JEMEZ MOUNTAINS--It was Socrates who said, "The unexamined rock is not worth throwing." So it was in that spirit that I kidnapped Joe The Gumball King for a couple of hours Friday and took him into the Jemez. It is only an hour away...and full of unexamined rocks. Actually, we were prepared to look at anything, whether it be animal, vegetable, or mineral.
There is another story that is superimposed on the Jemez Mountains, and that is the unending whisper of History. For one thing there is the geologic history of an ancient volcano so big that it was twice as high as Mt. Everest...and blew up with such fury that dinosaurs leaving a lake in Nebraska suffocated in its ash cloud, dying on the spot...and then it left a smoking caldera larger than the city of Albuquerque. This is El Valle Grande.
But Joe and I were looking for a more manageable chunk of Time. After all, we only had an afternoon. We examined several of the marked prehistoric sites near Borrego mesa. These are marked with white rings around trees: a single ring marks the perimeter and a tree with 3 rings marks the center. A dot near the bottom of the tree points in the direction of the major part of the ruin. The walls have collapsed, but the piles of volcanic rock still outline kivas, plazas, and other features.
Most of the sites are small. They look like farming or guard outposts. But some are large, quite large...over a couple hundred yards in diameter. And they are scattered all over the Jemez. Anytime you see loose rocks, look closely...it may be History talking to you from a thousand years ago.
In the mountains, everything seems more beautiful and significant. Everything is worth examining: flowers, rocks, even grasses that in the city are called weeds. Even trash piles acquire a good amount of beauty. It is not that they are pretty, rather it is because they capture a moment decades or centuries past. Whether one is examining an old pickle jar or a chipped piece of obsidian is not all that important.
The important aspect to all this is how alive it makes us feel! And how humble. To be crawling over the same ground as our brothers and sisters from 1000 years ago is good for the soul. Of course, that happens every day...and in every place. But here, in the Jemez, where the shards of a millenium still lie on the surface, one feels exactly how brief a moment our life encompasses.