June 3, 2013
Friend: Oh god, I think it looks like a little alien. Like an extraterrestrial fetus.
Me: I think it looks like a kid in a stripy T-shirt.
Friend: How benign. You’re perverse, but benign.
May 22, 2013
As we scrambled the scree slope to the mesa top, a lovely thing. The limb of an ancient juniper, vibrating in the cliff-edge wind, had worn a deep groove in the sandstone it leaned on, and had rubbed itself down to bare wood.
The fit was perfect even to the wood grain. A protruding knot on the limb had made a perfectly matching, knot-shaped hollow in the stone.
I was reminded of a word from…is it San Felipe Pueblo? Suyu: the sound of the wind as it hits the edge of the mesa.
May 12, 2013
And hunters had waited. On the peninsula was a thousand-year-old Archaic camp, its earth black with twelve to eighteen inches of ashy midden. Eighty feet above the valley floor, craning our necks, we could see that its crumbling north edge was formed of friable Tertiary sediments. The site itself looked “broken in half” like Dun Aengus, the cliff’s-edge fort from the Irish Iron Age, which the Atlantic has half devoured.
Following the game trail, we circled down to the bottom of the cliff. At its base stood an intact chunk of the site. It had slid from the edge where we had leaned and still stood upright, complete with ashes and flakes. On the cliff face rivulets of ashy mud trailed from the broken edge .
Ignorant, we had stood on that undercut, sleazy, brittle cliff’s edge, eighty feet above the valley floor.
April 28, 2013
It has an oiliness, and always seems to occur near strata of barely-altered Cretaceous swamp not compressed enough to be coal. Yet I’ve heard many a desert rat say, “That’s rattler smell.” It has always made me aware of my ankles.
But it’s a plant. Thick, small, dark green leaves in pairs on a red stem. I couldn’t find it in Weeds of the West, but it looks like a vetch.
April 10, 2013
April 1, 2013
The day began with mottled clouds that later burned off. No friendly sand to walk in, just acrid mud dust, with now and then a stiff, dried place where a cow had pissed. We hiked down terrifying deep arroyos whose walls, scored by mud-laden runnels, were poised to collapse.
Mudstone concretions: eyeballs and entrails lay in drifts on the yellow-red dirt. We came across two half-buried spheres, both about twelve feet in diameter, like the backs of two huge skulls: Baba Yaga and her daughter.
February 17, 2013
February 9, 2013
Fossil bone lay all over, a jaw with a row of tooth sockets, an ungulate’s durable knucklebone. The antlers belonged to a proto-antelope. The weight of overlying strata had cracked them, but old rain, bearing minerals in solution, had mended the cracks. I found the tiny parallel tracks left by the incisors of that briefest being, a mouse or vole.
These sediments are slightly over two million years old.
January 12, 2013
They were old. No historical pottery scatter at all. One of the rings still carried the juniper cribbing of the roof, though it had fallen. In the desert juniper can endure for hundreds of years.
The hogan’s door did not face east as is traditional, because the ring had been built against a sandstone slab; however, the north wall did appear to have been knocked out, customary ritual to release the spirit of a dead person.
The corral had been formed ingeniously by piling cedar to wall up the ends of a cleft formed when a fallen slab split in two.