Monday, April 20, 2009

The Long Road Home

I just returned from wandering the desert for 4 days, searching for ancient ruins and petroglyphs.

On Friday, my friend Kim and I hiked for 9 hours straight, almost without stopping, trying to find some ruins we had sketchy directions to. It was quite an adventure: We had to get permission from a cranky woman to walk across her land into the canyon where the ruins were, then bushwhack our way downstream for several miles, then climb up pouroffs and cliffs of a side canyon for a couple more miles. At one point I was scritching on my belly over a big sandstone boulder on a cliff ledge, trying to avoid falling to my death. We finally turned around without finding the ruins, and got back to the trailhead well after dark, nauseated and headachy and dehydrated.

Why, you might ask, would any sane person do this to herself?

The short answer is: I'm obsessed with finding ruins, rock art, and any kind of artifact.

The long answer is: I think it has something to do with being adopted. Searching for ruins, pot shards, projectile points, ancient corncobs, granaries, pictographs and petroglyphs replicates "The Search"--for self, identity, ancestors, birthparents.

I talked to Kim about this obsesssion--she has it too, but she's not adopted. I asked her what it means to her to goat around the wilderness, searching for artifacts. She says she likes (and I mean really likes--we were both so stubbon about finding those hidden ruins, we almost ended up spending the night huddled under a rock ledge; we just couldn't admit defeat and turn toward home) it because it's a like a treasure hunt.

But I really think that for me it's something more than that. In searching for, finding, and trying to decipher rock art, a very hidden part of myself thinks I will learn something about that very hidden part of myself.

This whole process reminds me of a dream I once had in which I was digging around in my backyard, and I uncovered some human skulls. They had been embellished with decorative carvings and were very beautiful. They were the skulls of my long-lost ancestors, and finding them led me to a great epiphany in the dream--sadly, a non-verbal epiphany, but in retrospect, I realize that this dream was about finding my personal history, my true identity, very close to home--in my own backyard--that is to say, in myself.

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