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.

December 4, 2011

I wonder as I wander

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 3:30 pm
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‘From without no wonderful effect is wrought within ourselves unless some interior responding wonder meets it.’      — Herman Melville

The first shovel-able snow of the season fell last night, a little late for Minnesota but arriving with a determined intention to stay until March. Landscapes are transformed, hearts are lightened, and it’s easier to see outside after dark.

Snow is mesmerizing, even though it can be accompanied by more challenging hallmarks of winter: bitter cold, or biting wind. Still, I want my heart to wonder at the intricacies of snowflakes. I view my woods as being newly draped in millions of miniscule masterpieces.

This image used by permission of SnowCrystals.com, which is one of those fascinating websites that could turn you into a snowflake geek in a heartbeat.

According to researchers at CalTech, a dust nucleus is the seed of the crystalline structure. This hexagonal plate, only a few microns in diameter, owes its shape to the molecular structure of ice. Blown and buffeted, air characteristics constantly changing, the extremely sensitive flake responds to tiny changes in conditions. Different growth patterns result from alterations in humidity, turbulence, velocity, and air temperatures.

Let those snowflake researchers play around in their climate-controlled labs. I prefer a stroll through my woods, where I can wander, and wonder, freely.

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[Warning: a visit to SnowCrystals.com can steal a half hour of your time, with cool photo galleries and ID guide to dozens of different kinds of flakes. It’s better than losing a half hour on Facebook, however.]

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