Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.
You must make your own map.
- Joy Harjo (from the poem A Map to the Next World)
As we two-leggeds partition to protect, necessary lines are drawn. Often across uneasy vague terrains. Physical, bio, water-shedding, political. Following millennial inscriptions of animal and human meanderings. Then claiming by gridding.
All this comes to mind as I camp by a line of large boulders placed by heavy equipment along the road. To the west, a stones throw, the El Paso Mountains Wilderness. Me, I’m simply on BLM public lands in Kern County, California, ready for first light to hike south to Sheep Springs. Also on the line.
The El Paso Mountains are somewhat of an island, the earth exposed, truth-telling. An island not only criss-crossed with paths and roads, livings and dyings, but divided into OHV roading zones and the no-vehicle El Paso Mountains Wilderness. The numerous rock art sites have been deeply studied and writings and photos are readily available. This is especially true of the two most extensive places: Sheep Springs and Terese. A few coyote howls apart.
As the sun illuminates this starkly luminous land, the stones, many bearing petroglyphs, glow. In the dawning sun rays, some float a polished sheen, metallic, silk smooth. Journeys - of the mind, of the peoples, of time immemorial - condense into lean carved interweavings. Lines shaping a wandering gaze into patinaed multi-dimensionals.
Even if we could agree some petroglyphs may be maps, this opens a deeper question: Map of What? And to complicate this question: what does Map Do? In the Far West, there’s a trove of writings and photos attempting to unravel this, none very convincing. However, we need to go somewhere. Map, Meander, or Imagine.
Photos: El Paso Mountains Petroglyphs