Homo Sapiens at the Monuments

I was inspired with today’s word “camera” to share mostly photos rather than words, although some explanation is required. You see, I have a penchant when we travel for capturing the interaction between humanity and monuments. What tends to catch my eye is potential humanity, in particular, which is to say children being children.

The earth is 4.5 billion years old, humans around 6 million years, and civilization about 6,000, so you might say the rocks have it all over us. As Virginia Woolf once said,

The very stone one kicks with one’s boot will outlast Shakespeare.
–To the Lighthouse

Yet while we stand around in reverence, snapping photos of the million-year-old natural rock bridge or a Michelangelo masterpiece, children do what they do, which is to say play games, be naughty, and generally act as if they own the place. Which they do, in the most essential way.  I first observed this at Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly back in 1993, where a late April water gully created a stream where a dozen Navajo children played. The sight of the massive rock edifice and 500-year-old abandoned Anasazi ruins carved out of the walls, set against the kids splashing water around and shrieking with laughter was both incongruous and perfectly natural. To me, it was like our genetic potential breathing.

Those are highfalutin’ ideas, but I frame them around this “photo essay” to help explain why these photos were taken in this way.

OK, it’s not Stonehenge, it’s Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska. But wouldn’t be cool if you saw a toddler running through the sarsens erected by the ancient Celts?

Toddler at Carhenge, Nebraska. Photo by kajmeister.

This is a game of hide and seek at Ostia Antica, a coastal town outside of Rome which acted as a summer beach town to the emperors and patricians. The buildings date back to the 3rd century BC.

Ostia Antica
Hide ‘n’ seek @ Ostia Antica. Photo by kajmeister.

Castel Sant’Angelo was erected around the tomb of Hadrian starting in 135 AD. Popes lived here as well as famous prisoners like sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. The roof, with its giant statue of Archangel Michael, is also the setting for the final scene in Verdi’s Tosca. These non-opera fans were playing tag and turning cartwheels.

Castel Sant'Angelo
A game of tag at Castel Sant’Angelo. Photo by kajmeister.

The bambino’s name was Maria. Is that ironic, with the Pieta in the background, or is it just such a common name that the odds were in favor of that most illustrious name? (It happens to be mine as well.)

The Pieta
Bambino in front of the Pieta. Photo by kajmeister.

She had a very fancy, expensive SLR-type camera. Let’s pretend it was a birthday present. So everything in the Frari Church in Venice (@1300). where Titian and Monteverdi are buried, was fair game for photos to her. Brother and his friend were giving her rapid instructions in Italian, and asking perhaps to take a turn. but she kept that strap firmly about her neck, and brushed them off.

Frari Church
Preteen photography lessons at the Frari Church. Photo by kajmeister.

The Battle of Boyne was fought in 1690 between deposed King James II and William of Orange. William’s victory led to the continued presence of Protestants in Northern Ireland and all the strife that ensued from the tension between Protestant and Catholic. Inside, at the cafeteria, a single mom had brought Irish twins. When she went to go get them some food, they stayed AT THE TABLE like mom asked. Which meant one climbed down and meandered around the table, always touching it with one finger but trying to reach with the other hand for tablecloths and plates at other tables. Meanwhile, the brother climbed on top, overturned the salt shaker, and somehow took the menu apart in order to start banging the sharp edge against table top. Even though in this picture you can’t see the stone memorials gloriously honoring the fallen, I had to share this because, you know, IRISH TWINS!

Battle of Boyne site
Irish twins at the Battle of Boyne. Photo by kajmeister.

Lastly, here is a photo of my own kids, years ago at Gettysburg. Picture number one was shot at the top of the hill, where the Union army defeated Pickett’s Charge. On that third day of this decisive battle, Lee sent 12,500 confederate troops marching across nearly a mile of open uphill ground while George Meade’s cannons fired down at them, until the Southern army was basically wiped out. Some would argue that the defeat at Gettysburg, which turned the war, was where the United States of America ultimately began. A commemorative statue of Meade marks the spot where the Union army repulsed the one attack that made it to the cannons; you can see the tail of Meade’s horse in the upper right. My son was ten and my daughter eight, both playing their own battle and chase games. (They’re now both in college.)

Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg
Will o’ the Wisps at the crest of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg. Photo by kajmeister, @2005.

Picture two is at the tomb erected to honor the Pennsylvania contribution to Gettysburg. The rock, carved some 150 years ago, is already being worn away by wind and snow.

Tomb honoring the fallen at Gettysburg @2005. Photo by kajmeister.

The earth abides.
–George Stewart



Author’s Note: A heartfelt thanks goes out to Fandango for continuing to inspire with Daily Word prompts, such as “camera.” I just did not feel excited to write another post about Christmas. For next week, though, I’m working on a statistical analysis and numerical heat map for movie versions of “Scrooge.” Stay tuned.


3 Replies to “Homo Sapiens at the Monuments”

  1. First, thanks for the shoutout. Second, I really enjoyed how you set up the juxtaposition of ancient (or at least very old) artifacts and the exuberance of youth. Great photos.

  2. Great job including the human element. I sometimes think, as I take sterile pictures of all those monuments, cathedrals, etc., that I really ought to include a few people. Will try that in future.

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