An Archaic mano, or hand grinding stone, begins its next few thousand years in the sand of a hearth. Time and weather have reduced the charcoal of ancient campfires to a shadow in the soil.
On a ridge in the low hills near the highway, a micaceous mano rested like an Easter egg in a nest of cobbles nearly the same size and shape. It was Archaic, a rounded lozenge with one smooth and one pecked side. There in its stone nest it will stay, with the hill slowly eroding out from under it.
A good dozen bushtits fussed and tsp-ed and fidgeted in the juniper. I sat very still. They seemed not to notice me, coming and going in a cloud like midges.
One red pebble.
Rain had washed everything, as though it had doused the desert with a gigantic fire hose. The daisies’ faces were plastered to the ground.
A pretty mano of pink granite. Where it lay was wilder than when it was made by an Archaic hunter-gatherer, probably a woman: only the rare hiker goes there now. The mano had been looking at the sky for two thousand years, at least. I admired it, then left it to its next eons of quiet and space and rain.
Writer-illustrator Betsy James, in conversation with older readers
In the sand of the Ojito Wilderness, a cracked Archaic mano, a grindstone. Crystalline quartzite, red and white and yellow, with a slanted edge that provided a perfect grip. I hooked my fingers there, seeing another woman’s hand: small like mine, probably young, with broken nails.
After twenty centuries, the stone remembers that other hand.
Windy. Took shorts, but it was too cold to wear them. We drove way far out in the Ojito and hiked down to the place where there’s scattered white-yellow-green petrified wood, below hoodoos among the ponderosas.
Archaic firepits. The crew kept getting ahead of me; I was dogging back and forth, trying to keep them in sight, now and then frantic as the others got farther and farther away and I had to run after them.
Found a large dinosaur bone on the ridge by following its fragments up a wash. It was falling apart; we dug some of the sand away from it, then covered it back up without ever having located both ends. Jan taught us the lick-stick test: If it’s bone, rather than another type of rock like agate or petrified wood, it will stick to your tongue when you lick it. (The porous vesicles left by cells and capillaries wick up the moisture of your tongue.)
Windblown grass draws circles in sand, as in snow.
Oak bushes have brown leaves around their bases, bare grey twigs on top.
Back in Bernalillo we went to Silva’s Saloon, which was full of bikers in leathers, a billiards game in progress. We shared two pitchers, ate Kentucky Flocked chicken and came home happy.
I forgot to say that on an Archaic site on the ridgetop was a broken mano, a hand-grinding stone: pretty, crystalline, red and white and yellow, with a slanted natural edge of white quartzite along one side. The edge made a perfect place for the user of the stone, probably a teenager, to hook her fingers. So I hooked my own fingers there, thinking: After five thousand years–fifty centuries–this stone remembers the grip of a hand.