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  • Ways to Apprehend

    The eye that sees the things of today, and the ear that hears, the mind that contemplates or dreams, is itself an instrument of antiquity equal to whatever it is called upon to apprehend … and perhaps … we are aware of … time in ways too difficult and strange for the explanation of historian and zoologist and philosopher.  -Edward Thomas, writing in 1909 [1].

    Typical of many sites in arid juniper-and-sage basalt uplands in the northern Great Basin, Long Lake is a seasonal shallow lake pan, or playa, bordered on its western edge by a basalt rim, outcrops, and tumbled boulders. Within a six-to-eight mile radius of this place, dozens of other sites hold thousands of petroglyphs spanning many social and environmental phases. Long Lake, a rich and well-regarded rock art location, is located on public lands (BLM) between Warner and Guano valleys, and north of highway 140. (Caution: make sure you have a solid vehicle, lots of water, and optionally, a way to reach the highway by phone or foot.)

    Photographers and researchers during recent decades have recorded and studied this terrain, its places, stones, and images, with a variety of approaches and understandings.  However, the immensities – and intensities –  elude.  In part I think because boundaried and linear frameworks can’t contain the cyclic fusing of time and space.  An observer may choose to look, then see.  Further, may participate.  Then, hopefully, with a mind’s eye equal to the apprehension.

    [1] Edward Thomas, The South Country (1909), in the chalk hills of southern England, as cited by Robert MacFarlane in The Old Ways : A Journey on Foot (2012).

    Petroglyphs from two of the smaller lake rims north of Long Lake June 2014.

  • Global Warming and a millennium moment

    What with the World Cup and the (further) disintegration of Iraq, is it surprising “…many Americans perceive global warming as a relatively distant threat” according to a recent Yale study.

    Still, time flows on, kind of like a soccer game or a war.   Since the end of the last ice age in Oregon’s Northern Great Basin, 12000-14000 years ago, animals, plants, and peoples have been affected by oscillating changes in rain, airflow, heat, and cold.  Another variable: volcanic and other geologic activity.

    The darkly patinaed markings on this boulder are thousands of years old, likely 6000 years of more.  The bright symbol is more recent, perhaps created in the last 500-2000 years.   The boulder is near the Owyhee River, which this year is significantly below its historic average flow.  With global warming, how will the life of this canyon, the presence of this boulder, change in the next few centuries, in future millennia?

    Owyhee River Petroglyphs 

  • Matters of this Place called Earth

    Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change. -IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, March 2014. The effects of climate change, with rising global temperatures, already being felt across the globe, will likely be "severe, pervasive, and irreversible" in the years to come, impacting agriculture, human health, and water supplies across all continents, oceans, and ecosystems. (UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released March 2014)

    ... At the eastern tip of the backwater of Lake Celilo, the Columbia River impoundment by the Dalles Dam, basalt cliffs rise out of the still water. If you stand on the cliff’s edge, on the Washington shore, you will look south and east at the downriver face of the John Day Dam. Power lines lacing through looming gray lattice towers rise and fall conveying the river’s captured power to distant places. White, tri-bladed wind turbines form their own turgid lines of ascent and descent along all the receding ridges up and down the wide river plain flattened by ice age floods.

    This particular cliff-place, with its basalt block columns, offers the largest accumulation of “bear paw” petroglyphs on the Columbia, an estimated 150-180. [1]

    Two realities about these petroglyphs occur after careful viewing. There are very few petroglyphs of any other design at this site.  And: an enticing range of design variations on the “paws” motif is found here.   What this may mean is purely speculation and conjecture, meaning we simply don’t know. However, I will suggest whatever the glyphs-makers’ specific intents, this site was and is a place of power. If so, the irony is readily apparent. Power - accumulated, distilled, concentrated - moves far and wide. As the animal abides.

    It is entirely possible, should human systems collapse in the not-too-distant future, and the concrete abutments, towers, turbines fall silent, the animal markings will move from the stone walls outward, into and through this ever-changing Earth, alive to possibility.

    [1] This site is documented by Loring (1982) and McClure (1978), and mentioned by Keyser (1992.) It is accessible to the public.  Photos by Douglas Beauchamp, March 2014: Tower & Fishing Patforms; John Day Dam; "Bear Paws" on basalt.



    ...A final reflection from Jungian analyst Marion Woodman: The masculine struggle… as a relationship to the feminine, extends into a collective attitude to the planet - Mother Earth - distorting her natural rhythms until she can take no more. This disturbing situation is in large measure the result of a flawed solar myth that confers upon the masculine a heroic status, which now threatens us with extinction. From The Maiden King (1998).