A flint knapper’s site. Flakes everywhere, all from the same crystalline quartzite core. The knapper had built himself a seat by propping a sandstone slab against two smaller rocks. Bill said he must have been an old guy with arthritis who had to get his chair just right.
To me the site seemed recent, say 300-500 years old: the slab had not toppled, the flakes had traveled only about thirty feet down the slope. But the quartzite was typically Archaic, which would put it back a thousand years at least. Possibly much more.
Slow, huge thunderheads.
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.
On archaeological field survey: way to hellandgone New Mexico, thirty miles of washboard dirt road on land so overgrazed it was “cow burnt.” A cold day.
A wide, empty valley fissured by new erosion, arroyos thirty feet deep. On a low volcanic promontory, the scattered stones of an Archaic site like tossed newspapers in a messy room. There was a “kitchen”—a cluster of sandstone slabs—and in the middle of them was a worn grinding stone, a metate.
It was hexagonal. None of us had seen that before. Archaic, therefore thousands of years old—but hexagonal?
In this desert land, wild honeycomb would have been almost the only sweetness.
To Cañoncito. A fiercely windy day. My ears, teeth, hair are full of grit.
The harsh, huge wind. Immense peace.
The day was spent in classic hunter-gatherer country: piñon, sandy hills, sandy bowls and corries, the burned earth that marks Archaic sites. I came upon fragments of a smashed Puebloan bowl that had been painted with stripes and checks, still sitting right where it broke. Right next to the bits was a tidy burned spot, quite round, perhaps twelve inches in diameter: the fire at which the bowl had broken. Growing exactly out of the center of the burned spot, happy for the nitrogen, was an eight-inch cedar trunk.
Mountain bluebirds, light-bellied in the wind, reminded me of fish swimming in the sea.
For more walks on stone and sand, click here.