18 June 2024

Night Diamond

There are few smiles in this universe.

He who moves through it has an infinite

number of encounters that wounded him.

However, you don't die in it.

If you die everything starts all over again.

— Henri Michaux


There are two nights. The second one comes behind the night that everybody sees. This second night is under the darkness. It tells the shaman where the pain is and what caused the sickness. When the second night comes it makes the shaman feel that he is a doctor. The power is in him to doctor. Only shamans can see this second night. The people can only see the darkness. They cannot see the night under it.
— Joe Green, Pyramid Lake

— Henri Michaux (French 1899-1984) from the poem Night of Inconveniences in The Night Moves (La Nuit Remue 1935 Gallimard), trans David Ball.
— Joe Green, speaking in English o
f the spirit of the night as the source of power, recorded by Willard Z Park, in Shamanism in Western North America: A Study in Cultural Relationships. (1938 Northwestern U)
— This presentation of the image of this northern Great Basin petroglyph boulder with the juxtapositions of disparate poetic insights does not imply any cross-interpretation or attribution. I do so with the greatest respect for each.  So, why do so?  To open space for absence, losses, solitary gestures — a fourth dimension, perhaps. On this planet today millions on the move, hope for shelter, for food, for safety — one more night, one night at a time.  Some never find it. The wounding, the healing, a hoping.

Glance at the sun. See the moon and the stars. Gaze at the beauty of earth's greenings. Now, think.
— Hildegard von Bingen (German Benedictine abbess, c. 1098 – 1179)


17 May 2024

Memories made of stone

In my dreams, I would always wonder if my body was made of hydrogen.
If so, then my memories must be made of stone.

— Bi Gan

Mysterious… when we know weight, when we confront an unknown. When a sentence or a title begins with mysterious, I become skeptical.  Yet it is the word that floats free when I discover these two images converging from separate threads of my explorations and research. 

How can this be, I wondered as I looked, studying the designs.
The upper: a sketch of sloping stone on the edge of a river gorge in
Chandeshwar, central India, by JH Rivett-Carnac, Esq., an officer of Britain’s Bengal Civil Service. The drawing was one aspect of his investigations published in the 1877.  
The lower: a photograph recorded during a 4x4-and-canoe journey with friends in the
Owyhee River canyon in eastern Oregon.

The rock slope in India has over 200 cup-marks, two of which have circles, arrayed in near vertical and slightly curving parallels.  The Owyhee boulder has similar number of cup-mark-pits, similarly arrayed. It has one cup-pit with a circle. Striking that these complex arrays are each uniquely distinctive from other design-clusters among the thousands I have viewed and studied.  

Yet they exhibit a powerful resonance. The mystery leads into the ageless question of synchronicity; its space/place equivalent. Who and why? enters the deeper expressive mind of the human, an abyss harkening to stellar origins.


That which is not in stone,
not in the wall of stones and earth,
not even in trees,
that which forever trembles a little,

must, then, be in us.

— Eugène Guillevic

Images displayed here for visual-design comparison; the size of the expanse of the Chandeshwar rock slope and the Owyhee boulder differ significantly. Click to enlarge. Below, detail of the Owyhee boulder.

— Bi Gan’s film, Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018), voiceover of the main character, translated from Chinese.
— Eugène Guillevic (French 1907-1997), trans Denise Levertov, in Selected Poems (1969 New Directions)
— J.H. Rivette-Carnac, Esq. Archaeological notes on ancient sculpturings on rocks in Kumaon, India, 1879 (1877), The Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta.
— Garrick Mallery. Picture-writing of the American Indians, 1893. Foreword by J. W. Powell. Tenth annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington DC. Mallery, in his seminal and essential report, references Rivett-Carnac with a brief summary and a replica of his drawing.
— Vale District BLM in 2014 contracted consultants to use Portable X-Ray Flourescence (PRFX) to obtain relative chronology of petroglyphs at this site. (PRFX is experimental; absolute dating remains very difficult.) Also, to use this preliminary study to help interpret the area’s occupation and use history, and to assess possible conservation measures at this well-known place, though not easy to access except by river.
—Below, detail of another boulder. In all, fifty boulders with petroglyphs.

How many years were we to learn without understanding.
— Czeslaw Milosz in Caesarea, 1975

01 May 2024

Looking into stone

Look closely into the lower half of this older figure.  A series of precise incisings -- horizontal, vertical, diagonal.  This type of linear marking-into-stone appears some places in the Northern Great Basin and in Owyhee country. 

Various rock surfaces show a rangeof petroglyph intentions and styles.  Look at the rock face upper left. Moving closer in the photo below. An elongated figure. Notable, incisings in the lower area.  Especially the intense repetitive cross-hatching, see close-up, following.

 A clear, minimal figuration, lightly marked. Looking closely, one imagines "eyes" in the "head" -- natural, shallow depressions -- intentionally embodied by the carver?  A looking-out and beyond... and through you, the transient viewer.

Lower right, another appearance of repetitive incisings.  Perhaps the performative act was of primary importance; the resulting image an artifact.  One wonders.

Below, three other rock faces at this place -- a baffling and intriguing variety of designs and elusive meanings.

Photos April 2024, Northern Great Basin, near the arbitrary political partitioning of Oregon, California and Nevada (42nd Parallel in 1819; 120th Meridian in 1849). These resident petroglyphs older and deeply responsive to seasons and terrain.

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.