She could see her breath. In the desert, it was that time of light before the sun rises from the sea. There is only silence and the ringing of bells inside her head. Then, a mourning dove calls…
She squats to pee. Her warm waters seep into the ochre sands. She yawns and stretches, her skin tawny and dry over the leanness of muscle. Already her eyes scan the desert floor looking for rocks…
The brown man walks with the spear held upright pointing to the sky. His walk is not of this world…it is of a time before this time when the muscles, not the mind, dictated movement. His strides are unconscious reflecting no purpose. The soles of his feet are as much a sense as are his ears, his nose, his eyes…He, too, looks for rocks…
The prospector finishes his second cup of coffee, shakes it off and zips up his fly, gives his chin a scratch. Gotta shave tonight, flits across his mind, then is gone. Into the Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack of ballistic nylon, he tosses the GPS handheld, a topographic atlas and a geology map 1:250,000 scale, an apple, some cheese and crackers, a one-litre Coke bottle of drinking water, an anorak, a tube of sunblock, a wad of toilet paper. He tugs the brim of the “IQ-cutter” visor, his hand checking automatically for the 10-power Bausch & Lomb hand lens suspended around his neck, secures the rock hammer into a belt loop. In his pocket are a bottle of dilute 10% hydrochloric acid and a Swiss army penknife.
“Listo?”, he asks and she nods and they walk away from the sun toward the sierras, their eyes already riveted to the rocks strewn before them…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Prospecting & Time
because we are a breath of dreaming
infused with blood
and procreation is our measure only
not our reckoning,
as the living stone of earth
is god’s only measure
and not his being reckoned.
….George Payerle from ‘The Last Trip to Oregon’, Ronsdale Press, 2001
The weathered surface suggests what’s inside. On the weathered surface, lichens grow an organic layer of yellows, greens, reds and oranges rooted to the rock. Beneath the layer of lichen, the rock is a mystery. Water from the sky and earth seep in through cracks; minerals bleed out aging the rock, breaking it down. Bleeding minerals feed the lichen…calcite, hematite, manganese…precipitating through fractures. A skin like the crust of the earth forms a protective coating.
This process takes time. Subject to erosion, the rock fractures and crumbles, losing its integrity, becoming smaller particles, the soil of the earth’s surface again.
The weathered surface is the local history of the rock. Is it smooth or rugged? Is the rock new to the neighborhood? Has it come a long way from its outcrop or exposure? And the weathered surface is a camouflage. Blending in, it is both a response to and a protection from the surroundings. The weathered surface keeps the heart pure, clean, maintaining its mystery.
But, the prospector is a detective. Her intent is to solve the mystery. She breaks the rock. Applies this intent down through the bulge of the shoulder, snapping the elbow out and downward, bearing the force through the forearm, transferring it into the rock hammer in the grip of her hand. Translates desire into physical force.
Inside the rock, there is no accumulation, nothing extraneous, nothing interfering with the purity and clarity of what the prospector sees. There are no scars, no scratches, no additions to the body. Changes are subtle, a leaching outwards, requiring great time and infinitesimal change. The weathered surface not only takes from within, but allows within all the while protecting the internal core, the center of the rock.
The weathered surface breathes - life - in and out. Simultaneous contraction keeping the core intact.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Vignette I
Prospecting is looking for rocks of economic use. It is the oldest profession.
Prospecting is movement in search of space.
Prospecting is visual. It is a concentration of what is within vision. It is looking intently at one place.
Prospecting is searching for the unusual rock, the one that looks different than all the others, has a different skin, a different color, a different content.
Prospecting is looking with intent. Prospecting eyes seek the unique, the unusual imposing their knowledge by discarding the known, isolating what is unfamiliar.
Prospecting is a meditation that eliminates, pushes to the side all that is not relevant to that moment. Prospecting is losing one’s self in the moment.
Prospecting is an examination of the surface to discover what is underneath.
Prospecting is an attempt to understand the process of formation, of alteration, of change and transformation. Underlying the discovery is the question: How did this happen?
Prospecting is seeking the source. What generated this change? What body had the energy to create what I see? Where is it?
There is only the surface to examine. Beneath is a mystery - of force, of life, of energy, of process. There is a limit to this knowing, but always there is the seeking, the looking.
The approach must be open. There can be no pre-supposition, no assumption cast across the surface. The eye, the mind, the body, the spirit must be receptive. There can be no knowing or preconceived notion from which the act of prospecting is generated. All one can be is prepared to accept.
There is the possibility of success and the likelihood of failure. There is no surety, no guarantee that anything will be found. The reward is in the act, in the revelation of beautiful surface, the astounding mirage revealed by the crack in the rock.
Looking at the weathered surface does not indicate what is underneath.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: Weathered Surfaces