Monday, September 7, 2009

The Power of Roadside Shrines

Beside the footpath along Corte Madera Creek near my house sits this shrine. It's too far from the closest street to mark the spot of a traffic fatality. Nothing suggests it honors the memory of a fallen celebrity. Instead, Buddha and his pal just hang out in their ring of stones radiating peace. I'm not sure how they got there. I assume the person who lives behind the gate on the opposite side of the footpath placed them and maintains this unassuming shrine. Some days Buddha cups a tangerine in his hands. Other days it's flowers, beads, or some other object. Every time I pass this way, I thank them for their silent gift to the community. I appreciate the simplicity and the lack of "Hey, look at the wonderful gift I have given you!!!"

In other countries, these kinds of shrines are common. As I suggested earlier, they are not intended to mark auto accident sites, but to honor some elusive quality of dwelling on earth. In densely populated cities, I've happened across shrines reminding passersby that amidst the clammer of the marketplace there is stillness, tenderness and artfulness. On isolated mountain trails, at the points where uphill climbs cause the body to scream for rest, someone has often placed a bench. In these places, support and spaciousness form the shrine. In Nepal, trekking northeast from Kathmandu, I found a series of stone benches carved with Tibetan deities. Dotting Paris, fountains where the three muses dance offer water. If you've traveled, I'm sure you've passed shrines such as these. Along the road, these little gems inspire the journey.

1 comment:

  1. It's a beautiful shrine. In the Netherlands we have these spots in memory of the victims of a car accident. And there are many small roadside chapels in South of the Netherlands.
    I can't recall having seen a shrine or roadside chapel.