By Tom Read
Off and on over the last few weeks I’ve been reading a short history of Roman Britain, by I. A. Richmond, published by Penguin Books in 1955. I’ve enjoyed reading history almost since I first could read, and having English roots (paternal side only) has given me an ongoing curiosity about ancient Britain. How all this might relate to Texada Island I’ll get to in a moment; please bear with me a little longer.
The blending of Celtic and Roman cultures in Britain 2,000 years ago fascinates me in many ways, but one that Roman Britain especially brings into focus is the discovery of ancient temples dedicated to both local Celtic and Imperial Roman deities, even in small rural communities. The locals had been conquered by Roman legions, and were required to display loyalty to their new masters by literal worship of living Roman emperors. But to avoid violent uprisings, the Romans tolerated local traditions as well, within certain limits. For example, Roman authorities disliked Druid tendencies toward human sacrifice (perhaps a waste of good slaves?), thus reinforcing greater reliance on sacred trees, rocks, and sculpture rather than the spilling of blood in local religious practices.
Flash forward a few thousand years and halfway across the globe, and I find a few local echoes of that Romano-British past on our own Texada Island. Today it is widely held that we live in a consumer culture, dominated by the almighty dollar. That’s our equivalent of the Roman Empire and its deities. This invasive culture of endless consumption holds sway over our economics, politics, entertainments and now supposedly even defines our basic assumptions about “the good life.”
But the grip of consumption is not total; some of us still feel an unexplained emotional closeness to particular natural places or features. You know what I mean if you would prefer to go into the forest to climb atop a glacial boulder for quiet contemplation rather than buy a new DVD. Without quite knowing why, I have found myself actually hugging a big old Douglas Fir, or issuing a verbal “thank you” to an abandoned apple orchard for enjoyment of its bounty, or even seeking out a glacial boulder as a special place to Just Be. Lacking any formal religious affiliation, perhaps this is my atavistic connection to a good life that doesn’t emphasize buying and selling (necessary as such activities may be today).
This never used to happen to me when I lived in the city. It now happens sporadically for me here on Texada Island. Transformation happens.