WAY-STONES, MILESTONES: WAY-STONE #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Way-stone #writephoto


When we first moved to Uxbridge, the woman who sold us our house drove us around and the first thing she brought us to see was the Uxbridge Way-Stone. Erected and etched in the early 1600s, it was part of the marking made along Native trails, many of which later became New England’s roads. Milestones are our way-stones and they were common — still are, if you know where to find them — on the quiet paths.

Way-stone in the woods

Mostly, they point the way and distance to Boston. Some are no longer readable. Not as old as this way-stone, but old enough to have had their etchings wash away, then disappear into the stone.

We don’t have the length of history chronicling the centuries of North America that you will find in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, but this doesn’t mean no one was here. This wasn’t an empty land waiting for “energetic” Europeans to show up and make it whatever it is today.

No later than 1767

Lacking official written “history,” it simply means no one wrote books and saved them and whatever cities existed, they were not built from stone.

There’s a strong possibility that far earlier than the officially earliest known “cities” — Jericho circa 10,000 years, give or take a few millennia — there were other cities.  Maybe Atlantis? Probably built from wood or mud or from disposable materials that were movable.

Not built from an enduring substance, Jericho managed to survive, although it was built from mud. There was just enough stone included to form and shape to the ancient structures.

Jericho exists. It’s not big, but it is a city. Okay, maybe more of a large village. It’s also the only place in the area you can get blood oranges before the rest of the crop comes in. The first time I ate a blood orange I wasn’t sure it was an orange. Orange on the outside, it was blood-red on most of the insides. Otherwise, they taste just like other oranges.

Jericho today

Why does Jericho continue to exist? Because it is built on an oasis. In the very dry region that is the Middle East, if you are up on the mile-high hill of Jerusalem, you can see Jericho. It’s the green patch in the desert. Jericho lives on because it has water. I suspect in this country, tribes moved with the weather in the dry areas of the country but built more solidly where there was water.

I wonder what the history of America would be if Native Americans had written it rather than their European conquerors? I’m sure the story would be more interesting, rich with symbols and location which were well-known then, but have since vanished.

Just a thought. Native Americans lived for many thousands of years on this continent. The water remained clean. They left behind a world as beautiful as the one into which they were born. No piles of rubble, no ruins. They lived well and gently with the land. Not necessarily in peace, but without destroying their mother.

Europeans arrived and five-hundred years later, there’s considerable likelihood that we have effectively destroyed the earth.

Who were the savages?

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

21 thoughts on “WAY-STONES, MILESTONES: WAY-STONE #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. I tend to believe much of the damage was done by missionaries who considered anyone who wasn’t Christian a savage — without ever considering their own savagery. I think history bears me out on this.

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  1. What would have happened if Native Americans had been left in peace, if there had been no European settlement or if those that came had integrated into their society? Has anyone ever written a book like that? Would they have industrialised eventually but in a way that was more harmonious with the land I wonder? Would our aboriginal tribes have remained nomadic or would they too have created some kind of technology to help them and eventually become builders of cities? They might have but we will never know.

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    1. For all of us who live in a country where we crushed the natives and live on their land, we can only wonder how it might have gone had we not destroyed them, but learned to live with them. Blended, not slaughtered and crushed. It would make a good book. I couldn’t write it, but someone should.

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  2. I honestly can’t get over the fact that here we have an absolutely fascinating, brilliant and historically interesting as well as photographically stunning article and you get all of TWO comments?! Have people nothing to say when you bare soul and heart? Anyway, who am I to complain when I’ve been absent from your life for a week (in which, I hasten to add, I was looking forward to your posts every day but put them ‘away’ for an hour of peace and serenity & SERENDIPITY to treat myself to the delights of your writing.
    There is much to say: I love the stories the stones tell, the incredible richness of times way before us, the art of earlier inhabitants of this earth who did wonders with practically no tools as we know them – that’s why old houses, walls and stone villages appeal so very much to me.
    I remember my first blood orange…. wrapped up in a crêpe paper with a smiling black on it – at a time when oranges and mandarines weren’t the all year round staple they are now!
    So, the Europeans distroyed your country? 😉 I cannot disagree with your reasoning but I wouldn’t go as far as you do. Even if the Europeans and the missionaries hadn’t come to you, the Indians would have had their own development. But I also – already in 1974/5 – when I visited Indian reservates as well as American gatherings I was fascinated to learn about those natives, I bought their jewellery so that I wouldn’t ever forget their art, but living in the rocks was never a (very) long time solution, was it? Anyway, we can’t go into this now, there is more to read and to comment 🙂

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    1. They did amazingly well, living in rocks and desert, but also grew in (where the land allowed it) as farmers. Some tribes were much more settled than others. They weren’t all the same, not even close — and they had their own little wars. But war to them was more like a raid and the goal was not to kill everybody and keep everything. Your enemy was allowed to take what was left and go home.

      As you headed south, the Navajo and Pueblo had crops — famed for their peach orchards and corn — and one of the ways we destroyed their world was by destroying their crops and villages. Sure, they’d have developed. If we hadn’t wiped out all the eastern tribes early, they were working on it already. Just slower and without so much destruction and garbage. We’ll never know because it didn’t happen. We didn’t have to come and kill them, bring them diseases and destroy the land. It didn’t have to be this way. Wherever Europeans invaded an aboriginal land – Australia, another fine example – we killed them. The Maori somehow knew they had to fight and got a slightly better deal in New Zealand. The Zulus held off the South Afrikaaners and eventually … many decades (a century?) got something back for it. All around the world, Europeans were hungry for land and raw materials and as The Only True Faith, felt entitled to slaughter any natives we encountered. It didn’t work quite that well in China and India because their culture was older than ours and we never got our hooks into Japan — not, for a moment, counting two atomic bombs of course.

      It really didn’t need to be that we. Had we not had that Christian arrogance that we were inherently morally superior to anyone who wasn’t “us,” we could have joined the cultures. Maybe took a few lessons from people who lived WITH the land, not on it.

      There was a sci-fi book — actually a trilogy — by Robert J. Sawyer about a parallel earth where Neanderthals were the dominant species. It was (is) his contention that if we had remained hunter-gatherers, we’d have remained a civilized society. It was growing massive amounts of grain to feed huge numbers of people that doomed us. It’s a very interesting point of view and worth reading. Sawyer is something of a scientist/writer and proffers a unique point of view.

      I also think they created some absolutely astonishing artwork. The jewelry, which I dearly love was only one part of it. The pottery (I have some of that, too, but I have completely run out of room for more), carving, weaving, and painting are incredible and nowhere have I seen finer work — and that includes my very antique Chinese porcelain. It’s completely different in style and colors — it rather blends with the territory — but it isn’t less perfect. Merely culturally different.

      These Natives had culture and history and we never bothered to discover what it was. We crushed them with disease and guns. I am sure THEY know, but unsurprisingly, they aren’t telling us. I wouldn’t tell us either.

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      1. You are so right. I remember their wonderful pottery and their weavings. And I’m with you that not much of what ‘we’ brought to them was any good for them… Your writing reminded me of my memories of my travels at this young age; I think nowadays I would take a much, much bigger impression with me but already then I felt like a sponge taking in and absorbing all these unknown infos in my open heart and mind. It was a special time.

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  3. What the heck happened to your article:

    If you only read and reblog one of my blogs, make it this one!!!!
    by Marilyn Armstrong

    If SHE thinks they don’t need the extra money, possibly they don’t? Just a thought.
    Marilyn Armstrong | October 26, 2018 at 6:08 pm | Categories: Paths | URL: https://wp.me/p2bT5l-1d8R3Q
    Comment See all comments

    It’s gone – what devilish powers have removed the ONE ARTICLE I should absolutely read…. ?!!!!

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  4. Thank you for all the information you provided and the comments here are inspiring. Like every else in the world, missionaries have ruined the culture of indigenous people all over the world. Now the world pays for this ignorance. Today, those of us in touch with our inner guidance, we seek the old ways, the ancient travelled roads, wanting to know more of the simple traditions and spiritual beliefs of the earth’s sage ancestors.

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  5. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, when you stop and look back at the thousands of years of resectful living that have left nothing but memories on the land… and a few hundred years of ‘civilisation’ changes the face of the planet…

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    1. Scares the hell out of me, actually. I just got the book I ordered on Milestones and Guideposts in Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. It will have wait till the spring, but we can go a-hunting for old places in the area. I shall take pictures!

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        1. Well, these aren’t as old as yours, but they’ve got a few hundred years on them. Mostly, they were put down in the early 1700s by the British and the later by the British-now-Americans.

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