by Clark Stevens

Intro to Project diary, Friday the 13th of June, 2008:

Carlos Casteneda speaks of the “lines of the world”, a structure of delineation just below, or just beyond the surface of the visible.  He tells us through the words of the Yaqui shaman Don Juan, that if you know where to look, the world will reveal its structure, that if you know how to look, that you might actually “produce durable lines” with your eyes alone.  Don Juan adds that with practice, one can produce lines “that one could place or cast wherever one wanted to”.

Increasingly in my practice i find that- under the most appropriate and auspicious of conditions- not only do Casteneda’s “lines of the world” become apparent, but also once revealed can be very literally drawn upon, durably inscribed with additional information that goes beyond the surface of the paper or computer screen.   At times and in particular places, the lines that are drawn engage with the lines that are, in startling, visceral, and occasionally terrifying moments of linkage and synchronicity.  

15 years ago I was told a story by a random acquaintance about a place in which he had lived all of his life, and his people for generations.  The majority of his story was the same as it had been for his grandfather, but toward the end he said, “I also heard that”, and proceeded to describe precisely certain geometries that I had drawn into that place, but that had not been physically constructed, or even yet publicly presented.  There are several possible explanations for this convergence of old story and new drawings, the most conventional of which is ‘coincidence’.  It is also possible that we had both recently sensed some latent condition from different vantages, and had both incorporated this into our separate compositions.  The most intriguing possibility however, and the one that immediately struck me as true, was that I had drawn an audible line through an old story of the land, making it new in the process.  Whatever the explanation, my sense was that I had better in the future be very careful about what I draw into a landscape, because that place may be altered for better or worse by the act of drawing alone. 

I have on other occasions, while working with topographic maps of a place I had yet to visit, felt that a certain wall or a particular path was needed for a design to complete the structural intentions evident in a landscape, only to find upon going to the place that buried in undergrowth, the necessary wall and the gap to allow for the needed path in fact already existed.  On other occasions, field experiences have been so strange and iconic in imagery as to demand further research, revealing direct correlations to historic events somehow embedded in the landscape.

The Bear’s Walk project continues this practice trajectory.   Our project is derived from two lines- one meandering path of our own making, and one laser straight line and uncanny alignment that we discovered during the process:

Our invented line we imagined to be drawn by a Marsican grizzly bear, who we walked from the Sirente Valley to the center of Rome 100 kilometers to the west, following a the best remaining available and/or most easily restorable habitat.  Once we had discovered the improbable existence of most of the remaining grizzly bears in western Europe within little more than an hour drive from Rome, it seemed appropriate to imagine this walk as a way of mapping the transformation from the most wild of places to the most cultured.  So we issued an invitation from Rome to our bear, who at the end of her meandering path through progressively thinning cover arrives at the Piazza del Popolo via the park Borghese steps. 

The discovered/uncovered line is one that graphically and historically connects a small crater lake, also in the Sirente Valley, with the sunset of the day the meteor struck the earth, October 27, 312 AD.  This line is ruler straight, passing through the axis of the piazza del popolo, crossing the bridge of the via cola di rienzo and terminating in a grove at the summit of the Vatican hill, near pope gregory’s tower of the winds.  Of these features, the only one in existence at the time of the meteor was the Vatican hill.  The architectural and urban features emerged 1500 years later, in uncanny alignment with the falling and setting stars of that date. 

A Diary of The Process

The initial “unofficial” invitation to participate in the 2008 venice bienalle indicated that we would be asked to consider the outskirts of Rome, an area increasingly like the periphery of any other major city, and that lacks the glamour of the center and so has been short on analysis and visions.  Too excited to wait for a specific description of the limits of the project area, I immediately began a satellite imagery tour of Rome and its surroundings.  I was amazed to see the resolution of the imagery available for the area, and immediately found and focused on a landscape about an hour’s drive east of the city, a kidney shaped agricultural area within the Apennines between 6 and 10 miles across.  The area was gridded and irrigated with canals like a Dutch polder, far different from the topographically specific arrangement of fields typical of the Italian agricultural land-use pattern, most of which was delineated long before the internal combustion engine made such regularized patterns possible.

The region turned out to be the remains of the Lago Fucino, a perched shallow alpine basin (among the rarest of ecosystems), drained for agricultural use not once but twice in its history.  The first drainage attempt was by Hadrian, who dug a tunnel into the mountain ridge on the west side of the lake, dropping the lake to about a third of its former surface area before the same earthquake that toppled much of the Colosseo in about 50 AD(?) sliced his Fucino drain, so that in a bit of poetic justice the lake refilled to its original size over the same centuries that saw the roman empire drained back to the limits of the city.  However, backed by wealth amassed while managing the finances of the Vatican, Alessandro di Torlonia , Prince of Fucino, funded a second effort to drain the lake in the mid-1800s and succeeded.

Surprisingly, contemporary sources refers to this act as a “reclamation” of a snake- and malaria-infested swamp resulting in some of the most productive agricultural land in the peninsula, ignoring the fact that a perched shallow freshwater wetland and lake of this scale is among the rarest and most biologically productive of ecosystems in the world, and likely a major component of the original conditions that yet sustain the greatest biodiversity in western Europe, according to the World Wildlife Fund.   The region surrounding the former Lago Fucino contains 300 bird, 30 reptile and amphibian, and 40 mammal species, including all of the apex predators of Europe- lynx, wolves, and the last 50 or so marsican grizzly bears remaining in the wild.

This abundance may yet be present due to a time lag between the loss of the ecological and spiritual condition by which it was nurtured, and the loss of the species that rely on that natural, human, and mythological stewardship.  For even after the original tribal Italians of the area, the Marsi, were brought under the administrative authority of Rome, they were feared for their warriors hardened by living with the bears in the mountains, and for their goddesses and sorcerers who practiced magic and danced with snakes in the woods and marshes at the edge of their sacred lake.  Hadrian’s drainage project might be dismissed merely as a logical extension of his tinkering sensibility, but it was also an act of war against the economic and spiritual core of their homeland.  My friend Lani Makua-Yamasaki, artist and cultural ethnographer, called it “the draining of the placenta”.   Now, with the loss of the sacred lake its stewards, the Marsi region is being approached by sprawl and more directly invaded by recreation-based development as the wealth of the region grows.   Recently, some of these last remaining bears have been poisoned, and reports cite “real-estate speculators” as possible suspects. 

I was immediately a bit carried away by this most wild of places and the extremes of the 100 kilometer transect linking it to one of the world’s most urbane of places, and wrote to Francesco delogu, the curator of the project:

this is the sort of place that is the locus of my new practice- the frontier of ecological, cultural, and mythological orders.  it seems that the frontier of Marsi has been the edge of the roman landschaft in all of these orders for many centuries now- perhaps even more than history records.   even now, in many ways it hides completely within the expanding, increasingly "normal" city of Rome.  It is a place out of a fantasy novel, or perhaps more regionally appropriate, a parable of Italo Calvino, a middle earth where subterranean fires are tended in the nuclear underworld perhaps by dwarves or orcs, and wizards now disguised as bears still practice their craft while defended by men and perhaps once by elves from those who would drain inland seas to feed the armies of the evil one....

this hidden wilderness, land of disappearing lakes, of magic and warriors and bears and wolves, once the prison of perseus of macedon and now his tomb, the location of bizarre agricultural landscapes more like the dutch polder than the picturesque tuscan/umbrian assemblage, where people are now rumored to be poisoning the last of the bears in order to obtain for speculation this land that was previously long-forgotten or long-fortified, the birthplace of the (american-style) italian conservation movement and at the very edge of (American-style) sprawl- both of which have come about largely in our generation- this frontier of the other, this true homeland- seems like just the place to vaccinate against approaching banality.  

this is of course mostly an intuition and a fantasy, but i have not the local experience or knowledge to react to this proposition in any other way.  this is the place where the ancient roman tentacle of the via valeria ended and the homeland of the marsi began.  i hope it is not too far from the perimeter of the nolli plan to be considered a part of the uneternal city.  but consider that in a one-hour drive from my home on the western outskirts of LA  i am still only somewhere in the middle (on a good day), with at least that much longer and farther to go to reach the eastern outskirts of the city.   and i suspect that the marsian frontier has long defined rome, if only by being the nearest edge of Not-Rome, or Un-Rome.  in any case i am not so much an urbanist as a ruralist and so need some of that interface to function, but i have yet to find a rural place that is not defined by the metropolitan and cosmopolitan influences that have always and will always come there to extract resources, and just as often in my lifetime to extract meaning.

I was at that time, and perhaps even more so since completing work and travel in the region, concerned that the place was somehow too fragile, too unique to sustain investigation and publication of its secrets.  It seemed to be hiding somehow in plain sight- how else could conditions and species that had been exterminated everyplace else in western Europe yet exist at the doorstep of one of its greatest and oldest cities?:

now, what i might do here for the purposes of the biennale is not yet clear… however, it might take the form of many forms in many specific locations, punching holes to draw through with a thread that binds the ecological, cultural and mythological places and times of Rome and Not-Rome, perhaps to save Rome and Not-Rome alike from becoming No-Where.

Or, I may propose to make the entire marsi frontier disappear again (as frontiers are wont to do) behind a cloud of (allegedly) malarial mosquitoes and/or a fabric of snakes, manufacturing a mnemonic extinction of bears and wolves and warriors and witches so that they can continue to do their timeless and quiet work in protective obscurity. 

Then of course I was told that I was too much in the outskirts of Rome, and that we were supposed to work within the municipal boundary:

Dear Clark, 

please find attached a synopsis of the Uneternal Rome project.

We are honoured to have you in the team. 

We debated about your Marsi proposal, and it's fascinating (I'm half marsican, you know, and your interest about my land almost shocked me!)

Unfortunately, even if it's quite close to Rome, Marsica is in Abruzzo, a different administrative region, and this is a formal problem.

And, as you'll be able to read in the synopsis, the project is concentrated on the urban area due to the particular topics we're on and to conceiving Rome as a model for all cities….

Please let me know you reaction.

Best regards,

Michela Iori

I of course toned it down a bit for the Italians, but then couldn’t really let go:


no problem- there are no shortage of opportunities for investigation out there.  i had fun thinking and writing about your homeland anyway- at least as i imagine it to be.  i will visit one day.  

so we will find a good opportunity for an intervention- more likely a strategy- within the greater roman area.  i do think however that rome should be looking as far as the land of the marsi, because it is at a critical point in its relationship to growth pressures from rome that will only increase as the economy grows

by the way, you as a marsican must defend your homeland and its inhabitants!  i will help you, since i may have been a marsican magician in a past life.  in the cosmology of the Lakota people, with whom i have worked, bears and humans are considered to be first cousins, as both are considered "two-leggeds".  in my current work there is as much magic as reason, and if i were to take a sabbatical to rome, it would be to study this dramatic interface of the wildest of places with the most urbane of cities.   it will be difficult for me to avoid making this my project but i promise to behave.

my practice now consists of equal parts architecture and conservation of "storied landscapes"- places of critical ecological and cultural value.   ecological restoration is a big part of what i do, both in coastal/estuarial habitats and alpine riparian habitats, and most recently in rare tropical dry forests on the island of hawaii.  i work on what is called conservation development, where growth and change are directed to locations and forms that create a re-integration of the human and more-than-human worlds….

so, wherever it is located, my project will involve at least two of aaron's (betsky, the curator of the 2008 venice biennale) suggested directions:  

“how could the original ecology of the Roman area be revealed in such a way that people can inhabit it?  (this is exactly what i do in my new practice)

how could you recognize that people want to live close to the city and close to nature  in suburbs – and make that work?”

my interest is the integration of human settlement with landscape that exceeds "park", and achieves "habitat".  I am of course limited by my lack of exposure to the greater roman metro region, but i am certain that with the intense layering of historic inhabitation and intervention that is rome, i will be able to find a contemporary context that is nearly as appealing as the marsican frontier….

but let's also see if we can't get some of the alpine lake and wetland that was once the center of your ancestors’ culture and mythology restored, and some better integration of the bear nation with the human nation.  draining a lake as large and ecologically rare as Fucino would of course never be acceptable today….

if you can, please send me a depiction of the "planning area" that constitutes greater rome for the purposes of the biennale.

i look forward to working with you



you know, i am not totally ready to give up on the marsican frontier as a critical edge that needs to be defined now or lost.  and if it is lost, even if it is not Rome, it will be Rome's fault.  what a tragedy if the last of all such habitat in all of western europe (grizzlies were once everywhere in the mountains and forests) existed at the doorstep of the greatest city in the history of european civilization, somehow protected by it (maybe by ignorance of it or by the fierce marsi caretakers), only to be lost to sprawl and recreational real estate speculation.  DON’T DO WHAT WE HAVE DONE

To an American living on the outskirts of Los Angeles, this was a lesson in the lack of a clean definition of “sprawl”.  Rome has, or has planned, mass transit to all areas within the municipal boundary.  This infrastructure, coupled with some protected wedges of parks, tells me that Rome is already essentially “finished”, already urban to the boundary of its administrative limits.  By the time we completed our work, it also became clear that if Rome can act as a model for all cities, it will be at a layer below the formal.  Although superficially sprawl may be an ubiquitous condition, once one begins to investigate the particularities and specificities of the sprawl zone, no truly generic condition exists.

 days later, still unable to let go of the original inspiration, I walked our bear to Rome:


thank you for the further description of the goals of the project, and of the participants which I see include the planning office of rome and so understand the issue with the marsi region.  this is the problem with sprawl, though isn't it?- sprawl has no respect for political or governmental definitions or boundaries. regardless, i agree that there is plenty of it to go around within the jurisidiction of the ufficio del PRG di Roma….

perhaps rome has become like the city in which i live- very difficult to precisely pinpoint its perceptual boundary, so we must rely on the political edges for management.

… i have been thinking about eco-social transects of the city's periphery, incisions that would expose/engender perhaps a more functional state of the roman ecology, if not a precise previous historic condition.  i am not nostalgic about these conditions so much as motivated by the traces that remain to be engaged and extrapolated within the current landscape.  based on the draining of fucino, i suspect that the romans began dramatically altering their ecosystems so long ago that to speak of any form of "pure" restoration would be impossible.  but a more conscious spatializing of a human ecology is certainly possible…. 

here is one such seam for investigation:  last night i charted the most likely route that a marsican bear would take to reach the city as an investigation of potential wilderness recovery seams penetrating the city. sort of like the "walks" mapped by land artist Richard Long, but with a somewhat larger and hairier pedestrian, and altogether different trail markings.  you might be surprised at the minimal amount of habitat recovery required for a bear to enter roma at the porta pinciana or piazza del popolo.

it is surprisingly easy for a bear to get from his home in the reserva naturale monte velino to the province of rome, the best route being the jurisdictional boundary between comune rieta and comune l'aquila, crossing the strada di parchi near san nicola via a canal underpass lined with heavy vegetation, then again over the tunnels near valdevarri, arriving at the NE corner of the province of rome. 

it is interesting to note that ancient provincial and commune frontiers have created the gaps within the inhabitation pattern that allow for ursine wanderings.  These boundaries have long held meaning for the inhabitants, and so have been respected as a sort of DMZ where no permanent settlement has been made.  this is very similar to the way territory works in the animal world- for instance in yellowstone national park it was noted that with the re-introduction of wolves in the ecosystem, the population of native foxes increased, and coyotes decreased.  this happened because wolves create large radial territories from which they expel coyotes, who must then live in the gaps in wolf pack ranges.  this leaves territorial pockets that can be exploited by the more nocturnal foxes, formerly preyed upon by coyotes but who now have big canid bodyguards….

but back to our bear, now at the foot of monte croce near the village of vivaro romano.   from here his walk continues to be easy, following mountains and ridges at a leisurely pace all the way to the lovely volcanic pratone of monte gennaro, from which he can see the great city to the southwest and estimate the location of his destination, the piazza del popolo.  however, he faces a difficult choice.  tempted by tivoli, he could  follow the ridge south, snacking on grapes and olives along the way.  once there, however his only option on negotiating the falls and the tourists would be to follow the often tiny greenway along the aniene river to cross a major river of sprawl.  there are hopeful islands of defined openness along the way- in fact the quarries beyond villa adriana remind him of the lakes and canyons of home- a little soil and some vegetation and they could be enough of a pocket wilderness to provide that bear a route to the city, if only the aniene riparian corridor was widened and revegetated.... 

so it appears that the best route from monte gennaro is to amble down the alluivial fan north of marcellina, following the pastoral patchwork of orchard, pasture and woodlot to the forests of poggio cesi and monte san francesco.....   so close!  he can see the remains of the forest fragmented by the new frazioni (more descriptive term than our "subdivision") of fonte nuova and senses that this is the top of  a watershed that could be healthy enough to lead him almost to roma.   if only the autostrada and sprawling estates between pichini and mentana were more bear-friendly....   then via a restored tibur riparian forest, the wooded hills at the confluence with the Aniene, and sneaking into the borghese gardens he could surprise the populace at the piazza del popolo, or enter triumphantly through the aurelian wall at the porta pinciana.  perhaps making a friend and inviting them to follow him on the route back.   

while the bear's walk is fantasy (if this were a funded project i would make the walk myself), it does define an important seam of negotiated separation that gives meaning to an edge of the city and province that is otherwise somewhat formally and perhaps politically undefined (the latter being pure speculation on my part).  in any case the roman department of homeland security should be aware of this route so that they can properly defend against attack by the marsican bears in retaliation for recent incursions of their territory by roman-funded recreational real estate speculation including perhaps deliberate poisonings of their brethren emerging now from hibernation.  history shows us that rome should be careful when messing with the marsi, and there may be repercussions for the draining of their sacred lake

i am very excited and honored to participate in the project.

thank you


The Sky’s Map:

The former lago fucino is bounded on the north by the ridgeline of monte Sirente and monte Vellino.  Dividing these two massif is a canyon that runs north and south from the lake near celano to ovindoli, where it broadens to a high mountain valley that terminates south of fontavignone.  One single line of the fucino agricultural grid can be extended north to define this canyon/valley axis, aligning perfectly with a small rectangular excavation of the spring, and south to the edge of the lake near the former sacred grove of the marsican goddess, the lucus angitae.  

If extended north, this axis enters the Adriatic in alignment with the peninsula of Ancona, and comes ashore again at the northernmost tip of the sea at the Isonzo River Delta, entering the alps in perfect alignment with the Friulian valley of the Natisone.  If extended south, it crosses coast at the baia San Vita, entering again at the arco azurra at the north coast of Sicily. Leaving Sicily via the Turkish Staircase, it crosses the Mediterranean and makes landfall at Tripoli, the tri polis of the ancients.  These geometric coincidences are echoed in the stories of the places it crosses

We call this counterpart to Rome’s axis urbis, our axis feris, the Bear’s Cardo.

The decumanus to this cardo is defined by the Sirente and Vellino valleys.  While it crosses the Bear’s Cardo on a perpendicular just north of the rocce town of Rovere, the Bear’s Decumanus is actually an arc, the bow to the cardo’s arrow.  The arc departs Monte Vellino on the west along with the Bear’s Walk setting a transect to Rome, then follows broken valleys to the east, suggesting a tightening spiral wrapping Lago Fucino.  Along its eastern path, it crosses a small lake with a raised perimeter in the centroid of the Sirente Valley.  In the 1990’s this small lake was determined to be an impact crater; fragments were dated and correlated approximately to the date of Constantine’s vision, and to Marsican stories of the destruction of the temple of the goddess Siccina in above the plain of sirente.

There is a Christian legend about Pan, involving sailors on the Mediterranean Sea. As they approach the Italian coast,

“the wind suddenly drops, the air thickens, the vessel is becalmed, and an odd stillness descends. All day the sailors wait, and then, toward evening, a great thundering voice rings out: 'The Great God Pan is dead!' Suddenly… there rises a cry of lament, a vast outpouring of wailing and weeping and shrieking that echoes across the hills and valleys and spreads all across the land. Pan is dead.

After this event,… the genies of all the old sacred sites, the nymphs of the wild places, the fauns and satyrs and centaurs, and all wild things fall silent. The Lord of the Wood is dead, and the new king’s domain is not earth but heaven. The old order dies with Pan, giving way to a heaven-inspired mystic religion spread by the followers of Christ.”

From “The Great God Pan is Alive”

Omni Magazine, July/August 2001

John Hanson Mitchell

Compare this to the local legend of the nearby town of Secinaro:

“History and legend of "crater" Secinaro

The dating of the site did connect the astronomical event of the crater of Secinaro with that "extraordinary" happened and narrated in a place 80 km further west: Rome.

On 28 October 312 AD in the plain of Saxa Rubra troops of the emporer Constantine face those of Maxentius, contenders for the supremacy of Rome. Narrates the historian Eusebio that "Constantine said that by mid-day when the sun began to decline saw with his own eyes in the sky, higher than the sun, the trophy of a cross of light on which they were traced the words' In hoc signo vinces'- ‘in this sign you conquer”.  It was observed with great surprise by him his entire army. The battle was terrible, but the army of Constantine was victorius at Ponte Milvio where the opponent was destroyed.

In the years to follow Constantine promulgated the edict that allowed the Christians to profess their faith initiating the advent of Christianity. This is the background, we all know from elementary school, but in light of the discovery of the crater of Secinaro someone has set itself this question: could the meteorite that formed the Secinaro pond have been the celestial body seen in Rome just before Constantine met the army of Maxentius?

According to researchers the big glowing rock fell at a rate of about 20 km/s: from Rome to the Sirentina plain there are 80 km, which would be enough for 4 seconds to cover that distance before they explode.  Looking at the shores of the lake is understood that the direction of the meteorite is the right one: a ball of fire with a trail of light from heaven passed within sight of Rome to the foot of Sirente. The evocative hypothesis is formulated by Edward Alonzo, former director of the Park, a body that sponsored the research and a researcher himself: "In addition to the text of Eusebius of Caesarea that described the comet seen by Constantine, twenty-six years later I rediscovered texts that speak of a temple of the goddess Sicinna and a long and flamboyant trail of light ". And near the lake there is a hill where stones are arranged as remains of an ancient construction that could be identified as the temple of the goddess.

“We can imagine the celestial object appearing in the sky like a bright dot that is growing at an eye view to become a kind of comet with a big wake bright and precipitate, finally, toward the mountains exploding like a big cannon ball. The roar had to alarm those in the surrounding valleys, terrorizing men and animals.  Maybe even formed avalanches that slid against thickets below.  Many fires would have exploded and there were certainly victims, but the sunset of Roman historiography removed any witness," says Alonzo.  There is then a text of the late ninth century in which he speaks of flames from the sky and great destruction, stories handed down by the popular tradition of the place (by Filippo Fabrizi, Corogroafia historical municipalities in the Valle Subequana, DASP, year X, 1898) :

"In a time long ago our entire mountain was a thick forest of oaks long. Here on the summit was worshipped the idol of the goddess Sicina or Sicinna. Around to it lumberjacks, combined with lascivious satyrs, partially-clad and dancing, singing obscene songs. After contact with the Romans, the rite scandal grew, penetrated even in corrupt Rome and took the name of Sicinnio.  But, in our quarters when they began to spread the light of the Gospel the malignant and vulgar worshippers of the false goddess decreased in number. On a beautiful day in this time of satanic confusion, lightning fell out of a serene sky, the crowd fled fearfully from the temple, and the idol fell to the ground and disappeared”.

Apparently, the goddess did not leave so quietly:

“The shepherds were inflamed by Dean Romano to avenge the goddess, and took many Christians between his hands and killed them here with blows from their staffs.  Finally they too were baptized and all became good Christians. San Pelino advised us not to approach the most cursed place where the night of Saturday having overheard the infernal wails of the goddess, and opposite to it built a little further up the church of St. Nicholas of Bari.  But were false and liars Christians who, supported by bad emperors, breaking and burnt images of the Madonna and saints. The Lord sent punishment for a great plague. All Secinara was a cemetery. The few who survived went to sleep for campaigns. One night was seen in the East, apart from the sea, far away, a long and flamboyant strip of light. It was the angioli that led to the air, star of stars, the beautiful and holy image of Our Lady from Constantinople Lucoli of the mountains and across the rivolando were to deposit here. The bishop of Valva ribenedisse these walls, built this altar, and placed above the holy image of Our Lady and called Santa Maria della Consolazione. From that moment onwards Secinara not had to suffer neither war nor hunger, nor plague. "

Tullio Aebischer, from Secinaro: un probabile cratere da impatto negli Appennini Centrali d'Italia,

La datazione del sito ha fatto collegare l'evento astronomico del cratere di Secinaro con quello "straordinario" avvenuto e narrato in un luogo 80 km più ad ovest: Roma.

Il 28 ottobre 312 dC nella piana di Saxa Rubra le truppe dell'imperatore Costantino fronteggiano quelle di Massenzio per contendersi la supremazia su Roma.

Narra lo storico Eusebio che "Costantino disse che verso la metà del giorno, quando il sole cominciò a declinare vide con i propri occhi in cielo, più in alto del sole, il trofeo di una croce di luce sulla quale erano tracciate le parole 'In hoc signo vinces'. Fu pervaso da grande stupore e insieme a lui tutto il suo esercito".

" La battaglia fu terribile, ma l'esercito di Costantino vinse rincorrendo il nemico fino a Ponte Milvio dove fu annientato.

L'anno dopo Costantino promulgò l'editto che permetteva ai cristiani di professare liberamente la propria fede dando inizio all'avvento del Cristianesimo.

Questo l'antefatto, che noi tutti conosciamo fin dalla scuola elementare, ma alla luce del ritrovamento del cratere di Secinaro qualcuno si è posto questa domanda: il meteorite che ha formato il laghetto di Secinaro potrebbe essere quel corpo celeste visto a Roma poco prima che Costantino affrontasse l'esercito di Massenzio?

Secondo i ricercatori il grosso masso incandescente precipitò alla velocità di circa 20 km/s: da Roma alla piana sirentina ci sono 80 km, per cui sarebbero bastati 4 secondi per coprire tale distanza prima di esplodere.

Osservando le sponde del lago si comprende che la direzione del meteorite è quella giusta: una palla di fuoco con una scia luminosa dal cielo di Roma alle pendici del Sirente.

La suggestiva ipotesi viene formulata da Edoardo Alonzo, ex direttore del Parco, ente che ha sponsorizzato la ricerca e ricercatore egli stesso: "Oltre all'opera di Eusebio da Cesarea che descrisse la cometa vista da Costantino ventisei anni dopo, ho ritrovato testi che parlano di un tempio della dea Sicinna e di una lunga e fiammeggiante scia di luce".

E nei pressi del lago c'è una collinetta dove si trovano pietre disposte come resti di una antica costruzione, che potrebbe essere identificata come il tempietto della dea.

Possiamo immaginare l'oggetto celeste apparire in cielo come un puntino luminoso che cresce a vista d'occhio fino a diventare una specie di cometa con una grande scia luminosa e precipitare, infine, verso le montagne esplodendo come una grossa palla di cannone.

Il boato si dovette avvertire nelle valli circostanti terrorizzando uomini e animali.

Forse si formarono anche valanghe che franarono contro la boscaglia a valle.

"Scoppiarono molti incendi e ci furono certamente vittime, ma il tramonto della storiografia romana ne cancellò ogni testimonianza", prosegue Alonzo. "

Esisterebbe poi un testo della fine del IX secolo nel quale si parla di fiamme dal cielo e di grandi distruzioni, racconti tramandati dalla tradizione popolare del luogo (da Filippo Fabrizi, Corogroafia storica dei comuni della Valle Subequana, in DASP, anno X, 1898):

"In tempi remotissimi tutta la nostra montagna era un folto bosco di annose querce. Qui sulla vetta s'adorava l'idolo della dea Sicina o Sicinna. Intorno ad esso i boscaioli, uniti ai satiri lascivi, ballavano seminudi, cantando oscene canzoni. Quando venimmo a contatto coi Romani, il rito scandaloso crebbe, penetrò persino nella corrotta Roma e prese il nome di Sicinnio. Ma, quando nelle nostre contrade si cominciò a diffondere la luce del Vangelo diminuirono i maligni e rozzi adoratori della falsa e bugiarda dea. Un bel giorno proprio nel momento della satanica ridda, cadde un fulmine a ciel sereno; la folla spaurita fuggì fuori dal tempio; e l'idolo cadde a terra e scomparve.

I pastori aizzati dal Preside Romano, per vendicare la dea, presero quanti cristiani potettero aver fra le mani e qui dentro li uccisero a colpi di bastoni.

. Finalmente anch' Essi si battezzarono; e divenimmo tutti buoni cristiani.

San Pelino ci consigliò di non più accostarci al luogo maledetto, ove la notte del sabato s'udiva fremere l'obra infernale della dea; e dirimpetto ad esso fece costruire, un pò più in alto la chiesa di san Nicola di Bari

Ma vennero dei falsi e bugiardi cristiani che, sostenuti da pessimi imperatori, rompevano e bruciavano le immagini della Madonna e dei santi. Il Signore mandò per castigo una gran peste.

Tutta Secinara era un cimitero.

I pochi vivi andavano a dormire per le campagne.

Una notte videro verso l'Oriente, di là dal mare, lontano lontano, una lunga e fiammeggiante striscia di luce.

Erano gli angioli che portavano per l'aria, di stella in stella, la bella e santa immagine della Madonna da Costantinopoli sui monti di Lucoli; e di là rivolando la venivano a depositare qui dentro.

Cessò la peste. Cessò the plague. Il vescovo di Valva ribenedisse queste mura, innalzò quest'altare, vi pose sopra la santa immagine della Madonna e la chiamò Santa Maria della Consolazione. Da quel momento in poi Secinara non ebbe a soffrire nè guerre, nè fame, nè peste".


With all the miles of forest and wild mountain ridges surrounding the impact crater, it seems extraordinary that the meteor should have made landfall here in the middle of a relatively accessible valley.  It is much easier to believe that it is merely a livestock watering tank, and until the 1990’s there was no scientific evidence to suggest otherwise.  In fact, it was “discovered” by a visiting meteor expert while he was looking in guidebooks for a weekend hike.  A descendent of the Marsi, architect Michela Iori, also did not know of the crater’s existence and visited after we made our initial presentation.  Asking around, she determined that “the locals think it’s just a puddle”.  It is indeed plausible that over nearly 14 centuries, the stories could be forgotten and so keep the secret of the little lake hidden in plain sight.


Thursday, April 9, 2008

9am to noon

After our Biennale team meeting in Venice (where I had been reminded by Aaron Betsky that the exhibition was not about ancient Rome) I had only a single day to study the entire project transect from Rome to the Sirente crater.  My friend Luigi Centola and I rented a car at Rome Termini, then headed east along the Via Nomentana, through the sprawl zone, stopping at the ancient and still active travertine quarries at Bagni di Tivoli.  We crossed the Bear’s Walk and the Sirente-Popolo axis several times, following our progress in Google Earth on my laptop, finally coming into the axis of the Bear’s departure gate, a deep notch in the massive front of the Monte Vellio-Monte Morrone range.

Heading south around the front before turning east again, we crossed a shallow divide and were in the valley of the extinct Lago Fucino, and extraordinary patchwork of efficient agriculture laced with a myriad of canals and irrigation ditches.  Traces of the shoreline remain in the most ancient stands of trees and the first perimeter canal, but it is quite possible that a casual observer would assume that the view has always been of an open and dry valley floor. 

Leaving the autostrada at Celano under an overcast late April sky, I felt as though we were now truly headed to the heart of our treasure map. Now following the Bear’s Cardo, we headed north into the Sirente-Vellino Regional Park and finally mounted the high plain at Ovindoli, where ongoing and disturbing expansion of ski resort real estate was evident west of the traditional village center.  Passing through a gateway formed by the narrowing of the valley due to the hill of the town of Rovere on our right, the valley widened into a broad, green wet meadow laced with small springs, streams and irrigation ditches.  A mile or so on I felt the line of the Bear’s Decumanus even before I looked east and west and saw its defining valleys and snow-covered ridges lying perpendicular to our path. 

Turning east on the road that would lead us to the plain of Sirente and its crater, we began climbing out of the valley of the Bear’s crossing with Luigi driving at about 40 miles an hour, when my head turned180 degrees over my right shoulder as if someone had twisted it with their hands.  For the briefest possible moment there was a flash of what appeared to be a white figure standing about 500 meters away on the valley floor, before we passed a rise that blocked my view.  An intense and inexplicable excitement caught me and without explanation I told Luigi to pull over.  From the road’s shoulder there was a view of the rock strewn slope down to the valley floor, although my view to the north where I had seen the form was blocked by a small hill.  Many of the white stones on the slope appeared to have once been in linear configurations, and I noted that one or two of the largest appeared to have been shaped.  I realized that I was standing there looking for clues to what I somehow already knew existed just around the other side of the hill on my right.  After a few minutes of stalling this way, I ran around the hill and started down the other side over the rocky pasture noticing as I did that I felt strangely like a child running toward the house of a seldom visited but greatly loved grandparent.  Miraculously avoiding a twisted ankle, and came to a large oak standing at the edge of the last drop to the valley floor. 

Between me and the oak, the meadow was empty but for the stones, but to the left of the was a small pile of brush out of which a two-track trail emerged.  Although I certainly can’t explain why, I somehow I knew that this trail was going to lead me home.  Heart beating audibly and at the point of inexplicable tears, I had to collect myself before going on.  It seemed appropriate at this moment to say a prayer of gratitude, which I addressed to the oak.  At this point I had seen nothing more of the pale figure that had made such an effort to get my attention, but I already had a sense that it was the reason for, and perhaps in some way the author of the map I had drawn to find this place.

I stepped onto the road and had a full view of the valley of the Bear’s Crossing, surrounded by peaks in the four directions, and saw to the west still the black military helicopter hovering over the cornice of the Sirente ridge, an ominous not-sequitor that had been visible since we had turned onto the Bear’s Decumanus road. 

The figure was there below me, a white standing stone partially obscured by a thicket.  While running toward it grinning like an idiot I did calculate that at about 6 feet in height it was too large to likely be part of a fence, and saw no other stone like it nearby. 

This was indeed home, and I had been away for a long time.

I was unable to approach the stone directly, some imagined protocol forbid me to do so, so I move around the stone until I was standing in the little spring fed ditch that ran to the feet of the menhir.  It was divided grey and white on a diagonal across the lower portion, and seemed at that moment to be a woman and child frozen in mid-stride while walking, perhaps fleeing, to the east.  I continued my circular approach at once overwhelmed and yet somehow still conscious of the overly cinematic swirling of the winds as I did so.

Joy. Loss, Pain.  On hands and knees sobbing loudly at this point, not caring if Luigi had followed me and perhaps now feared for my sanity.  Up again and wandering away across the meadow howling.  This was ten years of therapy in a few moments time, and suggested a lifetime of new questions to follow. 

I asked permission to approach, came forward and cried against the stone for while.  As awkward as it is to say, it felt like a re-union.  Luigi must have wondered why his 200 pound and 6 foot-plus American friend was hugging a rock and crying like a baby in an empty Apennine valley, but he was nice enough not to do so aloud. 

Stepping back, I wanted to make an offering.

Around my neck I was wearing what I needed.  It had been provided to me a week before my visit:  In the midst of the weeklong nightly drawing trance that resulted in the map that led me to this stone, my wife Gina went to a family party while I gladly stayed home to be with our two year-old son while he slept and I drew.  Gina met a woman at the party who designed jewelry, and felt a strange compulsion to see her work.  The woman explained that she had none of her work with her, and that she had just been to one of her suppliers of stones and other materials in order to make new pieces.  Unrelenting, Gina asked to see the materials.  Now wondering if her friend’s sister was just a bit odd, she started to explain that only one piece had interested her that day and so she had selected a single old coin.  Gina asked, “OK fine, can you show me that?” sensing it was somehow important.  When she saw the coin Gina had to have it, and the jewelry maker at this point simply gave it up.

Gina’s gift to me when she arrived home had a small tag attached that read “roman copper, 200-380 AD”.  Shining a light across the dime-sized faces, and with the help of Wikipedia, I saw that one side was the profile of Constantine, and the other was the figure of Apollo as the sun god, Sol Invictus.  Gina had brought to me, via a total stranger,  the last coin minted in the pagan period of Constantine’s realm- the very coin in circulation when the meteor had struck the Sirente valley 1696 years ago.  Three days later I was to leave for Venice and Rome, and at this point I almost wasn’t surprised by such synchronicities.

So now I found myself in front of a menhir in the crossing of the axes feris.  I took the coin- now on a chain- from around my neck and placed it over the head of the standing stone, and noticed with a bit of embarrassment that the sun broke through the day long overcast at that moment-  yet another tacky cinematic feature provided by the director of this particular feature, clearly tongue-in-cheek. The side of the coin that came up in the sun was Apollo as the sun god. 

Now feeling a bit more settled, I studied the stone, first noticing its shadow indicating that it was a little past mid-day.  I had the sense that this stone was a timekeeper of sorts, but not as literal as a sundial.  The surface, particularly the edges, had been worked in places, long ago having been shaped into a thin blade-like form, the long axis of which appeared to be roughly east-west, but not quite.  It seemed directional, and I noticed a prominent mountain peak of axis to the west, and a less perfect alignment with the decumanus valley to the east.  Judging from the less prevalent lichen at the base, it appeared that at some point an effort had been made to chop the stone down.  I was at once frightened for it, but also had the sense that it was embedded very deeply, perhaps to the earth’s core, and that it was stronger than it appeared.

There was no trail to or from the stone, but antique remains of a long unused irrigation channel and remains of a stone wall ran close on either side on a slight diagonal from north to south.  The place was some sort of watershed divide, and I noted with interest that water seemed to flow to the four directions, the significance I recalled from my work with another native culture.  The tower of the church of the hill town of rovere was due south and prominent in silhouette, and recalling that Christian monuments were often located to absorb pagan sacred sites, I decided to investigate the church on our way back from the crater itself, where we had been heading when this stone menhir hijacked us.

I had trouble leaving.  I could see Luigi in his bright red sweater standing a polite distance away on the ridge above me, but my heart was now truly broken at the thought of leaving- leaving again was the actual thought.  I was afraid I would be unable to depart this place, and needed somehow to break the temporal lock.  So even though it was before 5am in Topanga, and Gina would wake confused, hear the sobs in my voice and probably panic, I had a signal on the cell phone and so called her anyway.  Assuring her first that everything was OK while I was still slightly hyperventilating, I told her where I was and she proceeded to talk me down, to reconnect me with this time and this place.  It also helped that Luigi showed up at that point and suggested a “family portrait” with my long lost stone.  As we drove on to the valley of the crater, I comforted myself with the thought that I would at least have the photo.

 12:15 to 4:30pm

The view of the valley of the Sirente as one emerges from a higher, narrow section of the Bear’s Decumanus is awesome, even if it is the second act to an unmapped standing stone that apparently brought you several thousand miles for a visit.  Laying placidly in the heart of the green valley, surrounded by clean white Abruzzo cattle, is a lake that one would never suspect was anything other than a watering hole for the pleasantly-belled cows.  And yet it is the remaining evidence of a natural event that was  perhaps the defining moment of the single greatest cultural change in the history of the modern world.

We parked along a new and worrisome split rail fence at the side of the road, and proceeded south to the crater.  Along the length of the entire valley we saw only one other car, and no other humans in sight.  This was a Thursday, early in the afternoon. The drama of the Sirente ridge drew our attention initially, as the crater from this distance on the valley floor was but a low green berm in the foreground.  The white stone and late spring snow was dazzling even in the now returned overcast.  The black helicopter was gone from the highest point of the ridge below which was a large chute with numerous cliff faces that cut a deep ‘v’ out of the forest line below.  We reached the edge of the crater lake, and I sat down to photograph the white face of the chute with the lake surface below framed by my shoes.  Having made the mistake of disrespecting places before, I corrected my thought that nothing so spectacular as what had just occurred could happen here. 

Luigi and I then started west to move around the lake, then I remembered something I had been taught regarding axes mundi, and reversed direction so as to walk round the crater in a clockwise direction.  On the east end of the lake we saw two sparse alignments of well-worn, medium-sized white stones half-buried in the pasture.  One set of stones appeared to be on a radial line from the center of the lake (and a cooperative white cow who had separated from the pleasantly chiming herd), while the northern line was set off from the radial so that the two would intersect just beyond the horizon.  As I examined one particularly tall stone and noticed how smoothly it had apparently been licked for its minerals by generations of cattle.  Luigi tossed me a “souvenir”, another smooth, triangular stone, shaped remarkably like a Ouji stylus.  On a whim I tossed it in the air and noted with laugh that it has landed pointing along the line beyond the horizon in the direction of the distant menhir.

At this point Luigi was fully engaged in the place, and was by far the more energetic of our pair.  As I was wondering where the west trending lines went, he asked “what’s that noise?”, and indeed it felt as if the entire valley were thundering from the ground up, or perhaps that a great wind was pushing through the miles of trees of the ridge, although the air was still where we stood.  I said, “the mountain is talking to you”, and decided to start listening. We continued to the bank opposite of our starting point with our backs now to the mountain, when I could suddenly feel that the two white Fiat 500-sized stones sitting in the crater lake were aligned with the chute at our backs, and that a smaller but still significant stone was sitting not far from my feet, forming an equilateral triangle that linked the valley floor with the crater.  Still listening to the chimes of the cattle, I began to wonder how these stones arrived in their present positions, and decided that if they had been tossed into the air at the original meteor impact and then landed again in the still smoking crater that they would have long ago been silted in by the erosion of 1600 spring thaws and grazing seasons.  That left three possibilities:  that they tumbled down the steep face of sirente, through the nearly one mile of forest and across a quarter mile of level meadow to come to rest in this enigmatic position; that the several ton stones had been placed there; or, that both possibility one and possibility two were the correct explanation. 

Now deeply suspicious of these clever boulders I continued clockwise to check their alignment to the east, and was not surprised to see them line up neatly with another rounded rocce form at the end of the valley.  At the moment I snapped the shutter on that photo, Luigi, whose English vocabulary is normally impressive, was suddenly shouting “S-SNOW, M-MOUNTAIN” as the rumbling began again, in the excitement of the moment forgetting the English for “avalanche”.  We stood watching the wall of snow rumble down the chute from what would seem a safe distance to anyone but the two guys actually standing directly in its path with me shooting the event, having somehow spun 180 degrees, realized what was “snow, mountain” meant, found the giant moving white in the middle of an entire field of white in flat light, lined up the shot and started clicking.  The avalanche went on for several seconds but still, I have to say, nice work with the camera.

The front advanced on the trees, then “CRACK.  CRACK.  CRACK.  CRACK”, as four huge trees snapped like lightning just before the thunder stopped.  We stood gaping for several more seconds listening as a 20-foot wide fall of ice crystals dropped  60 feet over a cliff with a shimmering sound before fading.  After several minutes of staring at the mountain face, I turned around and looked at the stones in the placid lake, but they revealed nothing.

At least not until I returned home, when in high resolution photos of the lake I was able to locate the two stones.  Indeed, the avalanche had followed a line directly toward the stone gate, a line which extended met the peak of Gran Sasso to the north.  And as I had seen that afternoon in the valley, the two stones did also align with the rocce to the east-southeast.  Extending that line in the opposite direction I saw that 6 kilometers to the west the line passed directly over the pixel-sized shadow of my menhir, I suspect on axis with its faceted blade, and terminated with the summit of the mountain that is the northern gate post of the Bear’s Decumanus as it arcs toward the Vellino notch, the Bear’s Walk, and Rome.

Gathering ourselves, we began to walk back toward our car, not saying much, minds racing.  As we were returning, a group of four adults and a child were approaching us, appearing to be three generations of a family.  I waited for Luigi the Italian to engage them in a conversation about what had happened and why they were here too (the only humans in the entire valley), but realized he was not going to say anything and so tossed off a last minute “buongiorno”, as they passed, to which the grandfather replied “salve” without slowing a bit.  Sorely disappointed, we went back to where our car and theirs were parked, and I asked Luigi if he could determine from the license plate where these people lived.  They were local, from L’Aquila.  We watched as the walked to the crater’s edge and stood side by side four figures in dark clothes and a small one in red- motionless for some time, except for the boy who would let go his mother’s hand periodically and run down the berm a few feet, then run back to her hand again.  They stood quietly this way at the edge looking up at the avalanche for a few minutes more, then turned around to come back.  We did not wait for them to reach the car, and left to return ourselves.

Having spent nearly all our time before Luigi would miss his last train in time to see his daughter in Salerno before bed, we decided to rush to the top of Rovere and quickly investigate the church.  At the top of the typically steep and narrow streets we parked at the last small square of the town and walked under a stone bridge to the front of the small bell tower.  Luigi was ahead and remarked on the beautiful Roman-style door of the main entry to the church, as I considered how best to get to a view of the valley below, hoping to find some revealing geometries or alignments to help explain the positioning of the menhir.  At the top of a half flight of narrow stairs to a small door nearest the tower, the cast metal knocker ring of which was strangely levitating rather than hanging down against the door as gravity would typically require.  This clearly seemed an invitation to knock, so I climbed up as Luigi came back to see what I was doing. 

Reaching the knocker, I turned to Luigi and gave a shrug of “here we go”, and brought the knocker down.   As I did so I was looking down at Luigi and so saw him jump at the same time I did, both of us completely startled yet again on a day full of surprises.  Rather than making a polite rap as I had intended when I brought it down, the knocker rang with the power of huge church bells echoing around the narrow stone passage as if they were within 10 feet of my ears.  More than a bit shocked at the volume produced by this clearly enchanted knocker, I managed to avoid falling from the narrow stoop and realized in fact that there were huge church bells within 10 feet of my ears.  Collecting myself and certain now that that the particulars of every event contained messages on this particular day, I counted the strokes- four, then a space that seemed longer than it was, then two more.  As I searched manically for something in this 4 + 2 = 6, 4 x 2 = 8, 4 / 2 = 2, a sacred numerology, Luigi discerned the message first.  “It’s 4:30”, he said.

I don’t want to be dishonest about the true power of the out-of-body state I found myself in- I suspect that I may one day find that the 4 bells plus two is strikingly important.   Nor do I intend to be disrespectful of the animating energy that was working on me and I believe also on Luigi on this strange and wonderful afternoon.  But I can’t help but see some humor in it now.  Even that day, at least after I had been prepared by the full body-blow of the menhir connection, I saw an edge of humor, or at least playfulness in the events that were transpiring.  This was a joyful day, certainly among the most significant of my life, and my heart was full of wonder to realize that there are secrets in this world that I will never know completely, but that perhaps will begin to reveal themselves over the remaining years of my life in a teasing, wry fashion.  The impact has even been retroactive, and seminal events and images from my entire life have been brought to mind again in a new context. 

I have since searched (well, perhaps a two books is not yet a true search, but I have become used to having information simply show up when I need it) for examples in books of esoterica of mystical experiences that were also humorous, and they seem in short supply.  This concerns me, because I really don’t like pain, particularly emotional pain, and am drawn to a warm hearth and warm bread, in a cabin in the woods by a stream full of trout, with good books and wine and art and sporting dogs and loving family and interesting friends at dinner and in the field.  Jung’s notion that “God enters through the wound” is a real bummer for me.  But one volume gave me some hope, as it proposed and presented a few examples of a cosmic sense of humor.  Six months prior to my Italian tour, I had picked up and scanned the book jacket and author photo of a particular paperback that I almost bought, 2012, by Daniel Pinchbeck.  Not only did it seem perhaps a bit too new-agey or new-druggy for my taste, even after 20 years in SoCal, 15 of those in Topanga Canyon for gosh sake, but frankly it’s just not a lot of fun to read about the end of existence as we know it.  I like my life, and am rather attached to the beautiful world that I am blessed to experience.  

Nevertheless, the day before departure I suddenly felt I needed to have the book with me on the journey (I also picked up a great little Moleskin specific to Rome, with small city and train maps and sketch pages- neat).  Pinchbeck is a bemused messenger …(more on his book later, maybe).

On the afternoon of menhir/avalanche day, I knew that a direct 100km line connected the sirente crater with the Vatican summit defined by the 1.5 mile long axis of the piazza del popolo and the Via cola di Rienzo (like the rear sight and barrel of a rifle).  But on the morning of our visit I to the crater I realized that the line would point to a specific spring sunrise and autumn sunset, and had a suspicion that these days might be significant.  I sent an email to tom back in the studio, asking him to measure the azimuth of this WSW to ESE line to determine the day of the nearest sunset in the fall and sunrise in the spring along this line, and to do a “this day in Roman history” search, then left with Luigi to go to the Sirente. 

But it was not until after I dropped Luigi at the train to Salerno and was walking back to the Trastevere after dark that I thought again about where the line might be pointing, and called Tom to see what he had found.   The line’s sunrise was April 23, unique as the day that both Cervantes and Shakespeare had died, in the same year.  But the sunset in the other direction was more remarkable:

given the events of the day thus far, I was not surprised when he told me that it was the day of Constantine’s meteor, or that of his vision-inspired Battle - October 28.  I suppose I should have expected nothing less.

For some time after we returned and began to work on a project, a designed addition to the landscape that would be a worthy response to these events, I had not questioned the line of the two white crater stones, thinking I meaningful enough that they aligned with the menhir 6 kilometers away.  But at some point I notice that it seemed the complement of the Sirente crater- Vatican line about the north south axis.  The complement of a sunset, in this case the sunset of the first day of the Christian empire, would of course be the sunrise  Tom dropped it into our GIS, and confirmed that the stones, the menhir, and the two summits draw a line to the sunrise of the day the meteor fell.  This hardly seems the sort of thing that can happen without intention.

Later, after superimposing Google Earth and Google Sky back in the studio, Tom showed me that the She-Bear, Ursa Major, had walked over us during the few hours we spent along her decumanus, with one star in particular, “The Daughters of the Bier” passing directly over the menhir.  This constellation and the star in particular served the function of welcoming maidens into the heavens after death, which explained certain geometric relationships to the temple grounds of the Vestal Virgins, protectors of the Palladium until it was taken by Constantine for the founding of his new capitol in the East, the tomb of St. Agnes along the sirente Vatican line, St. George (of the dragon), Matotipilapaha- “the Hill of the Bear’s Lodge”- the Lakota story of the constellation Gemini, Artemis, Artos, Arthur, Lono/Orono/Crazy Horse and other pale-skinned gods whose cultures tell us have or will return, and more linkages than we could possibly investigate in the brief period of this project.

 Suffice to say, we now expect to find things where we look for them.


upon arrival in Venice on September 9, 2008, I saw in the eastern night sky the largest and longest lasting meteor trail I have ever seen.  It flared out directly over the arsenale, where our Bear’s Walk project was being exhibited


while hunting in a southern California wilderness area late in 2007, a few months prior to beginning our project, I noticed a rounded, strangely pockmarked, nearly black rock in a dry wash.  It felt strangely cool to the touch and oddly heavy for its size.   I brought it home with me as an oddity, wondering what iron casting might have been large enough to have been worn down to a rounded solid iron rock that was still at least 3” in diameter of solid material.  During my work on the Bear’s Walk, it dawned on me that it might be a meteor fragment, but by then Gina (my wife) had tossed it into the wilds of our front garden, feeling somehow that it had a sort of malevolent energy.  I did not try very hard to find it, having not yet had my encounter with the meteor of Constantine.  I have not yet been able to find the rock again.   But since learning that holiest of Islamic sites is also likely a meteor (the kaaba stone at mecca), I plan to borrow a metal detector and go on the hunt for it again.  The Islamic stories describe “a white star that fell to earth and turned black”….

To be continued.