Petroglyphs

Daniel finally came to see me.

I say finally because it seemed like it had been a very long time. He stepped outside of my landlord Hector’s house and into the backyard saying, “I wonder if Milo will remember me,” only to be plowed over by a yelping, dancing, delighted dog.

“He’s back! That guy! That guy is back!” Milo was singing and dancing and hurling himself against Daniel. It was quite a welcome (and a hard act to follow).

Daniel saw the university and met a few of my classmates. He spent most of his time investigating new jobs and new possibilities. He told me it was hard, sometimes, to imagine starting anew so late in life. He said he was doing it because he wanted to make meaning of the time he had left. He wanted to leave a mark and I understood what he meant.

On Sunday, we went to see the petroglyphs. Sunday was a hot day and we went at the hottest time of the day. The kind lady in the visitors center was listening to Christmas music (which should perhaps have tipped us off) and she warned us there would be no shade. We headed out anyway, with Milo, to see these carvings made nearly a thousand years ago.

It was very quiet, among the black lava rocks. Only a few low bushes managed to grow in the white sand that lay between the deeply pocked boulders. A trail wound between the large rocks that had been tossed by volcanoes onto the desert. Scratched into the black surface, the figures were not at first noticeable. But once I noticed one, I saw another and another and soon the landscape was thickly populated, crowded with messages from hundreds of years ago. Under a bright unbroken afternoon sky, the petroglyphs stood in sharp relief, inscribed in red and white on the black lava rock: parts of stories, pieces of lives, incomplete records of animals and events, a moment preserved on lava. Fragments of belief and slivers of revelation were left behind. The imprint of a hand, the evidence of a thought, the remains of a desire were etched into the hard, black rock.

We found a tiny bit of shade on the west side of a large rock once the sun was not directly overhead. Milo pressed himself against the rock trying to capture the cool of the stone and the sliver of shade. We ate smokey cheddar cheese and an apple that Daniel had brought from his apple tree at home. Milo ate scraps of cheese and learned to drink water from a cup. (Milo is an adaptable dog, especially if there is smokey cheese involved.)

All around us crowded the petroglyphs. Some of the messages seemed urgent: pleas for help or attention or understanding. Some seemed more contemplative; like the presence of a friend they filled the great open space and made it less lonely. I could understand, especially under the late afternoon sun, both the urgency and the loneliness. I could see why it might be very important to leave a mark etched into the black stone that would not wash away. We sat eating apples in this great, open space and I felt both the need to be understood and the desire not to be alone.

Nothing Daniel or I do will last as long as the petroglyphs, or be understood as well, and yet the impulse to do something remains.

“Let me find meaning.”

“Let me belong.”

“Let me be remembered.”

Till next time,

—Carrie

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