6 Febrero…When the road turns rough we stop in a circle of granite boulders an hour before sunset. Drink coffee outside on the clean granite sand. Notice cherty flakes. Surmise that they are toolmaking detritus. J… finds one with a worked edge that looks like topaz.
Searching for firewood later there are more chert flakes, a floral bouquet in my hands, and a point lying prone on the desert floor. The best spots are still the best spots. We imagine the makers, how long ago, who taught whom, did everyone know how, how often did points break in the process of making, during use? What wood did they use for shafts? For fires? Who held the point last?
Supper is refried beans chorizo tostados scrambled eggs an avocado-tomato salad on the side. There’s 3 or 4 yams left, 8 or 9 eggs, an avocado or two, 3 or 4 onions, a five-pound bag of rice, a bag of pinto beans. J… says it might be a week or two before we get supplies again. I dream of croissants and strawberry jam, gingerbread and whipped cream, warmth and fullness.
7 Febrero…Apricot sunrise…a two-coffee morning…
Walking on rocky roadbed, a relief from the sand of the past two weeks. Lots of epidote on surfaces a pastel yellow-green. Walking on, there is more pink rock, an outcrop with conglomerate cutting through it. Up the draws past pools of water rivulets falling over granite pools rimmed with salt promises of a wash and shampoo later in the afternoon sun.
Gopher holes and adits across the hillsides on the push-ups, the hummocks that indicate the alteration’s center. In rock shelters in the riverbed tin cans rust, broken shards of former glass water bottles shine. Rock walls support cardon lathe lean-tos built as shelter from the sun. Everywhere in the riverbank there are living areas and sleeping areas.
Break rock all morning…under the lens all surfaces very beautiful. Rocks seamed with turquoise impregnated with silica networked with boxwork yellow-brown goethite. Standing on the hillside broiling in the sun under my sombrero silence except for the tap of our hammers and the buzz of bees, the crunch of breaking rock, my occasional exclamations, the crumple of J…’s plastic sample bags. In the arroyo is the presence of man, the scent of dog. Why are alteration zones in the most beautiful places?
I find a ‘cosmetic’ rock, slippery, shiny with patches of hematite pigment. When I add saliva it becomes paint. I spread it on my nose, rub the powder over my legs, my belly, my face. It is smooth and silky. This is my sample, I say to J… The cosmetic industry must use earth minerals. I wonder where they source them from. My skin glitters with the gleam of mica. I absorb the hematite colors, the palette of brilliant vermillions, ochres, greys, violets, purples. I become bronze…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…The Color of Gold…Arroyo Calamujue Rock
The exterior of a rock is a reaction to the outside world, a document of the action of time. How far has this rock come? Is it rounded? Did it experience turmoil, abrasion, exposure? Has it broken down readily or resisted, remaining compact, intact? Are some parts eroded away leaving others to stand out more durable, harder, more resistant? When she sees a rock, before she breaks it with a hammer, these questions surface.
As soon as she sees it, the rock begins to tell her a story. Each rock is a beginning and the story. Each rock is a chapter. Each rock is a character. Each rock is a setting. Each rock is a memory. She becomes the collector and the narrator of the stories…
With each rock a relationship develops. Magnified by the hand lens, the surface of the rock draws her into another landscape enhancing the one around her. In the surfaces, she sees other worlds. Each rock evokes a place she has passed through, touched the surface of.
These rocks are the survivors. They are the ones she keeps. These are the ones she decides not to leave behind. They are pieces of the places she loved the most, the places where the known world faded from memory and consciousness, the places where she stood alone under the sombrero absent from the world of humanity, the pack on her back, a hammer in hand, the leather boots laced on her feet, a lens held to her eye…a detective, a collector, a prospector…
Each crystal mineral structure pigment chemical matrix mass contained in the rock has a name. But the name is merely a name. Its reality subsumes the name, is the nameless beauty of formation and alteration. These rocks exert magnetism, an invitation to be held, to be examined. They are submissive, exhibiting a longing for possession inherent in objects of beauty, a longing which affects her. In the jargon of prospectors and geologists, such rocks acquire the name of ‘sexy’ rocks.
Whether gathered as specimens or for the ‘mantelpiece’ such rocks are a visual record. Taking them away in her backpack, she has a document of the moments of their discovery, of the first encounter. It recalls the sun on the slope, color vibrating around her standing there examining the surface, oblivious to the burning on the forearms, the sweet sweat trickling between the breasts, exuding from the armpits, the thrum of honeybees in the yellow blossoms, the yearning for an evaporative breeze, the barrage of names and explanations. Such rocks taken evoke the place and the moment becoming a record of time and visual space.
Afterwards, out of context, collected rocks seem small and insignificant as if their magic was an illusion created by the spatial and temporal states in which they were first encountered. Still, they are all that is necessary to provoke the senses, like a seashell replaying the sound of the surf from the waves on the shore from which it was first gathered.
The value of these rocks is a sentiment created by their ability to hold time…the incomprehensible geologic time of their formation and subsequent journey and the moment in which they were discovered and recovered from the surface upon which they existed…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette VIII La Turquesa drainage
1 Febrero Vicinity of Arroyo Volcan…Locating our positions on the maps - geology, 1:250,000 topo, road map, Minch’s Baja Geology book. The GPS gives lat/long fix. Using a rule and pencil, J… marks it on the map. On the topo and geology maps contour lines given an approximate idea of how far up an arroyo we’ve come, what formation we encountered. It is not exact, because the maps are not exact. When J… takes a sample rock, he uses the GPS to fix the rock’s position and writes a general description of the location in the waterproof field notebook. Each sample is numbered subsequent to the previous one. The letters for this field project are BN (Baja Norte).
The sample and their associated witness rocks are not large; they fit in the palm of the hand.
2 Febrero…Picking which rocks to keep, which to discard, always heartwrenching. J… says the object of regional prospecting is to get someone interested in the rocks, in further exploration. Maybe ‘pretty’ rocks are good.
We stop so I can triangulate position on topo map. Three lines using Cerro Colorado, Pica Colorado and Cerro Tomas in order to intersect one point. Later the GPS positions us off the road so J… concludes that the road atlas is vague. The Mexican geology maps have few names on the arroyos and roads marked are limited to the main ones.
We acknowledge to each other the uniqueness of our mode of living - traveling and working across the land. The pace is our own. The land dictates where we go.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Form
Into the faults, the cracks and crevasses, the elements of erosion seep slowly and flow freely. Penetration forces and flows at the same time.
Heat melts. Cold cracks. Love melts. Anger cracks. Where the way is difficult temperature or passion have effect, stimulate change, cause meltdown, dissolution, one becoming another.
Flowing carries new elements chemical deposits essential minerals the ingredients the fabric of alteration the substance of chaos effervescent bubbles boiling ferment pressure rising surfacing surfaces touching and blending…
Where her skin touches his chaos occurs. Molecules vibrate. Chemicals flow. The outcome is unpredictable. Uncontrollable. Requires melting allowing adhesion mingling of fluids. Penetration. Fluids smooth the way. Sweat mingles. Cupid juices flow creamy frothy slippery slimy scented headily. The out-come alters.
For penetration, a way must be open. Giving in allows penetration. This giving is receiving. If there are no cracks, no crevasses, no faults, if there is only a wall, flat-faced stone hard duro forte, there is no way in or through…there is no give in a cliff.
She looks to the rocks riddled with cracks and seams. In this face, this eroded surface, there is more character than the flat stoic face, the face without blemish, the smooth unmarred unmoving unflinching untouchable impenetrable face, the one with no place, no way in.
The prospector must root around for buried and
disintegrating rocks, and he must trace out meagre
indications of mineral until they become
From the personal library of Patrick J. Burns, Geologist
How deep do the cracks go? How far beneath the surface? Only the surface is visible. Weathering coats the surface obscuring its mystery. Erosion exposes, fractures, opens, cracks with forces…revealing.
Is force always necessary? Is there no other way to make the crack, open the way, reveal the mystery underneath. Force requires effort energy determination power behind the stroke blows pressure temperature strength contact…perhaps, both will and prayer…
Where two surfaces meet there is friction. Friction is movement. One abrades the other. One is always harder. One is always softer.
Her eyes wander on the surface, over it longing to penetrate. The surface is suggestive and defensive: it hides and it reveals. To the prospector, the surface shows what is different from the others.
Cracking the rock makes a new surface, another rock. Each break reveals a fresh surface.
The scorpion’s skeleton is outside, an exoskeleton. Inside are the soft parts. Humans pad their skeletons with soft parts, muscles and skin. The skeleton is the structure. Rocks bury their structure under the weathered surface. Prospectors seek the skeleton, the structure, trying to find the memory…
In the ancient woods, in the una del gato is the past life, the memory, the record of the passage of time, the cycles of the seasons, the weather. The wood is the skeleton holding the memories.
Bones shape themselves to the lives they lead. In the bones is their record. To get to the bones is going down through softness. Probing, pricking like a mosquito, a needle. It stings going under the surface…the sting of fear, of pain, of toxin.
To get under the surface, beyond the surface is to become intimate. To become intimate, she must go beyond the pain…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette VII: Vicinity of Arroyo Volcan
Surfaces…collide touch mix mingle saturate ripple reflect reveal react retract suspend supercede cease change transform rub static bounce prickle prick pride purpose surreal sensuous silky texture coarse fine slippery soapy slurpy crushed crunched cruel critical catastrophe curtains shield spray wall rock hard difficult occult spiritual light rays refracted reflected through door slammed shut rock wall…oh, well! Well water bucket suspended over mirror dive in deep under the surface wet icy snow crystal plane fracture flat mica calcite quartz galena diamonds facets reflection refraction mirror gone disappeared northern lights dancing a vapor effervescent convoluted can’t be sure nothing behind the surface vaporized get on with it no good missing you I’m dead committed suicide can’t love him can’t be there back to the surface gasping for breath breathing pores open close the mouth nostrils interchange of air molecules tension cohesion cohesive arms wrapped around skin touching skin interchange exchange no harm touch warm cold hot too hot burning scalding sizzling frying singeing pain painful painless steel needles tender skin slide under the skin injection infusion absorbing sponge sponging vesicular porous…two surfaces meet enmeshing colliding abrading eroding withstanding mingling congealing transmitting exchanging…
Everything happens at the surface. Two textures meet; an exchange occurs. Even no exchange is an exchange. Even resistance is an exchange. If there is resistance, there has been attempt. Without consent, agreement, a giving in, a giving way, exchange can’t happen. Resistance is erosion….a reluctant giving up of one surface to another. If resistant, change is difficult, takes longer. Giving in, allowing the touch of another surface, is a pathway to intimacy, to beauty. The polished surface does not come easy; it requires tenacity and grit.
The fresh surface is different than the weathered surface. The weathered surface is a camouflage, a coating, a barrier, a screen, a skin, a crust, a rind, requires peeling away. The fresh surface is exposed, exposure of what is inside.
This surface is a boundary, the place where inside and outside encounter. If the insides are in pain, can no longer defend, this surface is a boundary, a front, a fence between the external forces and the unique original form, the core of the being. This place where two surfaces meet like a fence should be tended and maintained…protective and reflective.
To see beneath the surface there must be a way in. Finding a way in takes time, force, pressure…?
Between two surfaces, two materials, two beings, there is an exchange of energy. Energy passes through the surface vibrating molecules transmitting waves generating action and emotion. Energy flows one-way…both ways…At one time, there is transmission and receiving.
How can she get behind beneath beyond within under the surface?
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…How to Get Under the Surface
She set the sombrero, a Sayuanarao Legitimo, onto her ears, adjusted the chinstrap, windstrap. Peered from the half-moon of shade out into the blinding sunlight. Reminded herself to move slowly, deliberately. She is not a goat…
At the gathering places there are more than rocks of today’s desire. Scattered on the desert floor mingled with the native rock amidst the mosaic of desert pavement, there are flakes and points and mauls, the detritus of toolmaking. The earliest prospectors, the first peoples knew this place and looked for the same rock, the rock that welled from the depths, littered the surface, projected from the outcrops, surfaced at the springs.
History and prehistory blend in these places. Humans searched where prospectors look still…the best places are still the best places…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Surfaces
Instinct is from a place unknown without question. A place of impulse, pulse, energy, source, power, surge, urge, compelling, compulsion, again the pulse, a heartbeat, the heart, the place of emotion, motion, sensor, senses, sensitive, sensing only, no logical thought, thinking or rationale, no reason. No need for words: knowing is derived from the senses, from listening to, from hearing the senses. Is more necessary?
Are we born with a sense of right and wrong, of right or wrong? Is the conscious mind an underdeveloped part, the one from which agony develops? Self-propelled, self-propagating, self-perpetuating? Thinking is in circles, taut, tautologies. Attempting to ‘create one’s own reality’ with linear rational thinking with no source in the body, arising instead from the previous question.
From the senses come the response and the senses respond. The rooster crows as the full moon sinks behind the horizon of the western sierras and the sun appears in the east. This rooster does not say: Oh, now the moon sets and the sun rises and I must crow…his body simply crows. He is not concerned about the ‘reason’ for his crowing. His senses know: It is time to crow. His source of impulse is the energy of light.
Instinct is energy, impulse is energy, pulse is energy. From energy comes motion. Motion travels a pathway. Without thought, the path curves circuitous circular arcing radial without limitation to planes. Perspective lines, depth, dimension, vertical and horizontal, up and down, support linear thinking, geometry, the capture of the third dimension. The suggestion of weight and mass. Reflect the rational mind.
Using light and shadow she draws a woman’s body in curves and arcs and swirls and whorls. Around her the land is contoured; the una del gato wood is contours. The earth describes a circle, an ellipse in its orbit. From its centre comes the energy of motion. Instinct comes from the centre.
Centre…intimacy…closeness awareness sensitive openness revealing revealed unveiled microscopic detail lines depths crevasses cracks in the armor erosion wearing away letting go grains granular rounded currents swept away losing oneself passions passionate fire flames flicker flustered blushing roja flush of blood surge heat hot glowing wine red tinto tinted rose-colored romantic hombre señor eyes ojos sombrero shade shelter arms circle encircled warmth rising throb heart beat rhythm cure lips seeking touching learning yearning curving fitting close…intimacy…
What barriers must come down before there is intimacy? How long does it take to relax, to become loose, to succumb, to use the eyes instead of the brain?
Blood carries the image. The lens of glass is clear. There are no obstructions. Stay still. Wait and wait and wait. Move the hand. Keep it moving. Look with the eyes. Follow the contours, the curves; trace the surface. Image develops through touch. The eyes are the instrument, touching….
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette VI
Prospecting is looking for the rock that is different than the others, has a different skin, a different color, a different content. Prospecting eyes seek the unique, the unusual, the stand-out from the crowd by discarding the known, isolating what is unfamiliar, relying on internal knowledge.
The outer surface, the weathered surface, is different than the surface exposed by breaking the rock. Through the hand lens, its focus, its intensity, its concentration, its power to magnify, the rock is exposed in a way the prospector can’t anticipate. When the focus is clear, the light is correct, the hand holds still, the breath abates, the rock lures the prospector into its being, into its story. The rock becomes the Siren of myth. It is irresistible.
Wandering the lens, now an extension of the eye, over the freshly-exposed surface is to be drawn into the world of myth, of fantasy, to see what has not been seen since its inception, its formation millions, thousands, hundreds of years before that moment. It is a moment transcending the arbitrary time of human fabrication. It is a moment of history, of prehistory, of birth and of stillness.
Now, in the prospector's mind, there is nothing. She succumbs to the lure of the rock, to the mystery of its formation, to the realization of its wisdom, to its ability to hold truth absolute firmly with faith and courage, strength and duration. At this moment, the prospector, in awe, is humbled. It is simply a spiritual experience.
The prospector's eyes are those of a cat's: the green purity of emeralds, clear without depth. There is no blue in their existence.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Instinct and Intent
Overall, this rock is a white pinnacle thickening at the center where quartz mingles tarnished with the depth of color: the blackness of copper, the earthy redness of hematite. Held up to the light the quartz glows. Through the fleshy parts, ruby flows like blood forming a network of veins. In the cavity at its center, crystals coated with hematite iridescence blush ruby at their bases sprouting randomly elongating towards the center. Here is the heart of the rock where light energy concentrates, asserting itself. Under the lens the surface comes alive, flowing towards me, a vitreous mass icy suggesting molten plasticity.
Holding the rock, memory of the moment when I found it surges back. I was looking for a symbol of power and love and connection, a gift for my son. On a ledge, I stand on the narrow trail that spirals around a pinnacle. A wizard’s trail it was made by the footsteps of monks and missionaries, of soldiers and prospectors, miners and seekers of fortune.
Under the high noon sun, silence saturates the air. Lower down, a cardon cactus topples into the abyss, startling me with the crash of its demise. Around the corner, looking down, I see an arroyo winding like a river towards the west. Ahead of me there is an adit, its portal a mish-mash of timbers crisscrossing as the sides cave in. Piled on the slope below it, the tailings pile is chunks of quartz, massive and white reflecting the sun.
I pick my way down over the chunks hunkered on all fours against the steep mass taking care with every step. Heat bakes me as I look for the flash of light mirrored from a crystal plane. With my hammer, I chisel the rock away from a larger piece, too heavy and awkward to carry. In the early morning light, the palette of amethyst and ruby on the cleavage planes is exaggerated.
This is the rock I seek. Quartz is hard, a “7” on the Mohs scale, but its transparency is perfect to reveal the heart, the center, the soul.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Choosing is a Looking
Choosing the rock to break is detective work. Prospecting is a translation of two-dimensional form into three dimensions. It begins well before one stands in the topography rock in hand.
Learning where to go, studying where to look, it is deciphering the experience of those who have been before. It is looking at the abstract form: maps in which the land is made planar, colored, contoured, divided into a grid of latitude and longitude, concentrating upon a single point, a GPS destination. It is words and lines on paper or screen…the abstract forms suggest direction. Still, these forms can never prepare the prospector fully for the reality of looking at the rock.
Some of the library within the limited space of the ‘exploration vehicle’ are rock and mineral identification books, the Roadside Geology and Biology of Baja California by John, Edwin and Jason Minch, Ore Deposits, Tectonics and Metallurgy in the Canadian Cordillera published by the Province of BC, Petrology and Alteration for Prospectors by Dr. Tom Richards, a GPS owner’s manual, a Baja Topographic Atlas and 1:250,000 geology maps. Aside from the rock ID books, the most read paperwork along for the journey is an article by R.G. Gastil on the Economic Geology of Baja California. A hand-drawn map is included with the photocopy of the article and it is this map, which shows the location of old mines, that is the most useful guide to where to look the next day. Embedded in the article is a quotation lifted from the 17th century journals of Spanish explorer-naturalist, Longinos Martinez, which, although erroneous in identifying the exact nature of the rock, is inspiring and tantalizing in terms of description of the terrain.
The night before, with reference to these abstract two-dimensional guides, an area is selected for exploration the next day. Both logic and intuition inform the choice.
She picks up rocks because they are ‘pretty’; something aesthetically pleasing attracts her to them. He picks up rocks because they are suggestive; they create a question of identity, of source, of content. The prospector is in the act of looking and searching, in the act of moving. The rocks at his feet guide the route taken.
He prepares with a discipline that impresses its intensity upon her. His focus is absorbing, self-absorbing. There is the anticipation of waiting and the expectation of excitement. This energy focuses into concentration…it is the hunter again. The books and maps are the mental preparation, the prayer, the creative visualization comprising what is known, what is surmised, what to expect, what to look out for…a construction of the focus, a concentration of the intent…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Hardness