Mythmaking is not something that just happened long ago in antiquity, in the forgotten shepherd’s huts of pre-Classical Greece. It is not something that flowered and faded away forever under the mysterious star referenced by the Old English poet who cited “earendel… ofer middangeard” (Earendel… over Middle-earth) and thus launched Tolkien’s quest to mythologize English communal identity.
The making of mythic meanings, I suggest, is something that all humans do. And we do it in our daily lives and in our communal storytelling. In fact, we make “myth” in order to make sense of ourselves and to explain in our stories what matters to us.
In order to situate ourselves in the competing master-narratives of our age, we must tell stories that transcend the daily details of our lives because everyone enacts those mundane details, and we must say what our lives signify beyond those details. So we tell stories, as Kelly Cowling says, to express the meanings of our lives, not just explain them. It is meaningful that she says this here in Colorado, in a small High Plains city near the Rocky Mountains.
Tolkien situated Mithlond (Grey Havens) in Middle-earth beside the Blue Mountains on an inland bay of the western seas. For this reason, I find it interesting that the Rocky Mountains were once known among the Arikara kin of my Pawnee ancestors as the Blue Mountains. And this truth is made even more fascinating from the fact that the Colorado Front Range overlooks a long-vanished coastline.
I learned this when I served as archeological monitor for the building of the Denver International Airport. I first visited the construction area for the DIA terminal in April 1991. Coming upon the site in the rolling grasslands east of Denver, two long rows of giant cranes suddenly stood up, hovering over a vast trench in the earth. This deep excavation had uncovered fossilized fronds of stone hidden in deep sediments. Here were ancient seafloors that had drifted into sleep under the shallow waters of the world thousands of centuries ago.
In the enchanted mythology of the Grey Havens Group, an ancient sea once washed the feet of the Blue Mountains. And one day at the beginning of the Seventh Age of Middle-earth, standing at the edge of this invisible ocean, Kelly Cowling founded Grey Havens.
And so when a star shines upon the meetings of the Grey Havens Group, as we gather to share the mythic meanings of our lives, we must treasure the transcendent sense of inexplicable magic that forever washes at the shores of selfhood.