the Other in these thin places. And I have to say that something about the air and the light and the rocks in Sedona – and being on holiday with people that I love – did seem somehow sacred. I know that God is everywhere, and I also know that a lot of the time I do not pay attention. But there are places and times where the barrier between me and my Maker is thin, almost transparent, and I see with clearer vision.
I brought home a little bottle of water from Holywell in Wales, and I brought home a vial of red sand from Sedona. God is not in the water and God is not in the sand. But the Holy is in the memory of those places where people have prayed and worshiped and had the eyes of their hearts enlightened over the eons. And the water and the dirt remind me of my own exposure to the Spirit.