05 April 2024

Swallowing II: A Singular Petroglyph Boulder


Nature is a temple where living pillars
Sometimes let out confused lyrics
Man passes through, across forests of symbols
Each one observing him with a familiar gaze

Like long echoes, from afar confounding
In a dark and profound unity
Vast like night and like clarity
Fragrance, color, and sound all resounding
    Charles Baudelaire, 1857

1953. Five Mile Rapid, Swallowed in 1957
Near the lower end there are several dangerous rocks in the rapid, and at the foot large masses of rock divide it into different parts the main channel empties into a capacious, deep basin of rectangular shape, called Big Eddy.   
-- Captain. Chas. F. Powell, Corps of Engineers, 1882
1954. Boulder during evaluation by archaeologists

The investigation of the petroglyphs (in spring 1956) was made by Samuel C. Sargent, a Geologist with the Corps of Engineers, on The Dalles Dam project. Mr. Sargent called attention to petroglyphs existing on islands in Fivemile Rapids, which can be easily removed and are in an excellent state of preservation. These petroglyphs are located in areas 6 and 7. I would urge that these petroglyphs be salvaged, since they represent unique forms for this area. 
-- David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1956

In attempting to raise the petroglyph from Area 7 (by the Corps of Engineer’s Derrick Barge “Cascade” after the formation of The Dalles Dam Pool), the connection to the lift line parted and the petroglyph and lift line were lost. In the near future, an attempt will be made to recover the petroglyph with the help of a diver.
-- Joseph F. Garback, Lt Colonel, Corps of Engineers, 1957

1956. Army Corps of Engineers assessment for relocation

Area 7 was on a small island at the lower end of Fivemile Rapids. One rock was to be removed from this island. This rock was approximately seven feet high, eight feet wide and eight feet deep, weighing approximately seventeen tons. It was lying loose on a level area. Jacks were used to lift the rock enough to slip the cables under … the petroglyph was … bound with a cable which was attached to a float. In the attempt to lift this petroglyph a cable clamp slipped and it fell back into the water. The last report received was that the Corps of Engineers planned to send a diver down after it.
-- David L. Cole, University of Oregon, 1958

The Columbia River today pooled by The Dalles Dam

It is unfortunate that the petroglyph from Area #7 was lost in the efforts to raise it from the bottom of the pool. Naturally, $1,000 to attempt to recover this petroglyph is out of line with the value of the petroglyph, and we feel that this petroglyph will have to be considered as lost.
-- Herbert Maier, National Park Service, 1958

Dislocated from one another, we are now flooded,
resting in place.
We suffocate in the backwater of decadence
and fractious contempt.
Purity of the ancient is the language without tongues.
The river elegantly marks swirls on its surface,
a spiral that tells of a place
that remains undisturbed.
— Elizabeth Woody 

— Charles Baudelaire from the poem Correspondences in Les Fleurs du mal, 1857. Translated by Ariana Reines.
— Elizabeth Woody from her poem “Waterways Endeavor to Translate Silence from Currents” in Luminaries of the humble. U of Arizona Press, 1994.
— In 1956 a cast of this petroglyph was made by James Hansen for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland. Also in 1956, a rubbing made by Sari Dienes is now in the archives of the Burke Museum in Seattle.
Other NOTES & References available on request

16 March 2024

Columbia River Petroglyph: The Swallowing

In 1956 artist Sari Dienes draped burlap of over a boulder and, using a brayer, produced a stone “rubbing” with red and black paint —  an image of petroglyphs.

Dienes produced another rubbing of this boulder on paper with black ink now archived at the Burke Museum in Seattle along with several hundred other petroglyph rubbings completed under a contract. 

This distinctive figure is described as a “monster” and its design elaborated in 1956 notations by Mark Hedden. A reductive -- and misleading -- labeling seems to me.  Several versions of cautionary stories of indigenous river peoples do tell of a swallowing monster in the depths of the river.  A leap from those often terrifying stories to conjuring this spirited figure carved in stone as monster.   

A real swallowing concrete monster in 1956 was under construction:  The Dalles Dam on the mid-Columbia River which the following year devoured miles of canyon, traditional fishing places, ancient villages, untold graves — and hundreds of the petroglyphs of the mid-Columbia River. 

Above, the boulder face:  64” wide, 40” high. The primary figure (top) is 32” in height. Below, another detail.


— The stone rubbing: red and black in on burlap, 64” wide, 40” high. The primary figure is 32” in height. A gift to us from the family of David Cole, an archaeologist who worked on contract with the Army Corps of Engineers in the mid-1950s.

— Curiously, without explanation, a Burke Archaeology article was titled:

“Sea Monsters and Mountain Sheep: Preserving Images of Columbia River Rock Art.” We are left to imagine what the writers imagined… as the river ripples on...

Sari Dienes, a prolific, daring and eclectic artist had done manhole covers in New York City and in 1956 recently completed street rubbings in Oakland CA. Her petroglyph rubbings from the Columbia River were exhibited that year in San Francisco at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Next, she traveled to Kyoto Japan and produced other petroglyph rubbings.





— Notably, in the1920s, surrealist artist Max Ernst explored frottage (rubbing on textured surfaces) as the basis for an multitude of drawings and paintings. Dienes, born in 1898 in Hungary, would have known of Ernst's work.


Sari Dienes at work on the Columbia River, 1956.

13 February 2024

Lizard Knows Nothing

Lizard knows nothing... listens, alert, poised ... in a world, as noted in new report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), entering "a highly volatile security environment". 
 For in and out, above, about, below,
 'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
    Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
 Round which we Phantom Figures come and go. 
                                — Omar Khayyám

Simply, Lizard knowing in the Nothing ... warming to the new day.
I love the small lizards, as dry as the stones where they run. They are like me, of skin and bone.
— Albert Camus, Notebook IX (1959); Camus (1913-1960) was born in Algeria
A faded red ochre painted double circle encompasses Lizard.
Petroglyph-lizard, color enhanced
A circle, not nothing, larger than the circumference of its parts.
View from this rock edge east over Warner Basin to the sacred mountain, in a sun-rising world; Lizard welcomes another cycle of the Magic Shadow-show.

17 January 2024

Road to Delamar

There is a better way, a truer way, the old way — the proud highway, the rolling road. —Paul Theroux

The desert and the hourglass.  —Albert Camus


The highway from Willamette Valley Oregon to Lincoln County Nevada runs about 800 miles. That's if you go by Tulelake, Honey Lake, the reservation of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, the US Army’s Hawthorne Ammo Depot, on to summit at Tonopah. Soak at an abandoned hot spring pool then straightaway down The Extraterrestrial Highway to find yourself — and a few others — in Rachel, Nevada. Some say you've arrived. Others, you are simply beginning.

Natural perspective reestablishes when across sand and dust and out with the boulders, listening to the voices of the petroglyphs. Slowly, turning to witness the silent desert, the hum of duration.

All my life, I’ve lived above the ground,
    car wheels over paved roads, roots breaking through concrete,
and still I’ve not understood the reel of this life’s purpose.

— Ada Limón 

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

— Henry David Thoreau


—Paul Theroux, from Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads (2013)

—Albert Camus, from Notebook VII, 1951-1954, in Notebooks 1951-1959, trans Ryan Bloom

—Ada Limón, from Notes on the Below in The Carrying (2018)

29 December 2023


Rim: Upper left, track (detail below); Lower right, one/two tracks.

Seeking, imprinting gesture on stone.  In these pictures of petroglyphs only stone. Tracks reveal a presence, the before sense of arriving.  The beyond sense of departing.  Movement through transitory moments.

Caution advised.
How to place side-by-side our hope, desire, caring, with what we know happens daily?  An existential question: Over eight billion humans now on the planet. Multiple billions of caged, farmed, slaughtered animals. The thinning herds and flocks and solitaries, the adapting and yearning natural animals. Grizzily extinct from Oregon. The Wolf.  Where to, how now, in the tracking? In the old stories what were they telling?
This side of now, the nowhere of the 2020s. The image: Machining the earth. Gleaming extraction demands compacting deposition. Landfilling waste. Seeping, streaming. Filtering odorless tasteless into living streams. River steams. Blood streams. Streaming bombs shatter and splatter screams. 
These tracks here, quietly of stone, weathering, testifying, reminding -- simply of what-is in the curve of seasons, as we wonder.  As we all go forth along the way.
Three pictures, to return to the beginning. To an ending. The basalt rim. Cleaved. Lichened. Patinated. Sky depthless. 
Lower edge, approaching shadow: Track! eluding.
Moving closer, tracking track. The sag of basalt, stone flow, mineral yielding.  Lightly marked dots. How do we know anything?
This track, the first track, the last track. A returning cycle? A timeline to infinity?