Deer, no, bunny tracks in the fresh fallen snow. Crossed by deer. Then mice. Then thinking of Nazca lines – 1000s criss-crossing and zigzagging in the arid pampas of southern near-coastal Peru. My thoughts are: the everyday drive to leave a mark was key.
Here deer skipped as they crossed the meridian snow of the car-tracked lane. I can tell they skipped by the trailing pointy mark each split hoof made just before it imbedded. These type of marks also tell easily which direction the black dog was going. Today he took his walk with the boy from the farmhouse. Hope that boy doesn’t mind his dog following me/leading me occasionally on my walks.
Traffic-light red dots in the woods. What are these? Cardinals, and others, on the spinning feeder by the farmhouse. What fun! Light. The sun made it out today and is making everything friendly.
Other dog meets me at the top of the hill on my return leg. Being a little scary. Growls and whimpers. Bumps my hand as I turn onto the property not hers.
Hummingbird, Condor, Pelican, Parrot, Giant (or Human), Spider, Monkey, Hands, Tree, Orca, Whale, Heron, Dog: Monumental drawings made by proto-Nazca laborers, under supervision, moving aside the rusted cobbles that cover the desert to reveal a pale yellow limestone base hardened with morning dews of centuries and centuries… 200 BC to 600 AD.
Lines of boot-tracks car-tracks dog-tracks too and the aforesaid deer mice and bunnies. Boot tracks that look like mine but could not be mine in fresh fallen snow. On the Nazca plain find footprints of gold miners squatters real estate agents jeep tracks even wagon tracks of the conquistadors, one Peruvian highway cut through the Lizard – not mentioned earlier – quite unconsciously years ago.
There are over 70 of these geoglyphs, some say 300, amid the lines of the Nazca Pampa Colorada, 15 miles wide and running about 37 miles parallel to the coast.
Here’s where the dog stepped down to the creek to drink.
Deep and deeper walks. Alone and my mind wanders. I admit things to myself. I work on loving-kindness. I examine the changes in the ground at my feet. The pattern of gravel or raindrops in snow. I’m thinking of the workers getting the job done with reverence and care.
Trapezoids and triangles and these non-desert biomorphic geoglyphs. Lines over these and lines under these and other lines and other lines and rectangular clearings. Preserved by the heat that rises from the red-black cobbles forming an air cushion that deflects the breeze at ground-level. Virtually no erosion. Only one inch of rain every two years average. Perfectly perfectly straight and ankle-deep to mid-calf deep these lines for meters and meters and kilometers. Lines straight lines – straight straight straight. Lines lines lines. Entering and weaving in around and among and leaving those giant animal and plant drawings and continuing on. Converging on stars and spirals and hurrying on. Up mountain slopes to stone circles and moving on to other lines. Some say a labyrinth and some say not.
To have been seen from mountains first and first by moderns from the first monoplanes in the late 1920s and from satellites now and continuing on in the heart fear wonder awe purpose sacrifice.
Stones in order. The left brain suggests to the right brain let’s count the stones in the gravel. Let’s find their relationships above ground and imbedded. How they constellate. How they form algorithmically.
Realities and perspectives in the gravel and snow. Then the grime and gravel and clods arrest the mind after the plow has gone over. Near-pristine to begin with, only filled-in bootprints and pawprints and then – wReckAge of the scene. Just earlier thinking I could shrug at change. But this? The driver is down by the troll bridge now brushing gravel into the appropriate compartments of his plow-truck as I come into view. I am certain I come into view. I turn at the falls rather than at the troll bridge, unready for exchanges of pleasantries.
The school bus already has picked up the boy from the farmhouse.
His black dog to my eye and heart as big as a lion has befriended me. Remembers our past relationship on this backwoods road. Walks ahead of me from the farmhouse to the troll bridge and on the return. Follows me uphill and further uphill to the neighbor’s yard and children playing. We break ranks there. He cuts down a shortcut to said farmhouse with its resonating cattle. I return to this winter’s cabin and a hot bath.
I am grateful for the regal dog’s acceptance of me when I walk his steep-sided valley.
Heron, with the long zigzag neck, may be called Flamingo and Cormorant. Dog also may be Jaguar and Fox. Giant or Human also has been named Astronaut and Owl-Man. Orca could be a combination of Cat and Fish. Pelican is confused with Parrot often but which is Chicken or Egg?
Not to slip, watch your surfaces.
The road surface grabs and compels my attention. The plow and ash spreader have done their business today. Grayish brown lines and black spots and red clay clods and white perforated snow-overglaze. Much as I am appalled at its implications I see the road surface would make a good sweater design.
Insights come and go. Insight piled on insight and blotting out insight like the Nazca lines indifferently erasing other Nazca lines. Turn at the troll bridge and unwind the brilliance up past the Grandfather Tree and up to the community house and the long ridge: My intention…
The black dog woofs from the porch seeing my shape by the Grandfather Tree. A thick oak, here in Appalachian Ohio, which I estimate to be 200 years old, kneels at the bottom of the hill, with two, foot-thick, roots that jut out and then angle back away from the road, as if in genuflection.
Or, these principal roots could also be thought to take on the wings-shape of a bird, when the bird ants and/or dries its feathers.
(Anting is when a bird allows ants into its feathers to eat up parasites.)
The soil has calved away from under the trunk creating a large shrine-like maw. Apartments for little animals there. Water percolating. I have imagined placing candles and crystals and ribbons into that partially rotted gnarldom.
Six main bark-covered roots. I imagine the legs of a large fly. Bright green mossy on the grayest day those major fly-legs h-h-holding on.
I call it Grandfather (or Grandmother when I need to) in order to have a point of reverence.
Venn diagram (a and b):
a) They took the stones and placed them to the sides of the lines, often making darker edges for greater visibility, though visibility from the sky may not have been their intent. Their purpose may have been just to walk the lines, head down maybe in reverent posture, if such posture can be assumed to have been considered reverent by them.
b) The scraper runs through pushing the gravel back onto the road from the edges and obliterating the lines left by mail cars delivery trucks school bus neighborhood minivans.
Stays this cold, the falls will freeze, also.
A walk in the woods today instead of a walk on a road in the woods. Weather up around an unseasonal 70. Taking the worn-out old logging road, now an ORV trail, down down down to the creek. ORVs come down past me. I nod. One man in camouflage sends me a salute. They cross the creek and on up into the hunt club. I walk along the edge of the creek stepping on soft-blue limestone slabs with moon-like pitting. That works a while. Soon I climb the dead-leaved and clay-muddy banks up to the high cross-creek. Dry typically, not today. Up shelf rocks and over bank humps and all the way thinking how the water had a song for the Nazca only when the snow melted on Illa Kata and Cerro Blanca and flowed down their god-slopes into sand into underground aqueducts entered by humans through spiraling walk-in wells known as puquios.
These aqueducts still feed the cotton and maize fields closer to the coast. Not always…
These cotton fields and maize fields that replaced the huarango trees… ground-gripping acacias that supplied food and shade and wood to the Nazca through some of the world’s deepest roots. Few huarango remain on the Pampa Colorada today, or even nearby. The Tree drawing is said to be of a huarango. Though I’m not sure why; it hardly resembles it. The Tree also has been confused with the Hands at least once. That is, imagined on one web site as a tree of hands. Some say the Tree is a seaweed.
If it is a huarango, it has great relevance to the mystery of the Nazca. Some say the people destroyed through overuse the thing they most depended on: the huarango. What else is new? What followed was years of war and the taking of trophy heads that they hung with thongs on their belts and maybe in their homes above the couch like art. We don’t know. In the end, those who would like to say can’t say. Only a few of the wooden posts, used to hold cotton ropes that marked the lines the Nazca surveyors were laying out over the landscape, have been dated.
Much of what was these people’s reality or what could attest to their reality is erased. Like lines on paper.
Well, back to the drawing board.
And how to begin about the Monkey?
Maria Reiche, mathematician, geographer, lay archaeologist, schoolteacher, preserver and protector of the Nazca lines all her life, came to Peru from Germany in 1932. She wrote that she passed through four concentric rainbows as the ship was making port, viewing this as a sign that she was going to where she was needed. Years later, still in Lima, she pricked her finger on a cactus thorn, leading to gangrene and having that finger amputated… Ms. Reiche (usually referred to as Maria in the literature) is the one who discovered the Monkey geoglyph with the nine fingers.
The right hand of the Monkey has three fingers and a thumb.
Now, ogres have four fingers per hand but who else has four and five? Only the Venus of Hohle Fels in southwestern Germany, cave stone figurine that fits in the hand, with, instead of a head, a loop that may have attached it once upon a time to a Cro-Magnon necklace.
Oh, and also The Hands on the Nazca plain.
Four and five like the Monkey. The Hands, the most eccentric figure on the pampa, attached only to what appears to be a bladder, otherwise not identifiable as any known living thing.
Unsure now where Freud fits in but he proposed a death drive bends the psyche toward self-destruction as the means for the universal “organic to revert to the inorganic.” Death-driven the Nazca may have been in destroying the huarango, and in our era that drive manifests in our—globally our—promulgating climate change through willful ignorance.
First flooding, since records ever, took place in 2007 in the pampas. The lines were spared, but water damaged the highway. A flood in 2009, yes, just two years later, caused minor damage to several lines, and a layer of white clay and sand was laid over part of one the hands of The Hands. It has since been restored. The pampa is in one of the lowest lying areas on the planet. Sea rise will certainly wipe out the Nazca lines and drawings.
Freud thought humans are motivated primarily by the pleasure drive and surprised himself with the possibility of a death drive. The pleasure drive though is not principled apparently. It’s precisely our love of entertainment and security and new acquisitions and personal power that is leading us on to global suicide.
Our deepest inorganic desires cry out “cupio dissolvi”: I wish to be dissolved.
More difficult has been to describe why this area below the trunk of the Grandfather Tree resembles a shrine while also having the aspect of a maw. Clearly, a maw has no business at the roots. Many of which have decayed and form a mass of perforated bark and silvery-gray splintered fragments. There is a face there if one tries and two major roots have the aspect of dragons.
Why these have anything to do with the Nazca lines stumps me (hah). Is it because I played with the tree being holy? As having a force that draws me into its roots and up into its limbs in a gesture of reverence? That I have some obligation now to bow to the Grandfatherly presence as I pass by it? (And I do bow.) To respect it? For its age? For its mere might? For its grip on the planet?
Slippery and solid. Precarious and it endures.
Stones in order:
The late sun gives a long shadow to each piece of gravel of the packed clay road. To each pockmark too, exposed where the truck passed repeatedly over. Let that truck stand for Humanity.
In the cool of the next a.m., my boots imbed gravel, and dislodge some too, and I am part of Humanity. I share truck guilt.
The footstep sound is cavernous as I dip between the high embankments and thick trees seeking post-partum relief. Waiting for the well to fill… with a new obsession.
I stroll down the lane to the small troll bridge. I pass the water falling to the next stratum. Pits of sedimentary softness there.
A dual-citizen of Latvia and the USA since 2016, Ivars Balkits lives part of the year in Ohio but mostly in a small mountain village in Crete. His poems and prose have been most recently published by Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Bear Creek Gazette, Synchronized Chaos, Otoliths, Seneca Review, Anvil Tongue Radio, Harpy Hybrid Review, and Lotus Eater. He is a recipient of two Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, for poetry in 1999 and creative nonfiction in 2014.