La Cueva de las Manos (Argentina), handprints and paintings dating back 10,000 years
Twice in the last few years, while out walking, I’ve come upon animal bones working their way out of the soil. The first time I found seven small mammalian vertebrae, old enough to be growing mossy, scattered on a high ridge. The second time the earth returned the bleached remnants of a sea-bird’s wing, pushing up through trodden soil on a path near the ocean. I carried them all away home. They sit where I can toy with them, touch their purpose; wing and spine. The other night I picked up three vertebrae, began to shake and tumble them in my cupped hand, listening to the click clack of their relation to me.
Looked at straight on the vertebrae appear as delicate dragon heads that could breathe back to me the ghost-fire of some animal’s raw spinal impulse. We are, I think, made of the same stuff, bone and blood and the fire of intelligence: stone, water, atoms from stars.
In the best stories bones are knocked together by gnarled hags, gamblers, or old gods, all with the power to influence nations. Would that I could lay claim to being more than an ordinary lady; I’ve no hero in tow, no powers to bend world events or mend global weather. Maybe if I believed in some entity outside myself suitable to pray to, to beseech respectfully, to humbly implore. That wars be ended and victims healed, the land repaired, soldier-souls mended; if that kind of believing were possible for me then my prayer would be ceaseless.
In my hemisphere of the Earth we are in the deep and dark of the year, long nights and old stories shelter the fires that burn in us. Meanwhile, around the curve in the Earth locusts eat their way across East Africa and Australia burns. Here at home democracy dies in the American Senate. Unimaginable calamity and yet the stillness of a winter night in my neck of the woods seems infinite and hardly changed.
I go out into the cold and stand close to a tall oak and listen to it commune with the cosmos, feeling my own human smallness to the marrow of my bones. From somewhere across the arc of the night sky I hear again the click clack of my relation to everything, the ache and awe of it makes me cry.