Under the Lens...Arroyo Calamujue Rock
In the shadow of the crumbling mission I found you.
Your beauty lies in content, the weightiness of gold, its solidity, its everlastingness. Your gold is not shiny; it gleams from within as if generating its own heat.Your surface fractures in fish-scale layers. It is rich with iron stains, a rust-red sulfide bleeding. I like your other side best: the grass-yellow of the arroyo beneath the ruined foundations. From the fold-lined cavity exudes the scent of sulfur and the green garlicky aroma of arsenic.You are a rich rock evoking images of Spanish treasure, of gold bricks fabricated in the mill. Your gold paints your surface spreading over the quartz fractured by black-red veins.You have a heart…it is made of gold…
10 Febrero…I dreamt turquoise steps last night massive like the pyramids at Tenochtitlan. Today we follow turquoise up a draw finally finding the hole numbers sprayed on esquisto laminar or schist rocks. We marvel at the tenacity of the prospector who dug the thin turquoise layers from the strata, carried it down the jagged metamorphic canyon taking it out to market. Overhead the nooks and crannies are former living spaces like hunter’s blinds or lookout posts.
Happy to get back to the van. Cold all afternoon out of the sun with the wind howling up the canyon. No insects tonight; too windy. The van shakes. The wind gusts like walls of water from the canyons. The bushes squeak and whistle. I don’t sleep thinking a wall of water is about to wash us away.
In this landscape I am conspicuous standing out from the barrenness. Each slope, every wash, contains something different to look at, to consider.
I sort my sample rocks leaving a pile outside the van like a wordless monument to my passing, like a claim of my presence, that I was here following in the footsteps…
NEXT WEEK: The Art of Prospecting: A Long Walk Over Uneven Ground…The Fountain of Youth
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