BLOG: To Become Visible

Handprints
  • Not sure about the next hundred

    In her review of Jenny Offill’s new novel Weather, Christine Smallwood in comparing it to Offill's first book writes:  
    — We no longer feel confident that conscious creatures with opposable thumbs will be walking the earth in another thousand years. We’re not sure about the next hundred. [1]

    I excerpt this out of context, yet this thought resonates for me. I’ve just returned from Central Oregon.  I looked, wondered, at two paint-hands at nearby places along the (now-named) John Day River.

    Two Hands: dense gray, pale red. Hands marking, pausing, greeting, passing. Handprints appearing with indistinct thumbs. Perhaps lightly touched, perhaps faded, perhaps four fingers signaled a particular gesture. [2]

    How did the one who reached out to touch the stone sense time?  As seasons?  As yesterday, today, tomorrow? As Future and Past?  Was this Present simultaneous with what was then and will be?  

    Do I grasp “another thousand years?”  The next hundred?  No, not closely, surely. I do understand two other lines, also excerpted from Smallwood writing in the review:
    — No matter how the world ends, we will continue to be human beings until we are dead.
    — Whatever we do now—whatever we write, make, or build—has to mean something now, to the people who are here.

    [1] Meditations in an Emergency:  Jenny Offill’s novel of the barely bearable present. A review of Weather by Jenny Offill by Christine Smallwood in Bookforum Feb/Mar 2020.
    [2] Noting these two close-up photos (iPhone XR) of faded hand-print/rock paintings are color-enhanced (macOS Photos).

  • Solstice Summer 2018

    Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson, Circles (Essay, 1841)

  • Making Tracks, Leaving Traces

    Track. Trace. Trait. These words originate from the Latin tractus: drawing, dragging, drafting, pulling. They all speak to marks resulting from an action. A pen on paper, a foot on sand, a hoof on mud. Stone on stone. With petroglyphs a doubling results. The petroglyph itself marking stone. The image resembling an animal or human print or track in real space. Further, the modern photograph digitally traces the reflected light. The traits of the image store as bits subject to recall by the computer, displayed as something recognizable. Traces.

    Petroglyph images as tracks and traces, though infrequent among the thousands of mostly abstract glyphs in the northwestern Great Basin, stand out due to their resonance as resemblance. We recognize. We have an idea, a memory, a feeling. We say it looks like. We may ascribe values. Look from placement to place. We will circle back to our own hands. Our feet. Our digital self.

    Most of these petroglyphs are thousands years old. Embedded, intentional, and crafted markings, they embody as signs, signals, symbols, icons, or metaphors. Their appearances alter through time. Though powerful markers, for us they now lack social or cultural context, eluding meaning while producing a tension, an ambiguity of presence and absence of th human and the animal we know has been here, gone there.

    The thinking and writing of David Summers, Bruno Latour, and Michel Serres has challenged my understanding. Of course they are no way liable for the track I have followed! 

    Album: Tracks & Traces Petroglyphs