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Water
  • Blowin’ in the Wind

    I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
    Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
    Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
    Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
    … And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

    How many times must a man look up
    Before he can see the sky?
    Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
    Before he can hear people cry?
    … The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
    - Both excerpts from Bob Dylan songs, 1963.  https://bobdylan.com/songs/

    Does wind appear in rock art?  Does rain?  I don’t know. I do sense some petroglyphs as atmospheric.  Certainly changing weather, influencing rain and snow, yearning to start or stop the wind, figures in many stories and ethnographic reports in the West, indeed, in all times and cultures.  Cupule boulders are often viewed as related to wind and rain control. My testimony here with these four “abstract” images, below, is less reasonable.

    Rain - hard or soft - doesn’t fall; waters are pulled by lusty Earth. Gravity’s desire.  Wind - soft or hard - doesn’t blow; airs are twirled by the Sun. Solar whim.

    Archaic petroglyphs bear witness to wind and rain, to gravity and solar.  Deities of the Stone.  Forces natural and super.  Sensed here, now, soon to change, as the Weather.

    Below: Four photos from the High Lakes region of the northern Great Basin

  • Swallowing: The Tabasará River Petroglyphs

    In May 2016 the reservoir of Barro Blanco Dam, in western Panama, was filled for the first time as a “test.” Considered an illegal act by the indigenous Ngäbe Bugle people, the flooding followed over 20 years of rulings, negotiation, government and corporate corruption, coercion, and human rights violations, protests, and some deaths. This continues. Inundated were forest and farm lands and village dwellings.

    The rising waters also swallowed sacred petroglyphs on boulders of the Tabasará River.  The annual ceremony in early 2016 was last in the presence of the now inundated petroglyphs.

    The report of the registered archaeologist hired by GENISA the company identified only one “disturbed" site in the project area and neglected mentioning the petroglyphs. GENISA, a family-owned corporation, was formed in 2006 to build the Barro Blanco dam.  Project funding comes from two European development (investment) banks in the Netherlands and in Germany.

    This disturbing situation took a bizarre turn in early Spring 2017. Water levels in the reservoir unexpectedly receded. The petroglyphs remain buried under debris and sediment up to 5 meters deep. It appears GENISA drained for testing, then by early April completely filled the Barro Blanco reservoir.

    Petroglyphs always mark a specific place with cultural moment. Yet as emblematic figures they continue witnessing cycling realms of change. As motif, symbol, and artifact, the stone abides, signaling desire, hope, and pain.  Why ask what does a petroglyph mean?  Rather:  How does a petroglyph mean in the longue durée of the Earth’s endeavor?

    ALBUM: http://rockartoregon.com/tabasar-river-petroglyphs
    …………………………………
    REFERENCES
    Underwater: Barro Blanco Displaces Three Ngäbe Bugle Communities in Panama.  Jonathan González Quiel.  In Cultural Survival, Dec 2016.
    https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/underwater-barro-blanco-displaces-three-ngabe-bugle

    http://chiriquinatural.blogspot.com/   See posts: June 9 2017 and January 20 2017.     

    Beatriz Felipe Pérez et. al., 2016. Rethinking the Role of Development Banks in Climate Finance: Panama’s Barro Blanco CDM Project and Human Rights. 12/1 Law, Environment and Development Journal. 1-17.  PDF http://www.lead-journal.org/content/16001.pdf  Highly Recommended.

    Sara E Bivin Ford. 2015. The Ngäbe-Buglé Fight to Maintain Territorial Sovereignty.
    PDF http://escholarship.org/uc/item/9qf03131

    Evans, Katharine. 2015. Tabasará Libre: A Case Study of Carbon Colonialism in Panama's Barro Blanco Hydroelectric Project. PDF http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2523&context=etd_hon_theses

    Evans, Katharine. 2014. Tabasará Libre: A Case Study of Development and Indigenous Rights. PDF http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/isp_collection/1875/

    Barro Blanco Dam is one of 30 planned hydropower plants in Panama.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barro_Blanco_Dam

    Two photos below, for links to sources, see images in Album

    Petroglyph boulder in Tabasará River 2015.
    Last annual ceremony of the Ngäbe Bugle people with the sacred petroglyphs 2016.


  • 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 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.

  • 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)

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • She Who Watches the Industrial Complex Corridor

    A wild disjunction reigns at an overview of what was the Columbia River.  She Who Watches gazes eastward over still backwaters, Lake Celilo formed by The Dalles Dam.   She peers over corridors of modernist motion along with a myriad of other spirit beings, images in stone painted and inscribed by the indigenous peoples of the mid-Columbia region. The high-water survivors of other innumerable images inundated in the 1950s.

    Coal trains regularly rock by with urgency, China awaiting delivery of raw power.  On the lake,  pushed and shoved, barges bear freighted goods up and down. On the hills and spanning canyons march power-towers with drooping wires and wheeling wind turbines.  Across the waters, Interstate 84 cuts through basalt cliffs, connecting all points west and east, Portland to Idaho, following the rough path of the old Oregon Trail. 

    We ask:  What and how now does She watch?  Do we see with her?  Or are we content to look into her face, her masking, her patience. And with due respect for her presence, seek a kind of knowing.

    Images:  [Link]

  • Character of the place

    The place can make us feel deeply at home. Yet it is not our 'own' . Its significance does not originate in an order created by us. What the place means to us does not depend on our activities - and their meanings. This fact strikes us when we attempt to define the meaning of the place by words - and these words escape us. When we feel that the place is near – it withdraws. The place rests in its own withdrawal.  Dag T. Andersson [1]

    High Lakes lava lands of eastern Lake County. East of the Warner Valley, west of Guano Valley, south of Poker Jim Ridge, north of the Sheldon Antelope Refuge on the Nevada line. And here I stand and walk in a space that runs to horizons.  Near places resting in withdrawal.  Late September 2015. 

    The makers of petroglyphs found rims, boulders, smooth surfaces often facing morning sun. Carved, pecked, abraded, or scratched images as a single act or layered over uncountable centuries interplay within the hard basalt, the earth. Perhaps functional or practical, yet more often appearing imbued with spirit world. 

    Beginning a few decades ago ranchers and federal agencies brought laborers and their tools -- bulldozers and backhoes -- to carve rough tracks, dig waterholes, push up berms for reservoirs. 

    In common, these human activities circle near water, attentive to seasons.   Meaning expressed in and through materials, the altered rocks, dust, dirt, wet and dry. Meaning now melding with the cycles and wrappings of nature.

    Album: Lake County East [Link]

    [1] Dag T. Andersson. Ontology of a space left over.  In Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past.  Bjørnar Olsen and Þóra Pétursdóttir, editors. Routledge, 2014.