Today Meredith and I visited a reputedly macabre little park called Gilgal–apparently named for the site where the Israelites camped and set up a circle of twelve stones in the Book of Joshua. It is populated by strangely designed statues, sculptures, and carvings with cryptic but apparently explanatory Bible quotes (and one from the Declaration of Independence). The ground is largely covered with paving stones, on which the aforementioned quotes are carved, some of them worn near illegible by decades’ weathering. On the less tabletlike rocks at the base of one of the main installations are numbers that, by careful sleuthwork, we determined refer to the verses of origin of the quotes.
Upon entering the park through an unassuming little woodchipped corridor between two dilapidated houses, the first thing that caught our attention was a large slab of sandstone, carved with the figure of a man holding a sword. His head was replaced by an irregular block cemented on top of the slab. After staring, with no small degree of stupefaction, at this vision for a few seconds, we noticed that the park was really quite lovely, with quite nice landscaping and many lovely flowers.
It is difficult to see in this picture, but in the corner are quote sources BC 1451 Joshua 4-5 and AD Young 1847 McKay 1955. This is because behind the rock there is a small courtyard completely paved with semi-illegible quotes. It has a somewhat sinister effect, being surrounded by so many words with neither commonality nor, apparently, relevance. One of the inscriptions reads, simply and disturbingly, See what God hath done. On the back of the slab is a plaque identifying it as a grave marker for several then-freshly dead people and every one of their ancestors, which really does not help matters very much.
The next thing we noticed was a large and quite pleasant-looking island of sorts, a little hillock of rock surmounted by a tree. I, unable to see from my vantage point the Do Not Climb sign, climbed it to peer through a little rock tunnel, which was much too small for any adult to fit into but which puzzlingly had a path of paving stones all the way through it. When I climbed over the rock through which it was carved, I admit I might have shouted a bit in surprised horror, because when I turned back toward it I saw this:
Even more unsettling, carved on the side of the same rock that faces the path is the following inscription.
Oh / that my words were now written! / on that they were printed in a book! / That they were graven with an iron / pen and lead in the rock for ever! / For I know that my redeemer liveth and that / he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth / And though after my skin worms destroy / this body yet in my flesh shall I see God; / Whom I shal see for myself and mine eyes shall / behold and not another; though my reins / be consumed within me / Job 19 23-27
The rest of the island is only worse. On the south side is a fanlike array of weaponry, mostly spears and guns, with yet more biblical quotes providing cryptic captions. The north side is a slope containing, in sculpture form, most of a dismembered body (out of frame there are two much larger feet of unknown origin)
Beside this there was a large, empty alcove in front of which was carved In memory of the broken flesh / We eat the broken bread […], and nearby After me / cometh a Builder / tell him, / I too have known. With this cryptic message in mind, we visited a shrine to the workmen who built the original Temple (completely unrelated, thus the crypticness); a large stack of blank books and a tall spire made out of concrete; and an arch whose keystone contained the apparently unrelated letters A O.
There were many other such things: four stone eagles guarding the boundaries of the park; a mansionlike and queerly modern birdhouse; a platform covered in cairns (which Meredith pointed out mark Jewish burial sites); a lot of grainy, overexposed pictures of the construction of the park; and a sphinx with the head of either Joseph Smith or Rowan Atkinson, which I here omit to preserve your peace of mind, Best Beloved.
And then, after puzzling over a carefully but badly rounded boulder with what could have been an umbrella carved into the back, I decided to climb on top of it, and in doing so discovered the most disturbing thing in the park.
Believe me or do not, but this is not the disturbing part. The disturbing part is that they look as if they were meant to fit a human hand, but it didn’t quite work out.
No, I still tell a lie. The disturbing part is that the insides of the holes look charred, which forces me to assume that they were burned into the rock by a humanoid creature with enormous hands.
To go along with this cheerful parting sentiment (here included for your turmoil of mind) there is, near the entrance of the park, a lovely willow tree overhanging a low stone wall, perfect for sitting in the dappled shade at the end of a hot and/or psychically taxing walk in a garden of uncomfortable religious statuary. On this wall is cemented a peculiar trough that both Meredith and I instantly assumed was used primarily for blood sacrifice. My apologies, Best Beloved.