Thursday, June 16, 2011

CwtBC (Pt. II): A beacon for those to come

Camping with the Brothers Cariaga: My woodsy brothers, Eric and Calee, and our equally woodsy friends, Mike Bellmore and Kris Ross, have over the past six or seven years established a tradition of camping and fishing the Klamath River Canyon in late May and early June. This year, I joined them...

Read Part I, In search of the morel, here.

For thousands of years, this volcanic tuff, known as Petroglyph Point, formed an island in the middle of massive Tule Lake
Kamookumpts rested on the east shore of Tule Lake.  There was only the lake in all the world.  Kamookumpts decided to make land.  He dug mud from beneath the lake and piled it up, forming a hill.  He used the mud from the hill to create land and mountains.  Then he created rivers and streams.  Then Kamookumpts created plants and animals.  When he had finished, Kamookumpts was weary from his labor.  So he dug a hole beneath the lake for his bed.  As he went to sleep, he scooped a last handful of mud and made a hill to mark his bed. --Modoc Creation Myth
This is a young land.  The Tulelake (TOO-lee lake) Basin was shaped by lava flows erupting from deep within the earth over the last several hundred thousand years.  The tectonic subduction that continues to mold the Cascade Mountains spews out molten lava, which cools over the years and forms the jagged rock. 

The last big lava flow, the Black Crater flow, occurred some 3500 years ago.  Just yesterday, in geological terms.  As it cooled, life encroached.  At first, the harsh environment suited only lichens, fungi, and hardy grasses that needed little water.  But life begets life.    

What does it mean?
Man came to the Tule Lake Basin some 11,500 years ago.  When first he beheld it, the lake stretched all across the basin floor.   Man hunted the ducks and geese that nested around the lake.  He took shellfish from the shallows.  He fished for trout and other fish in the deeper waters.  He hunted deer and mammoths.  The lake became his home.

In time, as man became ever more reliant on the lake, he would canoe out to an island in its midst, there to carve on the rocky cliffs that raised it out of the water.

Forever beyond our ken
It is unclear whether the people who made these markings are the ancestors of the Modocs or another people entirely; perhaps some clan that moved on or was lost in some prehistoric disaster.

A memory fades before our eyes
Nor is it certain how old are the markings.  Some archaeologists have attempted to estimate the age by comparing the height of the markings on the cliff face against the historical water level of Tule Lake.  Estimates range from 2500 to 4500 years.

An ancient call from a lost people
But now, the lake is withered.  The island that once stood among the water and the tules is a bluff known as Petroglyph Point.  It rises up out of the irrigated farmland that was lake bed for hundreds of centuries.  Its cliffs are home to swallows, hawks, and owls.  One can yet go there to see the markings of the ancient people.

Tule Lake is a shrunken memory of what it must have been to the peoples who lived beside it for thousands of years. Would they grieve to know what has become of their home? Or would they rejoice that their memory yet lingers in the world, though they are long gone?

Rick Means pointed out that the symbol in the middle looks vaguely like the Ace of Spades, while the symbol to the right somewhat resembles a certain part of the male anatomy.  His translation:  "Somebody got f*cked at cards."
I believe the symbols on the cliff walls are gifts.  They are a haunting beacon that would guide us to a world that no longer exists.  They express the wisdom gained from living for thousands of years along the shores of a great, shallow lake in the middle of a young land.

To be continued...


Ridwan said...

Hey Dade have fun brother. Luv reading you from down here where it snowed in Namibia ... in the desert!


TimE said...

This is a beautiful place. I love Lava Beds NM.