In the Susquehanna River, not very far from here,
there is a rock,
a tiny island really,
with pictures carved in stone.
Created by the ones who went before,
hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of years ago, scientists are not sure.
Left as signs, as maps, boundary markers, prayers, lessons, or stories, the purpose is not clear.
I like to think the truth is all of the above, and more.
Thank you to the people of the carvings,
the rock writers,
who left their stories in stone.
This one is for you.
This river is very beautiful.
It is so wide! Shimmering and quite shallow in spots.
Yet dangerous, quick, and unpredictable too, made more so by the many dams built to harness
a great power.
I can see from the pictures here these things were important to you.
Animals, birds, people, water,
tracks, the angle of the sun.
They are important to me too.
It’s very different here now, since you’ve gone. I wonder if you’d recognize it.
The old hunting grounds are criss-crossed with roads, black rivers that boil in the sun.
The Elk have gone. Perhaps in search of safer space,
I can picture them laying still, waiting, waiting, for things to change.
But the deer are still plentiful. And so fat! You’d marvel at the thick tallow on the inside of their skin, around the kidneys, a snow white layer.
They are still corn fed. No, not the many colored maize your people held so sacred. Large corn, tall and straight, uniform in color. Lab corn, chemist made, patented by Monsanto. Do we still hold the corn ceremony each year? No, no, I’m afraid, we are not allowed to save these seeds. Yes, I know it is hard to understand. We’ve forgotten much, and are very lost.
But these maps you’ve made, here in the river. Maybe they can help us find our way. Already they are working. On this day, the longest night, your signs have led me here.
I see that the serpents, longer than a man, you carved, point to the path of the sun. Align with the angle of our bright star on each day marking the seasons’ turn. Winter solstice sunrise, summer solstice sunset. The spring equinox and the fall. The autumnal one is special to me, my sweet son was born on that day. Yes! He is a great joy to me.
Awareness, this teaches. The magic of observation. How many days did you sit at your spot? How many years, decades, centuries, generations did it take before you could recall by memory the exact arc of the sun on these important days? Or was it a sacred journey each season, an adventure to the great rock to record, to draw, to write, to think?
What’s that? Well, yes, I suppose I am a writer too. Why do I write? To process, to inspire, to heal, to give thanks, to pray, to praise.
We are not so very different after all are we?
The bear have also gone. Killed for their rich fat and thick skins, and because my people have a long standing war on predators. Every now and again a young male will wander in from the North or South, exploring, seeking new lands, new territories, new opportunities. They are usually shot or relocated. We do not like to share.
And the fish are not so well. We cannot eat them anymore. Many of them are sick, with lesions on their skin. We have cut many trees so the water is too hot, have filled the river with chemicals, poisons, terrible things. Trouble things.
But the birds are many, plentiful. The Canada Geese still dot the sky, and the snow geese fly through each year. A snowy owl was even spotted this year. People were excited to see! and the songbirds, Wood Thrush, Cardinal, Blue Jay, Crow. Sparrow, Bluebird, Robin. Swallow. Goldfinch. Kingfisher. And some new varieties, House Sparrow, Starling, Rock Pigeon.
The Eagles make their nests along these banks, look for fish in the waters. And hawks. Vultures too. The slow and meticulous Great Blue Heron. He’s a great hunter, you know. And the owls. Barn, screech, great horned. Creatures of the night.
There are some beavers, muskrats. Minks. The otters have gone for better fishing. I hope they are well.
This is a beautiful land. The soil is very rich. Thank you for taking care of it. I imagine you must have been very happy here, in your home.
I think of you tonight, as soon the sun will sweep over the lines you so lovingly carved in the rock.
So we might see,
So we might know,
So we might remember.
I am sorry.
Please forgive me.
I love you.
To learn more about the Susquehanna Petroglyphs and the people who made them please visit:
Thank you for listening,