She remembers the wind, the dryness, the absence of water, using what they had sparingly and with respect. She remembers how long eggs lasted without refrigeration. She remembers the limitations of the vehicle and the remote ruggedness of the terrain, the ranges inland from the western shore of the Sea of Cortes. Mostly, she remembers the days, walking with backpacks and rock hammers, hand lens swinging from a cord around the neck, following arroyos deep, deeper into the ranges, following the trail of ‘float’ rock, walking over places where indigenous peoples and European invaders traveled centuries before.
It was in every day, following the prospector and returning laden with a backpack full of rocks, that she learned how to use the hand lens to examine the freshly-exposed rock surface, to distinguish the bright, almost ubiquitous flash of mica from the more significant pyrite. To sit patiently with each rock and, using a Swiss Army pocket knife, a bottle of hydrochloric acid diluted with water and the several rock ID books, attempt to describe what she saw using clues from the surface to create narrative and identity. This was the beginning of her apprenticeship and a relationship that still engages her to this day.
It was during that journey, over a decade ago, what she called then John’s School of Outward Bound because it was so hard and sweaty and lowdown mean dirty, that low-budget hands-on grassroots exploration, what she began to learn then, or perhaps it was more an ‘unlearning’, that created the foundation for not only a decade of work in grassroots mineral exploration, but the basis of her current studio practice creating wearable objects from precious metals and stones, the very substance of exploration...
NEXT WEEK: The ‘Nature’ of Stones and Metals…
There was no money around that winter except for private contributions raised in a downtown Vancouver watering hole popular with geologists and prospectors. $1000 for gas and $1000 for rock assays...so, they accepted and took the solar panel from the boat, mounted it on the roof of the Grumman postal van, folded the Zodiac into its carry-storage bag and stuffed it onto the fold-down berth at the back of the small interior cabin that also contained two single berths, a two-burner propane stove and tank, a sink with built-in 20-gallon water tank and a bulkhead-mounted wood stove, originally intended for marine use. They said goodbye one rain-sodden November day and caught the Duke Point ferry south.
In Portland, Oregon, they stopped at Powell’s Books to pick up a Baja road atlas. Later, a friend would give them one containing noteworthy sites of geological interest.
In El Cahon, at Sunbelt Publications, they received directions from the resident geologist to the Martin Love Library at the San Diego State University. On the 6th floor, the made a photocopy of an article by R.G. Gastil, a scant 6-pages that included historic anecdote and description of old mine sites located down the east side of the Baja Peninsula. This article, along with three Mexican topographic maps purchased in Mexicali, were the only ‘guides’ they had.
In El Centro, not far from the US-Mex border, she bought ten pounds each of rice and pinto beans with loose American change. She didn’t know it, but these would form the core of their diet for the next several months.
PROSPECTING BAJA: How the Visual Becomes Memory - Part II
“She didn’t intend to become a prospector. It was a sideshow, something going on at the same time as the main event, the Big Tent. She set out to learn sailing, how to raise and lower sail, tack the boat through a narrow channel, race around Gulf Islands, sail across the Strait of Georgia at any time of year. He mentor earned his living as a prospector. Eventually, she was going along for the ride… “It began innocently enough, with the most rudimentary of tools, the most affective to these being the hand lens, a 10-power Bausch & Lomb with a slip cover and a cord which she could wear around her neck. It probably had something to do with the rock, too, a piece of which she still has, a rhyolite, light and pink and white blasted by superheated gases and steams and altered to an almost unrock-like form with crystal-lined cavities in unexpected places. This is what she first observed when he handed it over to her: ‘Here, have a look at this…’, and the way she saw the world altered forever… “The 10-power magnification revealed sceneries (or, landscape topographies) in that particular rock, and many others since, that she had never imagined, never dreamed, existed. Seduced, she was enthralled by the unimagined worlds revealed at her fingertips within the loonie-sized diameter of the carefully-ground pieces of glass. “As with all ‘things’ she is attracted to, Beauty is often what beckons her into the new space, realm or Being. But, once there, Beauty is merely a glow, perhaps the attribute that has ‘persuaded’ her, piqued a curiosity that longs for something, something more, fuller and richer. And, it is in these introductory moments that it is necessary to ‘name’. “Geology, the study of the earth and the rocks that composes it, is an ‘-ology’ in love with names. It names without regard for ‘logical’ connection or ease of mnemonics. The language of geology is abundant with suffix, generous with personal attribution (naming after the founder or discoverer), resplendent with unpronouncability. Into this nomenclature, she waded not long after her first encounters with freshly-broken rocks viewed under the hand lens. “Possibilities seemed endless, and still do. Although her vocabulary has expanded since she first began noticing rocks, she still re-reads a rock ID book every winter, refreshing the memory of what she has learned. It is the visual, encountered in both image and three-dimensions, that enlightens her the most….”
NEXT WEEK: Prospecting Baja - How the visual becomes a memory…
2016 December 7
“Please: let me introduce myself. A woman who’s lived other lives, more than she cares to count. And, been rejected from more: unacceptable. Jewelry designing and making, though, she has sustained it through a decade, off and on, until, now, she is at a place-space-time in which she has ‘permission’ (the absence of other bread-and-butter work) to concentrate fully on the ‘business’ of making jewelry. For this, in her situation-circumstances, there is no How-to-manual. Like so many things one undertakes on their own, on a shoestring budget, with more passion than reason, relying upon knowledge earned by experience, by trying, the situation requires that she ‘just do it’.
This is better advice than it first appears. Picking up the ‘tools’ of work, whether it be sitting down at the workbench to begin constructing a new piece, or pulling up a chair and turning on the laptop to transfer, select, then crop and watermark images of completed work, is the entry point, the tiny opening, barely big enough to squeeze through, into which she dives, heart first. For her, it’s the only way….
And, over time, over the past decade, from the moments in which she was first introduced to soldering sterling silver and gold, drawing wire, rolling sheet, constructing a bezel, she has observed this dictum. There’s really been no other way. Of course, she’s read things, spoken to the odd professional, looked at the occasional “This is how you do this“ YouTube video, but mostly she’s had to overcome the fear and lack of confidence that are so often hand-in-hand with not knowing and just try….and keep trying…."
NEXT WEEK: ‘Studying rocks’ - Learning the names of things - Prospecting experience gave her this foundation