While visiting my youngest child before COVID we went to some favorite spots , one of them being Gooseberry Falls in Duluth MN. The falls are beautiful as are the trees, streams, and foliage. This time when we went to the falls we saw something we had never seen before- Cairns. What are those? Cairns are small piles of rocks. I decided to look up there meaning, if any. The word “cairn” is a pile of rocks placed on top of one another. This is a deep rooted Scottish hillside tradition that signifies respect. That would explain the word for a small pile of rocks pronounced kern which is a Scottish Gaelic word. This tradition of piling rocks some say goes back much further than that. Some archeologists believe cairns were used as landmarks in the prehistoric era. Cairns are also used to mark trails or routes.
Another use is by Buddhist to symbolize wishes for family, respect for a passing loved one. In Hawaii they are called ahu and the Native Americans call these piles of rock wa-wa-an-quas-sick ( place of many good stones ). Cairns can also be memorials. A pile of rocks placed upon a burial site. Actor Dennis Hopper is buried under a cairn in a Native American burial site in Taos, NM. I learn something new every time I travel outside my own little world, and I enjoy seeing and learning new things.
I published this 2 years ago but I think it still is true again this year on Flag Day.
I remember flag day when I was younger as a an early start to the 4th of July. In the 1960’s many homes displayed the American flag year round and some just on certain days. I understood Memorial Day very well, the visits to the cemeteries, the family, the picnics, barbecue, and of course the end of school!!
I remember that flags would be displayed, removed , and then displayed again throughout the summer. I realize now that was due to Memorial Day, Flag Day, and then the 4th of July. I don’t remember asking an adult about the flags displayed on and off ,but then flags were a common element of every neighborhood.
The American flag holds much more meaning to me today than those of my childhood summers. When I see the American flag today I see my youngest brother who served his country in the Navy when he was just 17, I see his coffin draped with a flag when he died at 37, I see the people who have taken to the streets carrying the flag asking for equality, I see astronauts landing on the moon and placing a flag into its ground, I see the ashes of the twin towers and the Murray federal building with a flag firmly placed in the ruble.
What I don’t see is as many American flags displayed as I did as a child. Is Flag Day lost or just our pride for the flag itself?
Crosses are my business and also my passion as I create each one to be unique just as the person being memorialized is.
One night as I was working on a new cross I thought ” I bet the cross is the most recognized symbol in the world”
So I quickly took to Google to show myself how right I was. First let me say that humility is something that should be embraced when presented and appreciated until one leaves this earth. I often forget that I live in one small portion of this world and that there are many faiths, belief systems and customs in the world besides that of a Catholic American like myself.
The cross may be a symbol recognized by many but so is the Star of David.
The American Red Cross or that symbol used in war to mark the medical areas and are places where care and comfort are given may be the most recognized “cross” of all.
The peace sign and the Olympic Rings both made the top 10 most recognized symbol. I found that comforting in my mind.
The skull and crossbones were one from my childhood that were on many items in the bathroom and the kitchen. I was told to stay away from that symbol.
I also found that there were multiple combinations of symbols and logos mixed. The Golden Arches and the apple with a bite missing are very recognized logos but are they symbols? Not in my opinion but your viewpoint might be different.
Symbols come in different languages……
As well as different areas of study.
The cross may not be the most recognized symbol in the world which is not a big revelation, but what was most disturbing and revealing about symbols was that a symbol of hate was also in the top ten. I refuse to put a picture of the symbol on my blog. The symbol is a distorted red mark that one man used to lead others to kill millions of people for no other reason than hate for their difference to him.
As I said in the beginning, humility should be embraced and we should learn from our narrow thinking in all human relationships.