Part 1: Autumn
The days are getting shorter, the mornings darker. Too, the days are getting cooler, though only slightly so, yet the leaves fall from the trees at an ever increasing rate. It is a long, slow, torturous autumn. I am too used to the seasons changing at the drop of a hat, not this creeping, subtle, drawn out metamorphosis.
The greening of the landscape which takes place post monsoon has long since faded and the hills and fields are back to the dun yellow brown of spring and early summer. The air has been calm and it is very very dry. The rivers are low, creeks nearly gone. The reservoirs little more than large ponds.
The elk are bugling in the hills. The cattle are down from the high meadows, most hauled off to wherever it is that they meet their ultimate fate. The pronghorn must be on the move as there have been none around in quite some time. The sunflowers have faded.
We have a large willow tree in our backyard. If you stand under it in the late afternoon, when the day is still warm from the sun, it produces a slow subtle rain. Whatever the substance, it coats anything under the tree in a dark shiny sheen. The tree hums with what look to me to be yellowjackets, though there is no need to give them any heed as they are far more interested in the tree than anything else. In their own right, they have replaced the hummingbirds which have gone on to wherever it is they go.
I do not expect snow anytime soon, though there was a light skim of frost on the shaded part of my windshield this morning. The woodcutters, including us in our own small way, have been busy at their harvest. So too the hunters. The garden harvest, what little there is here, has taken place and many homes have piles of pumpkins in the front yard. There is a palpable anticipation of Halloween, which for some reason I find curious.
Though very different from what I am used to, it is undeniably Autumn.
Part 2: Method of Disturbance
Day before yesterday I took a field trip with some co-workers south into the mountains. We traveled on a series of back roads, of which there are many in these forests, up into the hills to inspect some newly recorded archaeological sites. They ranged from scatters of stone tools and related debris, one likely dating to roughly 8000 years ago; to small, two room, masonry “pueblitas” with associated broken bits of pottery; to a strange, early historic site that might have been an overly fortified homestead or the remnants of some military establishment lost to the vagaries of time.
We traveled over washed out drainages, ravaged by post fire erosion and flooding. Past crumbling outcrops of old grey stone. Through stands of gnarled old, twisted oak trees and out onto high, open cienegas; marshy, spring fed areas that have supported human activity and settlement for thousands of years. On that day, it was easy to see why people have been drawn here, though curious to contemplate only what they have left behind. Nearly everywhere we went, we saw evidence of people’s passing, down through time. Yet on that day, the forest was quiet. The stones of the structures, whether decades, or centuries old, lay tumbled, overgrown. The stories, mystery.
There is a large field not far from our house that has quite a story to tell. There is an obvious mound, near the top of a gentle slope leading down to the river. Once upon a time many people lived there. Closer inspection shows the remains of a multi-room pueblo; a large, prehistoric, masonry structure. The same inspection shows the clear evidence of disturbance; unnatural disturbance that has gone on for some time. This is not uncommon. It so happens that if there is a site such as this, one that is more or less obvious to the casual observer and is relatively easily accessible, it is more than likely that it has been disturbed.
The site in question here, known to some as the Amity Pueblo, unfortunately suffered a far worse fate in the past many years though. While over time local folks have dug in the old pueblo itself, looking for treasure of one sort or another, it was the plain below that tells a sadder tale. You can look it up if you are curious, it is reasonably well documented. Too hard to describe here.
For my work, when we visit sites that we are “responsible for” that is, those that are found within the bounds of the Forest, we make certain efforts to formally document them, primarily through recording casual, though preferably detailed, observations. Often we use standardized forms because consistency. There is one section where we need to record the presence or absence of any disturbance. Given presence, we are then prompted to detail the nature, and if possible, method of said disturbance. At this point we are further prompted with a set of check boxes; Manual or Mechanical.
I have a hard time processing all of this.
I will leave you with this, which I wrote a few weeks back.
Method of disturbance: Manual or Mechanical?
These, the ancestors
bleached and gleaming
fragments of lives long forgotten.
Under a sun they were never meant to see
they drift, with cloud shadows
they wander, searching
for that Sacred
bend in the river
that once they knew too well
Too bright though is the sun
that they were never meant to see.