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Creek Running North

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December 03, 2004


The desert has need of bleached bones. Mine, I hope, will help slake that thirst someday. A cow or deer or sheep succumbs, and its skeleton settles onto alluvial fans, where flash floods off the mountains blanket bone with sand. Antler, horn protrude and are eaten by woodrats, or carried off to adorn a midden.

Cacti have their bones as well, frames from which to hang their juice. The stem is harmed, frost or flood or drought or parasite, and the juice runs out. The superficial spines, the moist pulp fall away, and after a season or two the bones remain, intricate fractal tracery laid down an atom at a time.

Try to clean a stem yourself and your skin will become a colander, stabbing pains far out of proportion to the size of the needles. Mucilaginous sap will stain your hands and sting your eyes when you absently rub them. And for all your effort, you will have obtained a broken, unripe hint of a skeleton, like a moth taken too early from its pupa. Only the desert sun, the aching extended seasons, will peel outside from in, leaving the perfect brittle mathematics to stand unclothed before you.

A dear friend asked this week about my January trip, and what I hoped to get from it. That's it.

This is the third in a series of ten photo-prompted posts.

Posted by Chris Clarke at December 3, 2004 08:29 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


Photo-prompted posts? What an odd idea! :-}

Thanks for tne enlarged image. I could for the life of me figure out the skeleton you describe, having never been to the desert. Now, I have been.

Posted by: fred1st at December 3, 2004 05:35 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs

Come to think of it, Fred, I probably did steal the idea from you.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at December 3, 2004 06:59 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs