03 November 2006

Judaculla Rock

During a recent telephone conversation with my parents, Dad, knowing I'd been in western North Carolina during early October, asked me if I'd ever seen Judaculla Rock. I had never heard of it, but soon after did a Google search and sent Mom and Dad some of the information I'd found. Dad responded (with Mom's typing assistance) thus:

Thanks for the response on Judaculla Rock. When I was 9 years old we stayed in a motel in Sylva along with Grandma, Uncle Bub, Aunt Olga and her husband, Albert. We heard about Judaculla rock and found it after a long search through the countryside. We had to walk through a cornfield -- I think that is what it was. It was totally unexploited and in a remote spot under a tree. Someone had painted the carvings in the stone with white paint so they could be seen more readily. I never heard of the rock again and always wondered about it; guess it made an impression in my young mind.

After that conversation I devised a plan to find Judaculla Rock and connect with my father's long-held memory of it, a plan which, as usual, involved Tal! We rose early this morning and struck out for Jackson County in North Carolina, armed with internet directions and a North Carolina map. Three hours later we'd found it, pictured here.

The directions I had were clear and complete, but I reveled in knowing my ancestors had been that way before Tal and me and understood what a search it must have been (probably approaching 70 years ago). My father's memory of a corn field, I think, was correct. The road crosses Caney's Creek into a pretty valley, which is now a cow pasture. Then it curves to the right and the rock is located where the road ends and a private driveway begins.

According to the material from the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, the boulder is steatite (soapstone) and, as you can see from the photograph, is covered with hundreds of cupules and deep grooves. More difficult to see in this view are a number of designs which resemble humans, footprints and geometric shapes.

How old is it? Estimates range from 3000 to 5000 years. Wow. I wonder how many people have used, touched, looked at, marveled over that rock over the course of all those years.

02 November 2006

A clean Whitby

This is Whitby -- not post-bath today. This is a photo I shot last week while Tal was visiting his daughter, Susan. Missing Tal, Whitby stayed pretty close. Here he's snoozing in the chair in my study while I work.

Sense of loss

Well, this morning our little dog scared me. It came time for me to leave. Belle came when I called; Whitby did not.

After walking around the house calling for him I drove the neighborhood across Country Club Road, fearful that he'd left through the gate following Tal and might have been hit by a passing vehicle, fearful that such a cute dog might simply be picked up by a covetous passerby. In the hour of search part of me was irritated, of course, my schedule having been thrown off, another part of me was surprisingly frightened. After yesterday's reflections on death and life I was vibrantly aware of how dear Whitby is to me and how terribly much I would miss him were he not to come home.

As I came to a stop in the drive way and opened the car door, I thought I heard him bark. Walking toward the sound -- and the pond, I caught sight of him. There he was all the way across the pond, standing knee deep in mud, unable to figure out how to get back to his home territory, barking for help. The persimmons at the water's edge and the enticing smell of deer just beyond the fence (ineffective with the water so low at present) must have been too much for him.

I managed to stay clean through the rescue; he required a bath. And, yes, he got a treat -- not for being a good, obedient dog but for the gratitude I felt in getting him back, the sense of possible loss having been so overwhelming.

01 November 2006

All Saints' Day 2006

This day has found me inundated by, awash in memory. I woke up early, aware very first thing that it was All Saints'. How can a day of human construct, artifical as it is, provoke just the sort of response for which it was intended? Such is, I suppose, the power of suggestion and the malability of the human mind. Such is, I must add, the need we have to remember and to reconnect. Such is, blessedly, the gift of the construct.

Here at day's end I realize I cannot possibly name all the people I've known who have died over the course of my 53 years -- much less the people about whom I've known and whose lives and deaths have made a difference to the life I lead. It's astounding. From beloved grandparents and their siblings to the first funeral I remember being televised (Pope John XXIII) to close friends to faraway, sort of cosmic, tragedies. Today brought back the first time I saw the Viet Nam memorial on the mall in Washington on a early morning run sometime in the middle 1980s. Almost brought me to my knees. I pulled out photos of the Cahokia Indian mounds near St Louis (Tal and I visited there two summers ago), which were built in the era of the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico.

There's so much going on besides me. Exclamation point. The life this planet has known, the people who have lived and died -- for thousands of centuries, the longings of them all. This All Saints' Day has been a wonder, a day for wonder, a wonder full day.