Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Timeless Break

I need to dispose of a pile of construction debris, or to be more specific, deconstruction debris piled in front of TP II, but while the morning is sunny it is still a chilly 33 degrees F outside, so I am dithering.

I could get up and clean the debris in here, but for the moment I really feel a need to just lie back on my bunk and give my muscles a well-earned rest. I worked very hard yesterday, and will have to do so again today, and for several more days, if we are to get out of here on time.

While Ian was here last week we drove to Penticton to buy supplies. On the way we took a five-minute detour. He'd found petroglyphs a short distance off the road last summer, along with a spectacular view looking south down the valley. He wanted to share these with me, so we had a quick break in the otherwise tightly focused busy-ness of the week.

He took these pictures in October when he was here, and to our dismay some hooligan has defaced the petroglyphs since. I fail to understand what drives people to do such stupid things. What are they trying to prove? These pictures are ancient. The rock has cracked and flaked since they were painted, and large patches of lichen grow over some sections.

We puzzled what they meant. A stick figure with nine lines extending from the head, a half circle with 15 rays. The figure has no legs, it appears to be wearing a skirt. Was the picture painted by a woman? Do the lines on the head mean nine people, the half-circle a journey of 15 days? There are also four spots, almost certainly made by pressing the ends of the paint-covered fingers on the rock. Perhaps she stumbled as she reached upward, and touched the rock to steady herself. There is another figure but it is so obliterated by age that it's impossible to decipher.

All looking southwest out over a vast rocky valley, but a highly fertile one. I touched one with a sense of what can only be described as reverence. A recent report says that 95% of all Native Americans carry the mitochondrial DNA of six women who lived between 18,000 and 20,000 years ago in Beringia, the now submerged land underlying the Bering Strait.

A cousin drew these, an Old One, perhaps a woman. In my imagination she could have been one of those original mothers of Native America. I have walked in her footsteps, seen that glorious view down the valley - was it wetter then, drier, lesser or more heavily treed? Even today it is rich in wildlife. Along that corridor I have seen deer, mountain sheep, beaver, coyotes, birds of many kinds including Canada geese, ducks, swans, cranes, bald eagles and dozens of smaller species.

The "paint" used for petroglyphs was often a combination of blood, fat and iron oxides. The group hunted here, perhaps sheltered in the small cave beneath the massive boulder the petroglyphs are painted on. They left their mark. She left her mark, not only on a boulder face but in the flesh of millions. Thanks Mom.

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