Fractures are cracks in the structure, unpredictable paths, sudden surprises opening before the eyes, coming apart in unexpected places, stopping transition, destroying integrity and wholeness, becoming parts pieces jagged edges irregular random sharp jagged, coming apart at the seams, bleeding for a while, fresh raw surface revealing underneath, letting fluid in and out, cleansing healing infection pus gangrene sore pain awareness of break damage bandage repair bind waiting to heal slowing down patience impatience unable to perform as usual reminder of frailty mortality morality immortality altruistic youth ego performance age aging fragility bone porous osteoporosis losing mass less dense skeleton breaking down effervescence froth pumice calcium carbonate bubbles vesicles voids spirits form…
Erosion is the passage of time. Fractures are rites of passage. A time of attention to, to be paid attention to. A jarring from the stasis of innocence, of unawareness, passing on and leaving behind, assuming another form, letting go of the strength of physical body, breaking down into essentials, a concentration of the essence of structure.
In rocks erosion releases the essences breaking it down into elements. Exposed to air, to atmosphere, particles break away; fall into basins and down slopes, gathering in pediments, in estuaries, in arroyos, at sea bottoms, concentrating in layers forming sedimentary deposits.
Where do rocks fracture? Along the weakest plane or surface. When struck with a rock hammer pieces come away not always as expected. The unexpected place of fracture is the weakest plane, the place that felt the most force, the surface that succumbed, gave in, let go…’To crack under pressure’ is a release of the tension, a relief from the tension that holds everything together.
When is it time to fracture? When the tension of holding on is too powerful to resist. Even holding on to the limit of endurance, something in the structure gives way. Emotions break, alter, succumb to force. A broken spirit is a fracture. Is the moment of letting go, releasing the tension, allowing fracture conscious, a choice, or does pain dictate that moment?
Although her body is a fine physical specimen, brown and lean, without excess, inside the pain wears away at her, gnawing with questions, seeking answers. Why has she abandoned what she loved? What is most important? Wanting to be whole, to be circular, to be content, is that what forces her to fracture along unpredictable planes? Is there time for everything? Or, is she too like the rocks breaking down, wearing away, eroding to the essences? Bearing and raising children, her mother says, takes the rough edges off. Are we all eroding each other? Is there grace in the process?
Sculpture, creating the final form, is additive and subtractive. A fracture reduces, diminishes, subdues, alters, and, through pressure, reminds. A fracture heals, releases, creates a new pathway. It is additive and subtractive.
In the process of ‘breaking rock’, a prospector is a sculptor.
Fracture: If you strike a mineral or rock with a geological hammer and it breaks, leaving surfaces which are rough and uneven, it is said to fracture. Cleavage surfaces are usually flat and exactly the same shape may be produced by repeated hammer blows. This is not so with fracture. Most minerals fracture and cleave, but some will only fracture. Common fracture terms are uneven, conchoidal (shell-like), hackly (jagged), and splintery.
Cleavage: Cleavage is the way a mineral breaks along well-defined planes of weakness. Often these planes are between layers of atoms or other places where the atomic bonding is weakest. Cleavage surfaces are not perfectly smooth like crystal faces, though they are very consistent and reflect light evenly. Cleavage is described as perfect, distinct, indistinct or none.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Vignette IV
Strength resides in content and structure. Beauty takes time to form. Is strength part of beauty? Something fragile requires protection. Is beauty a protection? Are both fragility and strength essential to the structure of beauty? The fragile beauty of a structure arouses respect and sympathy creating strength in the observer. When contemplating beauty it is suitable to consider fragility.
Hematite rust red is common, not beautiful. In other contexts though, hematite builds crystals with shiny surfaces, crystals that form rosettes called ‘iron roses’. One mineral assumes many guises.
Strength is admirable. Strength is desirable. Strength is necessary. Without strength, everything falls apart, shattering. Too much strength though becomes resistance and nothing changes. When is enough strength too much strength? To know more, to attempt relationship, the structure is cracked or broken, its erosion quickened.
Erosion is an agent of change. Strength is an agent of change. Erosion both exposes the potential beauty of underlying form and destroys it.
To see inside, the rock is split open. Splitting it open destroys the exterior shape, but reveals the internal structure. To know, to have a relationship with the rock, the prospector breaks the rock, exposing it.
Exposure is painful. It requires cracks. It requires willingness to erode, to let go of the exterior form. Underneath might be the beautiful structures: gems, crystals, the veins of element or mineral.
Not all can crack the surface. It requires the right touch, the right approach. It requires wisdom and tenacity. It requires loves and firmness. It requires strength and sympathy. Whispers of wind move grains of sand. A torrent of water moves giant boulders.
The rocks resist or they crack. The strength is always the same: from the back, through the shoulder, along the arm, into the hammer. Without crystals, like obsidian, the rock shatters. Iron and silica resist. Crystals interlock holding a rock together.
To penetrate the rock, contact is essential. Heat and pressure penetrate inwards, agents of alteration, agents of change. In this case, it is the prospector who, applying heat and pressure with the blow of the hammer becomes the agent of change, another force of erosion…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…La Turquesa Rock
23 Janvier…Mexicali…Into Mexicali on Independencio. Located federal government building at Civico Centre no problem. In its interior, an INEGI office. Directed to location on Reforma, a block or two south of the US-Mexico border. The man giving directions offers to send one of the secretaries with us as a guide. J… considers, then declines. At the INEGI office on Reforma we purchase three geology maps for 33 pesos each.
Leaving Mexicali Sierras Las Pintas to our west. Magnificent, J… says, their vivid colors of alteration revealed in the morning light. Later, I climb Lagrimas des Apaches looking for obsidian [Blog: 1 March 2017]. Breathe the new scent…clean, salty desert, pure, without oils.
24 Janvier…The sulphur mines: El Apache, Monctezuma…An anorak day, I say, digging the red thrift store Ralph Lauren pullover from a bag. Fill the camera bag with knife, lens, acid; J… gathers sample bags, pencils, black markers, GPS and off we go to explore the sulfur mine sinter deposits.
Everywhere around the main pit are gopher holes, shafts and primitive diggings. On the high spots, the wind blasts us, but it’s sunny, we’re alone disturbing no one. Looking at the ‘hot springs’ rocks I respond to their fragility, their ‘prettiness’: white crystalline frilly and light. Not enough silica for my taste, J…observes. Vivid reds - realgar reds, I call them - mark spots where epithermal activity came close to the surface. In a lee, J… records GPS position, makes notes in the EverRite notebook. Gives me a chunk of alunite to examine…Everywhere the scent of sulfur…
That night we sup on beans and rice from the 10-pound bags I purchased before crossing the border. Listen to CBC Radio International on the shortwave receiver. J… reminisces about the challenges of prospecting at 17,000 feet in Argentina: boiling water and keeping the tents attached to the surface. Here, we are at sea level. Despite the wind, it is warm compared to I-5 rest stops and the La Rumarosa summit: a beautiful silent place to spend the night.
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Strength and Beauty
19 January… Into El Cajon looking for Sunbelt Publications following the map emailed to Nanaimo. Through the front door we’re taken into custody by staff who guides us to the Baja books and maps. We browse until Dee returns from lunch. She has the Baja map almanac as promised; it is the same as purchased at Powell’s Books. She spends half an hour giving us directions to San Diego State University where we can sleuth for the paper “Reconnaissance Geology” by Gaitlin that J… wants and arranges time with Sunbelt’s resident geologist, Lowell. He gestures at comfortable seats in his office and on a chalkboard provides names and titles of several academic geologists and a consultant. J… politely notes phone numbers and with two complementary copies of Geology Terms in Spanish and English and a map of San Pedro de Martir Parc in hand we leave.
Ten minutes later we are in the Martin Love Library at the San Diego State University. On the fifth floor, we locate the Geological Society memoir and copy the chapter on Economic Geology and the Mineral Provinces of Northern Baja, which includes a location map of hot springs, lead-silver, tungsten, gold and other occurrences. J… contacts the consultant who is unable to say where exactly we might find mineral claims maps for Baja. In the map room, we pull out the Mexican topographic and geology maps we need and note their numbers.
At Albertson’s, we buy provisions: tins of corn, beans, corned beef, olives; a last loaf of American sourdough, chicken for supper; sunblock, witchazel, film, Copenhagen, Tang juice crystals, espresso coffee in tins, a large bottle of Argentinian wine for J…
21 January…In the morning, the usual routine: coffee, bread, baño. Leave for the border along S1. Gas-up at Cameron Corners. “Hi, honey,” the clerk greets me. A quiet drive J… taking the curves and corners slowly. Then, there she is…the sepia tones of Mexico. Dust billowing over the basin of the town, a red-brown dust. I tape the back door seams with duct tape while J…buys $500 US in pesos…
22 January…Summit: La Rumarosa…Dick’s Baja Geology book says there’s snow on the Rumarosa grade sometimes in some years. I wear silk long johns under the down comforter; on my feet, the Argentinian wool socks. In the morning, gather wood for the heater wearing my fleece vest. Hands are ice as I fill the wood bucket. When I return to the van, J…has washed his hair, dressed in city clothes, ready to go search for maps in Mexicali…Storms clouds overhead moving fast west to east…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…Journal Sulphur Mines
She gathered them from Lagrimas des Apaches (“tears of the Apaches”) where, black on white, they fell from the layers of ash in which they formed. Bubbles of glass cooling quickly, too fast to allow crystal form. Their irregular mass is contained by the ash melted by the heat of the moment that hardens on their surfaces.
Where does the black come from in the layers of white? These willful black blobs of glass refuse to blend, to fit in. Refuse to be influenced or affected by the adjacent substance. Separate themselves from the mass. Hard as glass, silica rich.
She can’t see through this rock or into it. It is shape and surface merely. Shell-shaped bowls are pools catching light like water. Along their rims are threads of silver light. Her eyes go out of focus fabricating a spear point of the shell shape. An eternal form.
The fire came first. Hardening and tempering, its heat retained in the glassy obsidian. Fire is in the smoky streaks. When she stares at the pockets of redness, the volcano’s essence is there. The obsidian is a summary of the eruption.
The acts of nature guide the hands of humans. Nature provides the raw materials of existence, colors it, prepares it. Humans provides the finish.
Into the delicate femininity of a cockle shell, its rose vulva ringed with amarillo, she places the obsidian nodules. Within the shell dish, the obsidian’s angular edges, the suggestion of spear points is subdued. The shell’s shape mirrors the diagnostic feature of obsidian: its conchoidal fracture.
Why does she do this…create a container of the shell, juxtapose light and dark, geometric and curving forms? Without altering, she creates a space where wholeness is evident at a glance. She wants a summary, a seizure. Like the Apache tear, she wants to freeze the moment…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…