Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 25, 2012

Shards, shards, shards

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 7:52 am
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Black-on-White pottery shards at San Juan County, Utah, ruin site.
Note that some have painted rims.

Tingling with excitement, I traced the faint path toward a red rock outcrop. On all sides, evidence of ancient occupancy lay exposed. Old masonry walls, now reduced to heaps of rubble overgrown with grass, rose from the hillside in silent testimony to the ancestral Puebloans who lived here. A Rock Wren serenaded our quiet traverse, much as I envision Rock Wrens of the 13th century may have done by some other name. At my feet were pottery shards of every imaginable design; I felt like a kid in a candy shop, stooping, picking up, rubbing the dirt off, and replacing. An involuntary gasp would escape when I found a particularly bright or unusual bit, colors fresh, edges sharp. It is impossible for me to hold a piece of an old bowl and not ask myself questions about its owner.

Corrugated ware, a more durable everyday ceramic, was used for cooking. It was made by coiling thin snakes of clay, pressing them together with an antler, and polishing the inside with a smooth stone.

In my dreams, I am wandering in awe and wonder at a site and find an intact artifact. Of course, the likelihood of that happening is nil, as every one of these areas has been looted by pot-hunters. I’d settle for finding a vessel in pieces that could  be jigsaw-puzzled back together. Even that won’t happen. I was sincerely overjoyed this day to put my boot down on the ground and have to watch where I was walking; the density of shards was breathtaking. (See smallest photo.)

Untouched dense scatter of potshards with my boot for scale.

Archaeological note: I collected pieces for these photographs but released them all back to their resting places. Two were particularly dear and hard to let go, but I found special places to hide them so they wouldn’t be trampled by others who find their way to this obscure hilltop location where ancestors eked out their living 800 years ago.

April 14, 2011

How many birdsongs can my head hold?

Rock Wren, singing from a... rock! (google images)

Have you any idea how many bird vocalizations contain a trill? A whistle? A buzzy note? Just try memorizing several dozen. The nuances that differentiate them are minimal, but the more I listen to them the more unique their finer distinctions become. I can start to detect things like the increasing volume as the song of the Black-Throated Gray Warbler goes on, or the breezy nasal quality of the Mountain Bluebird. Today in my Breeding Bird Census many things did not go as I had hoped, but I will concentrate on the positives — e.g., I correctly identified a Rock Wren’s song! Thank goodness for small victories.

A trying day can often be redeemed in the kitchen. In the vegetarian spirit of House 3, a big bowl of salty edamame was shamelessly enjoyed as an appetizer before I concocted some avocado-and-mozzarella quesadillas for our main dish. I’m rather enjoying the culinary stretching.

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