When the steady crunch of crushed stone gives way to the slurp of sucking mud, I look up on yellow-brown heath unfurling like a rumpled carpet cast toward the horizon. A pillar of stone hangs in the sky, stretches for heaven. It is a carved prayer for the Americans tragically lost near the Mull of Oa during The Great War. I wonder if the rocky spire has pierced the firmament as frigid gusts dart across the grasses and rip at my clothes. Hidden over the rise is the ravenous sea, seething against the cliffs beneath the American Monument and jealously guarding her sunken contraband.
Pilgrims, silent and implacable, trek the disappearing path to the monument and lay their hands upon the stone. Can they find some semblance of peace for what was lost here? I’m one of the lucky ones who has never dealt with such loss, but I know our time will come. The natural world rages all around, but the monument rebuffs the fray as if to say, not this time. At this threshold between land and sea, stone and sky, life and death are inscribed the words:
On Fame’s Eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread
While Glory keeps with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead