Wood is for the living; stone for the dead. That’s the old way.
Yes, Papa, but if we keep chopping down trees and grubbing them up, there’ll be nothing left but the ancestral stones.
My boy, my boy, we honour our ancestors, we follow their ways. Would you have us dishonour them, have them bring plague or famine upon us?
No, Papa, no. But after two thousand years of our ancestors’ ways, what’s left for the living? Not for you, not for me, but there are other things here, alive and equally deserving.
And wood, my boy, is for the living, and stone for the dead. So, you answer me this: What is our reason for living, if not to honour those who went before us?
But, Papa, look! This is what’s left. Nothing. And now not even me, Papa. I’m leaving.
Written for What Pegman Saw
Wood is for the living, and stone for the dead: So said Malagasy archaeologist Ramilisonina to the British archaeologist Mike Pearson Parker on seeing Stonehenge during a visit to England after their many seasons of fieldwork together in Madagascar. As Mike Pearson Parker later reported, these words opened his eyes to the intrinsic nature of the megalithic monument and launched him into the most successful and thorough exploration of the surrounding landscape. To say I am in awe of Mike Pearson Parker, and through him Ramilisonina, is an understatement. I drool at their feet. And I’m sure Ramilisonina, whose life-work has been the study of the island’s prehistory, would not like to see all that he loves crumble because of an adherence to ‘the old ways’.