“A prospector almost never stumbles directly onto an outcrop of ore. Ore bodies at the surface disintegrate physically and chemically under the action of weather, and ore materials are then dispersed in a much larger area by gravity, glaciers, streams, groundwater flow and sometimes gaseous diffusion.” (From the personal library of Patrick J. Burns, Geologist)
“…This is an exact counterpart of what takes place in nature. Mountains suffer degradation and wear away, and with them the metallic veins which they contains. The hardest rock is worn into impalpable mud, the ordinary metals oxidate, and both are removed; but gold, platina, and a few others are nearly indestructible, and from their weight, sinking to the bottom, are left behind. After whole mountains have passed through this grinding mill, and have been washed by the hand of nature, the residue becomes metalliferous, and man finds it worth his while to complete the task of separation.” (From The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin)
Erosion is movement.
Meltdown and reconstruct…the volcano blows its top, and then the lava flows. Molten materials pour out, freezing into layers, covering old depths, cooling quickly. No time for crystals to form, just the glass of obsidian and the basic building block of basalt: plain and homely, vesicular and iron-rich, a dark hard uncontrolled form. Under the weight of layers, from the interior out, columns and blocks fracture into hexagonal columns. Magma holds the heat under the surface where crystals have time to form. Where gas bubbles hold space open, crystals may cool into precise beautiful forms.
What of her…the human trying to contain the eruptive emotions in the presence of the limitations of a companion, agonies and errors of the past, failing to satisfy institution’s designs. An expulsion, leaving of the center, the chamber of the womb occurs. The slow process of cooling, solidifying, crystalizing, of creating the final form, molding the materials of which she’s made, begins. She forgets the explosion, accepts the expulsion, moves on to let the erosive forces of life shape and form her. In a void, the crystal grows; within gas cavities, a geode forms lined with amethyst crystals, but outside chaos exists. Pressure affects the outcome. Can response to this pressure be guided?
First, maiden material is made molten. Separation from past life experience must occur. That is the explosion, the expulsion, the shock. The shock of discovering that there are ways one can be, that trying too hard to be good, to be perfect, to be correct inhibits growth. The shock of discovering that what she says, when she says it, can be completely wrong. The shock of having no control. The shock of getting angry. The shock of confusion. The chaos of keeping it all together.
Maybe it’s wiser to fall apart. Maybe that’s the essence of meltdown…the shock of discovering that there’s nothing worth saving. The shock of discovering that what she’s been told, led to believe, isn’t true, never is, and never was. The shock of learning that it’s all meaningless…that searching for ‘meaning’ simply reveals that there is no ‘meaning’ to life, only the joy of living….
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Erosion - Part II
14 March…This is a leaving the rocks and the mines and the fantasmas behind…There are over 50 assay rocks on board, over two hundred pounds, and much mystery…old roads, old mines, old places, deep canyons, long arroyos, great ranges, holding the rocks, the imprint of time, balancing the resources and the reality, blanketing the sources, the ‘mother lode’, the heart of the treasures…
It is not our destiny to find it, to become rich, to live like kings and queens and millionaires. Instead, we are destined to seek the ‘mother lode’. Our journey, our life is created by acting towards this. Adapting as we move across the landscapes, to the wind and the dryness, the heat and the limited water, to being clean and being dirty, to pooling our resources and meting out our meagre supplies, to making do with what we have with us and within us.
Our destiny and so our reward is the life honestly lived, the use of the physical body, the exposure to nature and its elements, the connection with the past, natural and human, the surface of a rock revealed by the hand lens, seeing its story unfold as it lies in our hand, like a flower blossom unfolding. To travel over surfaces intimately, with our feet, our soles, our eyes. It is a making love, a subliminal gesture feeding our spirits, defining our limits, humbling our esteem, broadening our boundaries by releasing our essence, revealing our essential natures.
We are revealed microscopically at a place where inside becomes outside, that place where two surfaces meet.
What is prospecting? First, shed the stereotype of a guy with a grizzled chin and cheeks under a battered broad-brimmed hat, leading a burro or a dog packed with pick, shovel and a gold pan. Prospecting is a metaphor for the art of moving through life. Full of secrets, the rocks teach. Always leave some magic in the mountains, they say. The rocks lead you there eventually. There, into solitude and silence, where the ring of ancient bells echo and the dog’s spirit wanders. There, from rustic camps and living spaces. There, where there is no water. There, on tired, hungry bodies bent forward with the weight of the pack full of rocks.
“Leave no stone unturned.”
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Erosion
15 Febrero…Las Animas
Almost stuck on the Las Animas road. The shovel, plywood, carpet under the wheels and skillful driving on J’s part released the van from the grip of sand…Confusion coordinating the topographic and road maps…Washboard, sand dunes, landscape shimmers through heat…
18 Febrero…Cuesta de la Ley
Just before Cuesta de la Ley, J… spots a manmade feature, a dump of rock fall, the excavation from an old shaft of modest scale…At its base, we pick up turquoise-splotched rock and spend a happy hour scrutinizing the green-blues, peacock, lavender, mauve, sea-green, the reds and burnt oranges…rocks with painted surfaces. J… takes samples in case they have been affected by a larger system of alteration…
After the camp at the beach we are salt-water clean again, for a little while. Nightly, I clean my skin with cotton balls saturated in witchazel…refreshing…
18 Febrero…Near Calmalli
Standing on the slope of the tailings pile at another ‘new’ mine site…the rush of excitement at seeing new rocks. The overwhelmingness of them, all unfamiliar, each magnificent in color and form. Secondary copper minerals: sea-blues and greens - waves and whorls, swirls and threads like the pattern of textiles, the brilliant organic pigment of fabric, hand-dyed, sudden crystal clusters in a red jasper-like substance, the color of blood, the juxtaposition of complementary colors: blues and oranges. Iron-rich, cherty, bursting with hematite and goethite in undulating bands of iron red and yellow, globules of turquoise, each square centimeter varied…
19 Febrero…Near Calmalli
So cold I see my breath…Pacific moisture…
An error in navigation yesterday despite our ‘sophisticated’ instruments - GPS, compass, topographic map - reveals how readily we attempt to make the features of the landscape fit what we see on the map, how we trust our maps, how they create a version of reality we expect to encounter. It should be the other way around: what we see should dictate what we do, where we go…
Calmalli takes me into the past, 200, 250, 300 years ago, the time of Indios and Jesuit missionaries, of Spanish soldiers and fortune seekers. We too seek our fortune limited only by our resources - water, food, goodwill, energy - and our imaginations.
J… looks for what might have been missed. Looks across the area, around the circumference, thinks of what might not have been obvious to others…the first miners and prospectors took the obvious and the easiest…high-graded…
I see the rocks as elements standing alone, symbols of beauty and wild nature capturing and radiating solar heat, holding it…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk …Vignette X Chrysocolla and Stars
A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground: Vignette VIII
12 Febrero…El Desengano 35 km west of L.A. Bay
An underground mine…J thinks for gold, maybe silver, even copper minerals possible. We leave Sierra Calamajue reluctantly…Extreme conditions keep people close together…coming out into civilization is a shock. Finishing the survey of the Puertocitos-Laguna Chapalla road is an accomplishment and a letdown. J is not really happy with the rocks. Says none of them “kick”…We had done the best we could within the limitations of foot traverses and the unwieldiness of the postal van. Still it was living…
Trying to identify new minerals…one may be acicular talc, another boulangerite or one of the many secondary copper minerals. We examine both rock ID books we have along, and the field tools: acid, knife scratches, extensive examination under the 10-power hand lens. Unless it is one of the common minerals, one is never absolutely certain about the identification using field techniques. She is always amazed at the resources J has at his disposal: the library of names in his head, the ability to eliminate, to hone-in on, to limit the possibilities…
13 Febrero…El Viejo (aka El Desengano ruins)
In the Spanish dictionary, ‘el desengano’ means disillusionment, disappointment.
It is the metallic surfaces on the debris at this old mine site, the cast-off enamel pots with rusted holes in the bottom, Pemex gas can lids, the weathered surfaces that catch her eyes, make her look closer. She wants to build a sculpture of all the abandoned pieces, but after a shower under the morning sun, they move on…
14 Febrero…Destination El Arco and Calmalli
J mixes aguardiente with coca-cola found in an unopened 2-litre bottle fallen off a truck on the road to Calamajue. This is truly a low-budget trip! El Arco looms large in the imagination, almost mythical.
15 Febrero…Almost stuck on the Las Animas road. The shovel, a piece of plywood, carpet under the wheels and skillful driving on J’s part got the van out. Confusion coordinating the topo and road maps…washboard, sand dunes, hot plain all day…
18 Febrero…Just before Cuesta de la Ley, J spots a man-made feature, a dump of rock falling, the excavation from a shaft, of modest scale. At its base we pick up turquoise-splotched rock and spend a happy hour looking at the green-blues, peacock, mauve, lavender, sea-green, even reds and burnt-orange…rocks with painted surfaces. J takes samples in case it is part of a larger system…
After the camp at the beach, we are salt-water clean again. Nightly I clean with cotton balls soaked with hamamelis (witchazel)…refreshing…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette IX
This writing project is a collection of essays about prospecting in the desert environment. It has always been called A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground. It has been a work-in-progress for over 5 years.
It is an inquiry into the influence of space. The focus within each essay is specific to a particular place (in the desert). Based on journal writings and thoughts gathered during a series of working journeys into the Sonora desert regions of the northern Baja Peninsula, the Basin and Range topography of Nevada and its southern extent in the state of Sonora, Mexico, the manuscript is an internal dialog with the desert: what is seen at the surface and what that stimulates of internal musings and thoughts. The narrative description of prospecting provides the perspective and acts as a metaphor for the process of change, the way language used to describe rock formation is relevant to the metaphysical worlds we move through and enquires into the translation of abstract space into real place using maps as a framework that confines being within a physical space.
Having gathered experiences working as a prospector in the intermontane desert which extends from Mexico north through the United States, I want to continue to document my experiences at locations within the northern extent of this desert in British Columbia, specifically within what is referred to as the Interior Plateau. I want to see how the quality of light and the sensory experience of color might be different here than in the southern portions of this desert. In order to do this, I need to live on the land, as close to it as I can get, and stay there. I have to move across its surface and feel how it exerts its influence upon me.
I would like to contribute to the awareness of this unique environment and create a connection to the better-known deserts of the south portion, to the experiences where I first recognized my love of this space. I hope that the writing that might result from this relationship would be a celebration of this environment and nurture awareness of its fragility and visual influence upon our spiritual equilibrium.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette VIII
Space…outside what is inside. The spiritual component of living. Separate from time, an extension and a container of self. Space is the place through which energy vibrates. Without space there is nowhere for energy to go. It is the container of life. The more space is filled with things, with objects of weight and mass, the more matter there is, the more difficult it is to move, to make connection, to vibrate, to be telepathic, to be spiritual.
The lightness of sound and radio waves keeps space open, is a passage vibration oscillation transmission light communication telepathy.
As sound, words are clear and light. On paper they become solid objects. Writing words on paper gives them weight, makes them heavy, keeps them in place, stops them moving, captures and controls leaving them fixed and permanent, preserves them so they are always the same. Translating communication into matter captures the moment, stops time.
Travelling through space is moving unimpeded, all possible movement possible. Not still, not static, no intent to capture, hold fast, becalm, stay the same, to preserve. Space allows change, experiment, altered states. Space is freedom to grow…
Evanescent, incandescent, fluorescent, bioluminescent, phosphorescent, essence, essential, necessary…the essence of something is the spirit of it. How can something requiring movement be grasped? Its movement is its existence.
Space is the medium through which movement occurs. It has no energy. Without space, energy vibration movement cannot exist. Energy vibration sound light is the content of space. Movement is essential.
The mother said once: I’m going to keep moving…I’m afraid that if I stop moving I’ll die. Ceasing to move: Is that dying then?
Prospecting is in the wild spaces, the places where people come and go from…Prospecting is in space…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette VIII
Prospecting is movement in search of space. It is a nomad’s way.
From this day forth
I shall be called a wanderer
Leaving on a journey
Thus among the early showers
You will again sleep night after night
Nestled among the flowers of sasnqua.
At the La Turquesa granite boulder campsite she finds more points. In one bands of burgundy cross-cut the white quartz. It lay in the roadbed exposed by the passage of vehicles and cows. How long has this been a camping place where people seek shelter, food, water? Are we reverting, the prospector wonders.
Prospecting along the pediment of the range, they come across a hot springs, are low down out of the wind. Immediately she finds fine-grained chert-like flakes…argillite? She looks ardently for worked pieces, ones that have been handled, touched, altered by the hands of skilled toolmakers. The cows like this place, too. In the background from the corners of her eyes she hears him hammering upslope: breaking rock over here, over there, moving around. She slows down gathering a handful of worked pieces.
Who came here years ago? She imagines the spring bubbling in the barrenness of landscape. Imagines that they came to make tools, weapons, to gather pigments. After cleansing to decorate their bodies for battle, for hunting, for parties.
She gathers diligently, then selects two pieces, leaving the others where they fall moved by her interference. One piece is a core from which flakes for working were struck; the other is a flake fractured from a core. Neither is finely-worked or finished; both were altered by skilled hands. To her they are objects of beauty, of mystery, connections to the past, representing the moment they came from, the moment she stands in, the place she wants to go to.
Prospecting is the oldest profession. Finding flakes, points, the remnants and detritus of toolmaking, rock altered by the skilled hands of toolmakers, in places where stone circles remain, where hot springs precipitated, is a reminder that humans have always made use of rocks, have always paused in places where there are rocks of economic value. Humans have always been prospectors.
Prospecting is a going back there, an entrance into that world…a reconnection with, a never leaving of…There is no substitute for walking the ground, moving over and through it, touching its surface with eyes and soles. Translating the energy from the core, from the center through the shoulder, along the arm, through the bones, transferring the momentum to the hammer, striking with force to reveal the chemistry, the content, the possibilities of the rock.
The incentive, the profit motive, is driven by passion. The passion is the antidote to pain, to illusion, to suffering, to aloneness. The economic incentive is merely an excuse to be out there, under the sun, under the sombrero, under the volcano. Hammer in hand. Pack on the back. Within it, a litre of water laced with Tang to temper the alkaline taste, a small knife, an eyedropper bottle of dilute hydrochloric acid, a handful of crackers and toilet paper, clothes discarded as the day heats up. Wind flows in the arroyos, across the plains, through the canyons.
It is enough to be moving following a watercourse on the trail of float rock.The essence of prospecting is detecting dispersed material and understanding the mechanism of dispersion and tracing the material back to its source. (From the personal library of Patrick J. Burns, Geologist)
The eyes settle down on the surface scanning the foreground in a Carlos Castenedas way so that the body feels afloat, forgets the weight of the pack, its stickiness, the heat of the sun on forearms and nape of neck, the hotness of leather boots.
Movement is the essence of prospecting. By movement, the receiving and accepting of experience, being aware, taking a chance, putting oneself in a place where anything might happen, being exposed, standing on a slope eyes scanning the space below, across, above. Experience is created.
Movement is elevation above the surface. A surface is still, a guide directing the path. Movement is action. In action, there is freedom: freedom from constraints of words that capture and hold thoughts, make them concrete, solid, walls of brick adobe stone twigs logs glass clay sand. Lines, the abstract elements of words, contain and capture movement, freeze it into an instant of time. Movement passes through time, past time, beyond time. Time can be counted. Distance is related to time. Movement though cannot be measured.
Movement is eternal energy surpassing the concreteness of time, the measure of time. It is life. To cease to move is to die, to become merely mass, globular blobular cellular structure.
Movement is the reaction of the mind to thought. It is ephemeral, unconscious, involuntary, of its own volition. It cannot be recorded. It cannot be grasped.
Movement requires the senses. It is not necessary to think but simply to move using the involuntary unconscious space of mind, to act in good faith, to believe that in movement all will be known. To use the senses is to become natural, to become who you were at birth.
Movement is birth. A tunnel, a passage, a journey outward: simple gestures capturing the beauty and truth of the space within which you reside. You are a resident of space…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Space
Energy…a feeling passing through, coming from within, enveloping from without. Emotion is energy, the motor, vigorous driving in the direction to go. Logic is unnecessary. There is no need to ‘think’ a solution, only to listen. Emotion rises as truth unsullied by conscious thought, by opinion, by ‘logos’ mind. It is the ‘gut reaction’. In the German language, “gut” = ‘good’.
The magma chamber, its molten superheated substance, is the source of volcanic energy. To alter, it must erupt, explode, come to the surface, burn, uses up the energy, get mad, get made. The explosion creates the new face, the new being. The energy is fearsome, frightening, terrifying, awesome, powerful, forceful, explosive, a detonation, exaggerated, perpetual, persistent, serious, volcanic. Metamorphic. The magma chamber is the ego, the will of the process.
Does energy have intent? Intent suggests purpose. Encountering something energy stopes, releases itself into another form, transmits its effect. To have effect energy must move. Exploding, flowing from the magma chamber it finds a path. Touching something, energy dissipates, spreads, is transmitted through another substance. It is released. This release is freedom.
To contain energy creates tension. Tension creates stress, pushes at the limits, at the membranes, stretches the skin, the structure that holds the center in. When the tension is too much, the membrane splits. Something emerges. Tension is relieved.
Through movement energy is transformed.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Movement
He held the rock out to her, its surface pocked with nooks and crannies bleeding patches of hematite like dried blood, blushing pink in places mingling with spaces clear and creamy like Chinese silk woven with dendritic black manganese sprouting and spreading from cracks: suggesting transformation.
The original rock is subjected to intense heat or pressure or both. Silica replaces the original chemistry streaking through the matrix. Hydrothermal fluids melt and separate the original form shooting it full of new substance, transforming the rock cellularly. Minerals caught in the flow extrude onto surfaces, follow the cracks. Cooling, crystals line vugs and fill pockets. The original rock is beyond recognition of its former state. It is transformed; it is altered.
So it is with her. Family and society press her into shape, direct her formation. Love hardens within assuming crystal form.
Now she begins her second act of creation. The original form is subjected to intense injection of hydrothermal fluid. It is forced into her veins, her arteries, the crevasses of her body, the recesses of her mind. This fluid is anger. Its heat transforms her. She needs to feel this anger to fuel the transformation. The heat and chaos, fire and passion, reds and oranges, violets and purples, create the absolute yellow and ultimately the purest clearest light, the light of her existence.
It is the heat, the intensity of fire that she needs now, its consummate gases becoming coals, burning orange glass. Reducing to the essential element. Gases igniting violet, blue, purple. No one comes near: the heat is too intense.
Inside she fractures, fragments, comes unbound, unbonded, spreads apart at the seams. A chemical torrent flows through veins releasing elements bonded for years. She needs these elements now. Holds on to the anger. Feeds it. Lets the burning do its work. Lets the cracks open. The surface can’t be perfect. Inside there must be vugs and seepages, flow and transport, movement and change.
Time is required passing unmeasured, uncensored, uncontrolled. The longer the time to cool, the more perfectly the crystals form.
But is it the crystal form she wants? What is the perfect form, her perfect shape? What shape should she strive for after the anger has done its work? Can she choose? Or, is the chaos of transformation beyond her control?
What surface does she want to exhibit? In the rocks she sees all the possibilities, all the surface textures, lusters - dull, metallic, pearly, vitreous, glassy, greasy and silky - and transparencies, the way in which light passes through the mineral specimen. How transparent does she want to be?
Is she reflective, or refractive? In the first case, she thinks of gold, of silver, of their malleability, of making them molten, tempered by fire, repousse, gilding, ductibility, assuming the desirable shape with ease. Resisting tarnish, taking a polish, making the surface reflective so light can’t penetrate. Is this the surface she wants: the malleable mass, the reflection, all that you can see?
Or, is it a crystal’s transparency that she desires? The surface meeting at angles, planar, geometric, juxtapositions and always letting light inward, refracting light, bending light, bouncing light outwards, concentrating its energy. An observer can see clear through to the other side.
Looking at rocks suggests all these possibilities.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Alteration: Energy
The Arroyo Calamajué is a broad plain of golden grass. The mission, built in 1766, was used only one year by Jesuit priests who were kicked out of the area by the Spanish government in 1767. The adobe walls exist no longer; the substance of adobe has piled up making burial mounds which mark the perimeter of the foundations. Stone corrals still stand adjacent to it. Within one of the corrals is a hearth ring. The setting above the Arroyo Calamajué is windy and so magnificent, Patagonian in aspect and scope.
Following the arroyo we discover a spring bubbling effervescently, carbonated from a selenite deposit. Botryoidal algae encircles its pinhole exit from under the surface. Gas bubbles form on my fingers when I stick my hand into the flow, which pushes against it geyser like. A claim marker nearby, an upstanding rectangular prism of whitewashed concrete, bears the words in square black lettering “La Manatial de Juventud”…The Fountain of Youth…
In 1792, José Longinos Martinez, a Spanish naturalist on orders to participate in an exploratory expedition of what was then referred to as New Spain, passed through Arroyo Calamajué and wrote of the ‘Fountain of Youth’:
In the vicinity of the abandoned mission of Calamajué there is a spring on the slope of some fairly high hills. The abundant selenite in this water is incrusted about the circumference, where it has built several layers of earth (tepetates) or platforms. From the center of the incrustation flows a stream about the size of a tile and a half, almost cold (10 degrees), containing aluminous selenite and vitriolic acid. The passers-by, principally soldiers, bring sugar and drink this water as if it were lemonade. They say it is refreshing,
but they are quite mistaken, for the effects are quite the contrary.
Water from these springs runs in the arroyo like a river creating an oasis. I bathe my feet in the bubbling geyser. They feel good all day…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Electrum