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  • Turning sideways into the Earth

    As a world opens itself the earth comes to rise up. It stands forth as that which bears all, as that which is sheltered in its own law and always wrapped up in itself. World demands its decisiveness and its measure and lets beings attain to the Open of their paths. Earth, bearing and jutting, strives to keep itself closed and to entrust everything to its law. The conflict is not a rift as a mere cleft is ripped open; rather, it is the intimacy with which opponents belong to each other.  Martin Heidegger [1]

    “From now on, everything will be called The Middle, everything will be called The Seam…”  Lisa Robertson [2]

    Stone adheres, marking the firm line between living and dead.  This spectator gazes on fugitive monuments holding absence present.  The passage thin; stone softens; the boundary delicate. As the stone is cut, earth reveals -  intimacy.  This Double Negative of quarry and tomb cut, excavated, buried, sealed, eroded, robbed, excavated, emptied. 

    Absent the living, absent the Etruscan dead, in Populonia, Tuscany, near the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Present now, turning, the stone and its void, at this spectral gateway, mulling choice, I walk the trail, down, away, soon pass a Madonna bearing flowers among the oaks and corks, baring new bark.

    Album: Populonia Tuscany/Etruscan rock-cut Tombs

    [1]  From The Origin of the Work of Art in Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought. Collected and translated by Albert Hofstadter, 1971 (Orig. 1950).
    [2] From “The Seam” in the book of poems 3 Summers, 2017.
    ... with a glance and nod to the title of Michael Heizer’s iconic and monumental 1970 earthwork Double Negative located in Nevada’s Great Basin.

  • Swallowing III: Power & Other Than

    Celilo Converter Station, south of the Dalles Dam. For nearly 50 years this BPA-owned facility has provided low-cost hydroelectric power to Southern California via the Pacific Intertie, a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that runs uninterrupted for 846 miles.  By steadily upgrading capacity, the 3800 Megawatt line delivers electricity to over 2 million homes in Los Angeles. Photo with labels added adapted from ABB [1]


    With the building of The Dalles Dam in the 1950s, Native peoples were dis-placed, re-placed. Some did not move, many returned seasonally or to stay [2]. Such a place is the Lone Pine In-Lieu Fishing Site, a federally-owned plot near river’s edge.  As Molly Harbarger reports in March 2016, “ ‘We understand there are some terrible living conditions there,’ said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Portland District spokeswoman Diana Fredlund. Few of the sites are as bad as Lone Pine. … Lone Pine is gated, separating it from The Dalles, a hub of Columbia Gorge life. The tribal members don't have access to the city's amenities like electricity. Instead, residents have to jack it from the bathroom lights and generators." [3]

    Lone Pine fishing platform and The Dalles Dam. Photo: Douglas Beauchamp, April 2017


    3. Many rock carvings and rock paintings are submerged by Lake Celilo Some displaced, then replaced at Columbia Hills State Park’s Temani Pesh-wa trail.
    (See Swallowing Petroglyph Canyon). Many images remain on the cliffs and outcrops, gazing south and east, over the dam-shaped lake, the power towers, the wind turbines, the highways and railroads, the salmon seeking, the river peoples living and fishing.

    NOTES Below

    Photo Album: Swallowing III 

    Rock painting on cliffs above Lake Celilo. Photo: Douglas Beauchamp, April 2017

    NOTES
    [1] ABB, a Euro-based multi-national, is the world's largest builder of electricity grids  
    [2] Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity (2010) Andrew H. Fisher
    http://www.washington.edu/uwpress/search/books/FISSHA.html
    [3] Decrepit fish camps built on broken promises: Four tribes that had fishing villages wiped out in the last century are left waiting for the federal government to provide better housing
    Story by Molly Harbarger, Oregonian, March 11 2016.
    Also: Legislation Honors Long-Ago Federal Promises to Replace Tribal Fishing Villages Drowned By Columbia River Dams Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today, July 26, 2016.

  • Swallowing II: Requiem for a lost petroglyph boulder

    Dislocated from one another, we are now flooded,
    resting in place.
    We suffocate in the backwater of decadence
    and fractious contempt.
    Purity of the ancient is the language without tongues.
    The river elegantly marks swirls on its surface,
    a spiral that tells of a place
    that remains undisturbed.
       Elizabeth Woody, 1994 [1]

    Near the lower end there are several dangerous rocks in the rapid, and at the foot large masses of rock divide it into different parts the main channel empties into a capacious, deep basin of rectangular shape, called Big Eddy.   
       Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, 1882 [2]

    The investigation of the petroglyphs (in spring 1956) was made by Samuel C. Sargent, a Geologist with the Corps of Engineers, on The Dalles Dam project. Mr. Sargent called attention to petroglyphs existing on islands in Fivemile Rapids, which can be easily removed and are in an excellent state of preservation., these petroglyphs are located in areas 6 and 7. I would urge that these  petroglyphs be salvaged, since they represent unique forms for this area.
       David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1956 [3]

    In attempting to raise the petroglyph from Area 7 (by the Corps of Engineer’s Derrick Barge “Cascade” after the formation of The Dalles Dam Pool), the connection to the lift line parted and the petroglyph ad lift line were lost.  In the near future, an attempt will be made to recover the petroglyph with the help of a diver.
       Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel, Corps of Engineers, 1957 [4]

    Area 7 was on a small island at the lower end of Fivemile Rapids. One rock was to be removed from this island. This rock was approximately seven feet high, eight feet wide and eight feet deep, weighing approximately seventeen tons. It was lying loose on a level area.  Jacks were used to lift the rock enough to slip the cables under … the petroglyph was … bound with a cable which was attached to a float.  In the attempt to lift this petroglyph a cable clamp slipped and it fell back into the water. The last report received was that the Corps of Engineers planned to send a diver down after it.
       David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1958 [5]

     It is unfortunate that the petroglyph from Area #7 was lost in the efforts to raise it from the bottom of the pool.  Naturally, $1,000 to attempt to recover this petroglyph is out of line with the value of the petroglyph, and we feel that this petroglyph will have to be considered as lost.
       Herbert Maier, National Park Service, 1958 [6]

    Nature is a temple where living pillars
    Sometimes let out confused lyrics
    Man passes through, across forests of symbols
    Each one observing him with a familiar gaze

    Like long echoes, from afar confounding
    In a dark and profound unity
    Vast like night and like clarity
    Fragrance, color, and sound all resounding
       Charles Baudelaire, 1857 [7]

    Photos:  The Lost Petroglyph boulder from Area 7 

    NOTES
    [1] From Elizabeth Woody’s poem “Waterways Endeavor to Translate Silence from Currents.” In Luminaries of the Humble.  University of Arizona Press. 1994. Elizabeth Woody is an American Navajo-Warm Springs-Wasco-Yakama artist, author, and educator. In 2016 she was named Poet Laureate of Oregon.
    [2] From the May 30. 1882, report “The Survey of the Columbia River at The Dalles in Oregon,” by Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, US Engineers Office, Portland Oregon.  Note: The survey,  as part of an a project for the improvement of navigation, responded to an 1879 mandate by the U.S. Congress.
    [3] From the July 18, 1956, report “Further Recommendation for the Removal of Petroglyphs in The Dalles Dam Reservoir Area.” by David L. Cole, University of Oregon.
    [4] From a July 26, 1957, letter to the NPS from Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel. Corps of Engineers, Deputy District Engineer.
    [5] From the September 10, 1958, “A Report on the Removal of Petroglyphs in The Dalles Dam Reservoir Area,”  by David L. Cole, University of Oregon.
    [6] From an October 3, 1958, letter by Herbert Maier, Assistant Regional Director, National Park Service (in response to a September 25, 1958, letter from W. L. Winegar, Colonel, Corps of engineers, District engineer.)
    [7] Charles Baudelaire from the poem Correspondences in Les Fleurs du mal, 1857. Translated by Ariana Reines for Delirium: The Art of the Symbolist Book, an exhibition through May 14, 2017 at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York City. (Poem in Harper’s Magazine April 2017 p.22)

    END Notes
    - Hill and Hill (1974, p.257) include a photo of a 1956 casting of the petroglyph made by James Hansen for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).
    - McClure (1978, p.73-74) notes: “The Round Island Petroglyph site, a small island with a single petroglyph, about 3/4 mi above Big Eddy, a boulder atop.” In 1984 he designates the site 45KL220.
    - Loring and Loring (1982, Part 1) include a drawing:  Site 9. Big Eddy, Klickitat County, WA,  Fig 14 g. (Also p.11 of the 1996 2nd Edition)


  • Swallowing Petroglyph Canyon 60 years ago today

    Water Monsters arrive in different guises. From time immemorial beings real and mythic await those who err. Or who in innocence linger in or traverse a vulnerable place. Swallowed, disappearing in dark liquid depths. Fearsome. Especially so along the river now known as Columbia.  

    Lake Celilo swallowed living and sacred places of the River People - villages, cemeteries, fishing stations, pathways — and rock art — on March 10, 1957, as the gates of The Dalles Dam closed.

    Below, a small sampling of photographs from the mid-1950s show a very few of the stones among the hundreds of petroglyphs that were swallowed that day. Disappeared under the waters. The photos presented here are for non-commercial, educational purposes by permission from the archives of the late David Cole.  About two dozen other stones were salvaged and preserved, languishing near the dam until several years ago when they were respectfully installed as the Temani Pesh-wa trail in Washington's Columbia Hills State Park.  That group is on public view during the Park’s season April-October. With appreciation to the ancestors of today's River People.

    Recommended:  
    Virginia Butler’s 2007 paper Relic Hunting, Archaeology, and Loss of Native American Heritage at The Dalles. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 108(4), 624-643.

    Petroglyphs near the Dalles of the Columbia River. 1925.  W. Duncan Strong and W. Egbert Schenck.  American Anthropologist, New Series, 27(1), Jan-Mar 1925, 76-90.

  • Public Lands, Private Property, Sacred Space

    Guy Debord sees the core of the spectacle as the annihilation of historical knowledge — in particular the destruction of the recent past. In its place there is the reign of a perpetual present. History, he writes, had always been the measure by which novelty was assessed, but whoever is in the business of selling novelty has an interest in destroying the means by which it could be judged. Thus there is a ceaseless appearance of the important, and almost immediately its annihilation and replacement: "That which the spectacle ceases to speak of for three days no longer exists.”  Jonathan Crary [1]

    Among the schemings, positionings, and other-regulatings irrupting this political season, land use, “land transfer” and public lands management are hotly debated.   For example, as reported in Oregon mid-February (2017):   “Four Republican lawmakers want to study the idea of transferring Oregon’s federal public lands to state control.” [2]  Thus far in Oregon a soft landing compared to targeted, aggressive push in some other states (Utah, Wyoming, for example) — and in our country’s Congress.  Whoa. Who’s country? Embodied in this stand-off inheres “property” — partitioned, boundaried, available.  “Country” by contrast suggests a depth and an expanse physical and cognitive.  Spaces as places.  Who uses, owns, extracts, honors, digs, fences, and remembers?  With what degree of lasting, of sacred?

    Rock art is part of the land, of the stone, the earth, indeed, the country.  The indigenous marked places and boundless spaces. Rock art, Indian Land, bearing time, witnessing change, holding close, hardly novel.  Lizard abides.

    Images from an ancient lake-basin now called Abert in Oregon country: Lake Land 

    [1] Jonathan Crary. 2002.  Spectacle, Attention, Counter-Memory, p.463. In Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. Tom McDonough, ed.  An October book,   Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  

    [2] “Bill considers moving Oregon public land to state control” by Zach Urness, Feb 16 2017  “Fifty-three percent of land in Oregon — 32.6 million acres — is owned by the federal government.”

  • Winging It, Wringing It

    Rock art is tough; simultaneously fragile — enduring and fragmenting, an embodied tension balancing ancient elements and human articulation.

    Another dense layer arrives, dusty, drenching.  A willful squeezing and welling.  This now — politically, power driven jolts as actions by the new federal administration this month (January 2017) accelerate a lasting degradation of the natural environment as we think of it.

    This is real as well for archaeological places including rock art.

    In the short term, for example, management and information about public lands will be constricted with reduced oversight and protections. Long term?  Pressure for further extraction:  minerals, water, trees, gas, feed for livestock for meat.  Disruption, pollution and poisoning as expediencies of demand, yield and profit. A logic of more and more people, all needing, desiring, taking. Global heating, and its attendant climate change, already inevitable, becomes more abstract with fault deflected to the Other.

    This land, this earth, like carved expressions in stone, embodies tension — our winging abode of starry clarity and shrouded mystery.

    Three photos below (Douglas Beauchamp September 2016)
    Note: Oregon's Harney County is contiguous with Sheldon in Nevada.

    Petroglyph, BLM lands, Harney County; note lizard upper left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse Wings sign; barrel left
    Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Sage Grouse collection barrel, each envelope a wing.

  • Tule Lake: The Dying Grass

    Feeling historical: the ground shifting. Suddenly there are serious questions about our grandchildren’s future. And this sense of insecurity, no doubt related to cyclical processes of political economic decline, is intensified by long-term ecological threats that can no longer be managed or exported. Historicity at a different scale: that of a species among other species, the past and future of a whole planet and its ability to sustain life.  James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty First Century (2013), [1]

    For over a century the petroglyphs of the Tule Lake area have attracted speculative and interpretive imaginings of popular and academic cultures.  The soft granular surfaces face wind, rain, ice, seepings; absorb peering eyes, snapping cameras, studied tracings. The distinct visibilities of intense grooves, the dense clusters, spark deep in the psyche. The walls of incised markings emerge emblematic of historical moments, mirroring desires to define origins.  

    William T. Vollmann in his recent epic, The Dying Grass: A novel of the Nez Perce War, imagines the musings of U.S. Army Captain Joel G. Trimble  [2]  in 1877 as he recalls a day in May 1873 by the eastern shore of Tule Lake, in northern California, eating lunch with other cavalrymen:

    “with their backs against a swallow-ridden sandstone cliff which the Modocs had pecked out with depictions of setting suns, full suns, peculiar insects which might have been moths if moths could skeletonize and if their wings had ribs; then there were armbones descending into triple-taloned claws, parallel wave-forms, squares pecked out to enclose right-angled groove-labyrinths, snake-grooves crowned with spreading fingers like the lodgepoles atop an Indian tipi, buglike schematic humanoids, mushrooms or perhaps phalli, nested double circles, Y-shaped incisions and lines of short vertical markings like tallyings, and there was something resembling a heart above a long vertical groove, while a birdlike figure spread her downcurving arms, and from a certain oval rose a long hooked, neck as to represent an egret bending down toward the water to troll for fat insects; then there was a vertical slash topped with nested inverted V's; had there been only one of those latter, the vertical stroke might have been an arrow, but the way it was made, Trimble supposed that it must be a grass head; after all, so much of this tall greenish-yellow grass grew about; and then here was grooved something like the inverted or falling seedhead of a stalk of what must have been dying grass, which made him inexplicably sad — why even consider dying grass?”  [3]

    Vollmann’s language refreshes. He does not say: this is what it is.  He says:  this is how it appears to me.  He does not treat the petroglyphs as objects, rather the event in a life as subjective encounter.  They are equal to his presence.  They change and endure, he comes and goes.

    [1] James Clifford, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty First Century (2013), pp. 6-7.  Download the book’s Prologue
    [2] Vollmann notes, p. 353, Trimble’s role in the capture of Modoc leader Kientpoos, known as Captain Jack, on June 1, 1873. (The Dying Grass, 2015, p. 353.)  More: Robert Acquinas McNally (Indian Country Today, June 1, 2016) provides a carefully researched study of the capture: Who Really Caught Captain Jack?
    [3].  This quote is from The Dying Grass, p. 354.  Accompanying the Trimble’s musings, Vollmann inserts his 2013 photograph of a section of the wall of petroglyphs.  Vollmann acknowledges:  “Description of the petroglyphs in the Modoc Lava Beds — After a visit to Petroglyph Point (near Tule-lake) in June 2013.” (p. 1300)  

    Photos: Petroglyph Point
    More from the Tule Lake area (Petroglyph Point and The Peninsula) 

  • TEN 2016

    Ten images from this year now passing.  Exploring Life and Non-life within the northern Great Basin. TEN 2016 Album

    In this Now, this cusp of Then Past and There Future, let’s think a Moment with Elizabeth Povinelli [1]:  

    Take Life or Nonlife in the Anthropocene and the Meteorocene. Geology and meteorology are devouring their companion discipline, biology. For if we look at where and how life began, and how and why it might end, then how can we separate Life from Nonlife? Life is not the miracle-the dynamic opposed to the inert of rocky substance. Nonlife is what holds, or should hold for us, the more radical potential. For Nonlife created what it is radically not, Life, and will in time fold this extension of itself back into itself as it has already done so often and long. It will fold its own extension back into the geological strata and rocky being, whereas Life can only fall into what already is. Life is merely a moment in the greater dynamic unfolding of Nonlife. And thus Life is devoured from a geological perspective under the pressure of the Anthropocene and Meteorocene.

    [1] Elizabeth A. Povinelli is the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Excerpt from the final pages (176) of her recent book Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism. Duke University Press, 2016.



  • Wading into the River called Carson

    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    They say the world is spinning around
    I say the world is upside down
    Joe Higgs [1]

    The sign says fishing permitted.  As long as you do not eat them.  Wading into the River called Carson* quickly becomes surprising and a bit mucky.  Why even try? For me, it is not for fishing. It is to sense place, in the two senses of sensual and common. And to simply cross the river to the dark boulders — the petroglyphs active and dense, the stone deeply imbued with water and wind, the landscapes clear and compelling.  

    Recent history, in this case 1859-1861 with slight detours into the early 20th century, becomes an confounding thicket for an outsider — like me from Oregon country.
    — Carson River, toxic enough to be Nevada’s only Superfund site. Gold and silver discovered in 1859 Comstock immediately spawned an rough influx of seekers. Mercury imported to extract the metal became part of the effluent, 15 million pounds in refuse, penetrating and contaminating river and basin waters as far as the Stillwater Marshes in the northern Carson basin.  Poisonous quicksilver,  accumulating in tissues, is a health risk. [2]
     — A violent incident at a “a stage and grog stop” in May 1860 catalyzed increasing tensions between the Paiutes and encroaching miners and settlers.  This incident occurred along the Carson River not far from this petroglyph site and launched the brief and deadly Pyramid Lake War. [3]
    — During the winter flood of  1861-1862 Mark Twain lodged for a few harrowing days at the above stage stop, Honey Lake Smith’s, described in Twain’s 1872 “personal narrative” Roughing It (217-228).
    — In the early 20th century extensive water projects diverted, channeled, and dammed the lower river directly affecting the lands and scapes surrounding this distinctive petroglyph place. [4]  

    World Spinning around.  Upside down.  

    For close-up photos of selected:  Carson River Petroglyphs   

    *This river’s modern name?  Bestowed by John C. Fremont in the 1840s to honor scout and “Indian fighter” (aka “Indian killer”) Kit Carson.
    {1] The 1970s single by Joe Higgs, father of Reggae: The World Is Upside Down  (YouTube)
    [2] “Mercury-contaminated sediments in the Carson River, Lahontan Reservoir, Carson Lake, and Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge are the cause of elevated levels of mercury in fish and wildlife in and near the contaminated areas. The contamination presents a health risk to those who consume mercury-contaminated fish.”  EPA Carson River Mercury
    [3] Jerome Edwards recounts a version on the Nevada Humanities website. Pyramid Lake War 
    [4] Water in the West - more than complex.  For the Carson and Truckee Rivers, two places to begin:  The Newlands Project  & Pyramid Lake/Truckee-Carson Water Rights Settlement (1990)

  • It is tempting to envision

    Grimes Point is located at the western tip of the Lahontan Mountains. Here there are abundant petroglyphs pecked into basaltic boulders distributed along crude shoreline terraces formed by waves of Lake Lahontan.  The age of the petroglyphs is not known so temporal associations with lake levels cannot be made with certainty, but it is tempting to envision Native Americans lounging amongst the rocks idly pecking away after a nice swim or clam bake.
    Susan H. Zimmerman, Kenneth D. Adams, and Michael R. Rosen, 2015 [1]

    The last phrase in the above quote is highlighted so we may think with it for a moment.  Certainly it is tempting when encountering petroglyphs to attempt to envision indigenous lifeways at the time the stones were carved.  Envision means to imagine, to conjure a picture in the mind.  Such a picture will always be our picture, our frame, our composition, the cosmos on our terms.  If words such as lounging, idly pecking, nice swim, enter into our picture it is time to recognize we have conjured our fantasy.  Time to step back, way back, to sense this place’s presence. Look and listen. The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    Recognize, too, in the 20th century the material reality for this place, these stones, has often been one of destructive impacts and disregard. Roads through the site, bulldozing, quarrying, boulders displaced, removed, damaged or destroyed, painted signs and graffiti. [2]  Beginning in the 1950s, the Grimes Point petroglyph area was used as a trash dump for Fallon, a few miles to the northwest. [3] Only since the 1970s have protective measures by the BLM encouraged care and respect. [4]  The stones abide; the petroglyphs resound.

    [1] Susan Zimmerman, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ken Adams, Desert Research Institute, and Michael Rosen, U.S. Geological Survey.  2015.   From “Modern, Holocene, and Pleistocene Lake Locales in the Western Great Basin, Nevada and California.”  Trip 3, June 15–19, 2015, in the Field Trip Guidebook, Sixth International Limnogeology Congress, Reno, Nevada.  p67.   
    [2] Karen M. Nissen 1982.  Images from the Past: An Analysis of Six Western Great Basin Petroglyph Sites. PhD. Diss, UC Berkeley.  p294.  During two field seasons in the 1970s Nissen recorded or noted over 900 boulders with petroglyphs at Grimes Point.  
    [3] Robert Heizer and Martin Baumhoff.  1962. Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California. p18.
    (4) Grimes Point Archaeological Area (BLM).   Online Nevada: Grimes Point (Alanah Woody)

    Photos at Grimes Point

  • Sinking into Earth

    At hand, the deeply dark petroglyphs near Carson Sink in northern Nevada. It’s tempting to peruse the boulders and images, then wind along my away. [1] Lingering, my thoughts imagine the possible landscapes – waters, plants, birds, animals - how this country may have varied when the peoples who carved these images resided in and traveled through. These wonderings wheel back to considering how the landscape appears today. And what the future holds.

    Sounds of the national anthem drift across the early desert. Loudspeakers a few miles away. I notice 8 a.m. The anthem sifts over the quiet land from the Naval Air Station near Fallon: “Home to the Fighting Saints of VFC-13, the Desert Outlaws of Strike Fighter Wing Pacific, and the Naval Strike Air Warfare Center, NAS Fallon serves as the Navy’s premier tactical air warfare training center.” [2]

    A scattered patchwork of five bombing ranges comprising 100,000 acres inscribe on the nearby terrain of Northern Nevada. [3] Though the rock art meanings may seem mute in this presence, the carvings induce listening and looking, as unfurling intimations - there and here, past and future. A necessary and material sense of change turns, refolds, embraces this earth.

    [1] Modern research on the region’s rock art began with Julian Steward (1929); enhanced by Martin Baumhoff and Robert Heizer (1958; 1962); followed by Karen Nissen’s detailed documentation in the 1970s (1982).
    [2] Naval Air Station Fallon
    [3] The Center for Land Use Interpretation

    View Petroglyphs Carson Sink

  • Grimes Point of View: One boulder, a worldview

    Art engenders becomings, not imaginative becomings - the elaboration of images and narratives in which a subject might recognize itself, not self-representations, narratives, confessions, testimonies of what is and has been - but material becomings, in which these imponderable universal forces touch and become enveloped in life, in which life folds over itself to embrace its contact with materiality, in which each exchanges some elements or particles with the other to become more and other. Elizabeth Grosz [1]

    Grimes Point Archaeological Area, an extensive, fully accessible, and signed field of dark boulders with archaic petroglyphs, is adjacent to Highway 50 east of Fallon.

    The locale looks west and south over the Carson Sink, a terminus of the Carson River, in Churchill County, Nevada. Well-managed by the BLM, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Some boulders bear arrays of deeply patinaed cupules. These ancient “conical pits” associated occasionally with lines or grooves led to Baumhoff and Heizer’s in 1958 (and 1962) typing the “pit-and-groove” petroglyph style. They conjectured that this style represented the earliest petroglyphs in a wide expanse of the Great Basin. Though they cautioned their proposal as tentative pending dating, many rock art writers in the ensuing decades reified this style as fixed truth. I do believe these cupuled boulders are, in many of the instances I’ve seen in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau, early Holocene (7,000+ years before present time [BP]). However, the designs and configurations are not rightly constrained as fixed cultural “elements,” while solid dating remains elusive. A worldview beyond grasp. What we have is the beauty of the densely-colored, dimpled desert boulders recalling watery eras – a sensible materiality. 

    This is one boulder: Point of View

    [1] Elizabeth Grosz. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth (2008) p.23

  • The Grain of the Moon

    It is not uncommon for today’s full moon to be called Hunter Moon.  A few nights ago I camped in the tall sage near an old corral.  Two hunters crept along, dusk, in their truck down the rocky road. We talked a bit. They, looking for mule deer, outfitted in full dress camo, kindly apologized for having disturbed me. I, seeking landscapes of rock art, in dusty fleece and levied twill, wished them well.  Though I don't kill animals.  Nor eat meat.  We each have our ways of being in this fleeting world, of looking and seeking.  What we give and take beyond our grasp.  Under the silver waxing moon and golden rising sun, I was lucky.  Circles embracing the grain of the moment. Laden, ripe, holding forth.

    Two Circles. Petroglyph images in the Washoe-Lassen borderlands, the country northwest of Pyramid Lake.

  • Great Basin Anthropological Conference October 5-8 2016

    Great Basin Anthropological Conference (GBAC) convenes this week in Reno Nevada. The 2016 biennial gathering includes 13 presentations on rock art  topics.  

    Notable: Australian scholar Jo McDonald on Arid Zone Hunter-Gatherer Rock Art: a View of the Great Basin from the Western Desert.  Professor McDonald’s impressive accomplishments, among them the book Dreamtime Superhighway, can be viewed at http://www.web.uwa.edu.au/people/jo.mcdonald

    Angus Quinlan, the accomplished director of the Nevada Rock Art Foundation, will offer a variety of topics including Social Perspectives on Rock Art’s Variable Distribution in Great Basin Archaeology.

    Douglas Beauchamp will present a non-rock art topic: Clovis Orange: Traverses and Uncertainties in the Alkali Lake Basin, Lake County, Oregon.  To view the images:  CLOVIS ORANGE

    To view or download the GBAC program: http://greatbasinanthropologicalassociation.org/gbac/2016-program-gbac/

  • Artifacts & Terrains II: Harney County

    In the West it is impossible to be unconscious of or indifferent to space. At every city's edge it confronts us as federal lands kept open by aridity and the custodial bureaus; out in the boondocks it engulfs us. And it does contribute to individualism, if only because in that much emptiness people have the dignity of rareness and must do much of what they do without: help, and because self-reliance becomes a social imperative, part of a code. Wallace Stegner [1]

    September in south Harney County.  Sage. Thin meandering roads. Thinner linear fences. The surprise of water here and there. A sparse happenstance of ancient and settler artifacts.  Rock art, some. Mostly no rock art. Early peoples were highly selective – good rock, the right aspect, a remembered and revered place. A land of curves, disappearances, hard stone, remnants, and striking vistas. Often treeless for miles in every direction.

    Few cattle ranging this season; plenty of evidence left behind.   BLM over the last several decades has provided small reservoirs, bermed drainages, tapped springs, and installed water tanks for seasonal cattle. Roads and fences. With these subsidized, mostly corporate, operations on public lands the opportunistic cattle munch, stomp, and drop. Then herded or trucked to winter grounds – or to market. Pronghorn, deer, bighorn, coyote, grouse keep distance.

    Photos Part II:  Artifacts & Terrains Harney County Oregon. Sep 2016.

    Album Part I:   Artifacts & Terrains   June 2016
    ...
    [1] Thirty years ago, October 1986, the eminent 77-year old scholar and author Wallace Stegner gave three nights of lectures. The book’s title captures an essence: The American West as living space.   The lectures are equally telling: Living Dry, Striking the Rock, Variations on a Theme. His words have a piercingly familiar ring (or echo?) in the present, as past and future entwine, repeat, are reborn. This brief book is recommended.

  • Horizons Thicken and Compress

    Let me define wholeness as horizon rather than destination: a horizon which recedes as the journey through life unfolds. Anne Buttimer, 1985 [1]

    Humanity is inside the whale now, bumping up against that thing once taken as the ‘open’ horizons of nature and the future, which now feels claustrophobically close and foreclosed. … Inside that thing, knowing what it’s hard to not know about rising global emissions levels, defrosting methane hydrates and negative feedback loops, even mountain air is no longer clean and fresh. The air is now thick with atmosphere… Simon Bayly, 2012 [2]

    This decades-old juniper, on the edge of an ephemeral lake in the basin and range country of Oregon, the only tree as far as the eye can see, pulls power toward place -  a slim rock-cleft shelter, rock features, petroglyphs.

    In 2014, this solo juniper glowed, alive and well.  In 2016, brittle, desiccated and dead. Between: 2015, a year of continued drought and heat; the northern Great Basin wavers. 

    In our 21st century time, as horizons thicken, recession compresses, how and wherefore art the sacred power?

    To view:  Horizons

    [1] Anne Buttimer, Irish geographer, emeritus professor of geography, University College, Dublin.   Quote from "Nature, water symbols, and the human quest for wholeness." In Dwelling, place and environment, pp. 259-280.   Springer Netherlands, 1985. 

    [2] Simon Bayly, University of Roehampton (London), Department of Drama, Theatre & Performance.  Quote from “The Persistence of Waste” (online version and in Performance Research: On Ecology, 2012]

  • Living on Earth: A tough fragility

    Living on Earth means arriving, finding water, inhabiting, moving on.  A tough fragility with focused intention in a shifting landscape. 

    Figures appear in all four new albums from Southeast Oregon's Lake, Harney and Malheur Counties now posted at rockartoregon.com

    Interface: Similarity and distinction

    Journey: Emergence, seasonal round, blessed water

    Water: Fluid and hollowed, ephemeral and contained

    Scratched petroglyphs:  Marking Place

  • Rising in the Southern Salish Sea

    During the misty mid-June day I took this photograph in Case Inlet, an eastern bay of the Southern Salish Sea, the tidal swing was nearly 14 feet. A swing of 18 feet is not uncommon [1]. In the photo the tide begins its rise from a minus low.

    A different kind of sea level rise will mark this shore in a profound way in coming decades. As a “mid-range” projection a permanent rise of two feet is predicted by the end of this century [2]. Eventually the boulder’s twenty circles will disappear by barnacle, erosion, and/or inundation. Does it matter? Many lives and species will have been dramatically decimated by that time given current trends. How does this pending catastrophe matter? [3]

    Meanwhile these circles story forth. Messages of cycles we moderns are unlikely to decipher, or indeed heed, except in general speculative terms [4]. To my knowledge this is the only petroglyph in the Puget Sound area that is entirely circles with no apparent iconic referencing [5].   Listen for a moment in this time of change

    [1] By comparison the tidal swing that day in Florence, Oregon, was 7 feet
    [2] Not counting the increasing flood risks. See: http://www.climatecentral.org/ Also:  http://www.climatecentral.org/pdfs/SLR-WA-PressRelease.pdf
    [3] The Anthropocene project: virtue in the age of climate change by Byron Williston (2015 Oxford University Press ) is a sharply provocative and convincing examination of the approaching catastrophe. He explores the ethics and morals of choice and denial. https://byronwilliston.com/
    [4] There appears an absence of formal documentation of this and a nearby petroglyph boulder, though a flickering of images appear on the internet without details. Its age or purpose is unknown. Some speculate that this type of imagery in sea-edge or riverine zones is related to abundance, as supplication or as gratitude. Little proof of intent exists.
    [5] Though many of the few Puget Sound petroglyphs are composed of circular elements, often suggesting eyes and faces. There are two locations I’ve visited on the Oregon coast with carved circles on sea-edge boulders: An Oregon coast boulder

    Circles Boulder in Salish Sea