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Global Heating
  • 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.

  • 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]

  • 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

  • Lake Abert: Spirits as Witness

    A place is deeper than the sum of its aspects.  My thought as I travel the 15 miles of US Highway 395 curving along the east shore of Lake Abert. 

    The indigenous peoples who inhabited the lakeshore adjusted the location of their dwellings as the lake expanse fluctuated over many millennia. Rick Pettigrew’s archaeological scoping reveals dynamic cultural change. He analyzes the surface archaeology – rock features and rock art - demonstrating sequential occupations linked with lake elevations. [1] 

    Today people – and birds – find the lakeshore uninhabitable. 

    “Under Oregon law, Lake Abert has no legal right to any water at all.”

    In 2014 for the first time is 80 years Lake Abert is - completely dried. [2a & 2b] A migration stopover for millions of birds that rely on the brine shrimp and alkali flies, the lake offered nothing.  Significant among many converging factors are the human manipulations and extractions of the Chewaucan River, the terminal lake’s only steady replenishment. 

    Beyond the reality of the region’s multi-year drought, is the strange story of the aptly-named River’s End Ranch, or perhaps better: Lake’s End Ranch.  Not only is the private ranch reservoir thick with 25 years of land- and water-use conflicts, the property owner’s dam-and-dike building in the 1990s ignored protection requirements and severely disturbed ancestral remains linked to four recognized tribes. [3]

    This year, 2015, looks to be the same to me during my mid-July visit to a few of the dozens of rock art sites distributed on the Lake’s east shore. [4]  Spirits emerge as witness as they have since time immemorial. And as they will when humans abandon the arid basin-and-range valleys as global heating accelerates.  [5]  

    [1]  Pettigrew, Richard M.  Archaeological investigations on the east shore of Lake Abert, Lake County, Oregon. Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 1985. 

    [2a] Lake Abert Dries Up, a 15-minute video from Oregon Field Guide (OBP), April 2014. This webpage also includes links to some source documents.

    [2b] Oregon’s only saltwater lake is disappearing, and scientists don't know why.”  July 3 2014. Oregonlive.

    [3] Klamath Tribe near remedies over disturbed ancestral remains.”  May 2000. Indian Country Today Media Network. (Note: the Tribes concluded an agreement in late 2001.)

    [4] East Lake Abert Archeological District, encompassing 6000 acres, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.   This greatly expanded the 1974 nine-acre “Abert Lake Petroglyphs” NRHP listing. 

    [5] Warming Pushes Western U.S. Toward Driest Period in 1,000 Years

    Photos: Spirits as Witness