Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Hill:























"Hear more often things than beings,
the voice of the fire listening,
hear the voice of the water.
Hear in the wind
the bushes sobbing,
it is the sigh of our forebears."

Birago Diop

..................

The "Old House", as we called the Dutton Homeplace, in my lifetime was only inhabited on the ground floor. Sure there was an upstairs, and a staircase to get there, but my Aunt Gladys so zealously guarded that domain, the Tut-like storehouse of the unseen past, that I never managed even to climb beyond the 4th step until after she died.

The steps went up to a landing, then turned and continued up to the upstairs, so from the 4th step you couldn't even see the doors of the upstairs rooms. In each space between the spindles of the banister an odd object had been placed. One of these was a brain coral. I think it's a fossil, but I've never seen another like it.



There are plenty of fossils hereabouts, because Dutton Hill itself, or the limestone of it, is the worn remainder of silts and sands that settled in the shallow sea that once covered this part of the world entirely, back in the period of time, some 360 million years ago, which paleontologists call the 'Mississippian". That sea was home to many peculiar creatures who left their remnants to remind us of our own impermanence, ironically.



There must have been a lot of crinoids, animals that look like lilies crossed with starfish, wafting to and fro in the currents of that long ago sea. If you wade Dry Branch, the seasonal stream fed by Pete's Spring, and the unnamed springs on Gladiators place, and the two springs on Cebah's homeplace, you're sure to find many little stone discs, with a star-shaped hole in the center, through which fairies can be seen if you look the right way. These are segments of the stem-ish part of the crinoid, or sea lily. Here's a rock composed almost entirely of them.


























The ancient sea may have contributed other, less obvious forms in the landscape, such as the geodes, called by a ruder and racist name in my childhood. The details of their formation remain somewhat mysterious, but the current best guess is that they began in a "shallow-burial environment as nodules of anhydrite, which later altered to calcite and/or silica" - said silica likely coming from the dissolution of sponge spicules. The anhydrite "indicates precipitation from anoxic marine waters and evaporitic brines" or to put it another way they are lumps of sea-salt that were pressured into service as rocks by the immense weight of that ancient sea bearing down on them. The outer shell is chalcedony with inclusions of pyrite, the same stuff as one of the walls of heaven if I'm not mistaken. Here's a cracked open one. It's strange to think, when cracking open such a venerable shell that the sea air inside, dispersing at once into the contemporary atmosphere, has been restrained for 360 million years.





(This one, with Hen & Chickens growing in its crevice, is in the dandyland herb garden.)



In some places the mud flats and beaches rose up high enough, long enough, to have amphibians and swampy things - seven foot long centipedes and enormous dragonflies. Amphibian fossils are exceedingly rare, but a five foot long one was found in Kentucky, and our creeks are still home to the 2nd largest salamander in the world, the marvelous Hellbender, with loose black skin like a Shar Pei crossed with a newt. (29 inches) Nowadays the amphibians on Dutton Hill are much shrunk, but still around. There are still adorable tiny black mudpuppies in Pete's Spring, and salamanders, like the one Dave and I found lurking under the old studio. Alas, there are far fewer of them than there were in my youth.















While the salamanders were changing size the silt and mud was compressed into limestone, filled with zillions of little crushed parts of strange things, so much and so many that it formed an immense layer. In time, and there's been plenty of it, the limestone developed fissures and sinkholes and all sorts of cracks and depressions, through which acidic rainwater, made even more acidic by the decay of leaves and tendrils of innumerable plants, filtered down and hollowed out caves and crannies, the which filled with said water, under the earth, where, kept dark and filtered by the limestone, it developed an extraordinary flavor.




This is how The Hill and Pete's Spring was said to be formed, and part of why if you taste the water that pours out from deep within the rock, you will always come back for another.

41 comments:

Cathy said...

This took me back to my Colorado childhood. My brother and I collected petrified wood and coprolites (fossilized dinosaur dung); the former could be found in the Rockies, and the latter, cut and polished, in touristy gift shops. Little chunks of crystallized time!

Dan Dutton said...

I have some pieces of Colorado petrified wood myself ~ picked up on hikes around the Christy place. Coprolites even... hm, perhaps we'll all be part of someone's jewelry in time?

Cathy said...

It's one form of immortality.

SBD said...

I am reduced to complete mush...
this is so evocative...Pete's Spring brings out a memory that is so alive. I often dream of the cowpath through the woods, winding around until the little branch leads to the spring.....sometimes the spring, in my dream, looks like Prewitt's Pond~~~~
When I was a little girl, oh, around maybe ten or so, I would break geodes and pretend a handsome prince was bringing me jewels.....See, what I really want to say is:
in the fertile zone of the imaginary world and atavistic memory, all things are possible...with that grey snakey rock on Dutton Hill, I see a house, ready for a daisy egg breakfast...
do you know what I mean?

Dan Dutton said...

Yes ~ I think that I do know what you mean. Surely our joy in manuevering between the imaginary worlds of little & big, far & near, long ago and someday, is among the most sublime. Viva la imagination!

Isn't it amazing that the dreams evoked by a particular place resonate, through poetry, with other dreamers?

SBD said...
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SBD said...

beautifully spoken

Alan Evil said...

I've always wondered about the geodes. They're so much harder than any of the other rock in the area and they must have been exposed and fallen from the older rock that's worn away. Oddly I don't think I've ever seen anything resembling a geode sticking out of the many cliffs I've climbed.

rama said...
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rama said...

Your work is always evocative! I kept getting lost in memories and had to shake myself back to the line I had been reading.

The first photo of the limestone spine along the hill stirred the memory of legend told to me while I lived amidst the redwoods in the Pacific Northwest. " The before time people heard we were coming. They heard we were coming and laid down. They laid down and their bones became the mountains."

When I die, I want to be a rock, a tree, a cloud.

Mary Beth

Apifera Farm said...

I've been thinking a lot of why I feel the need to document certain things. Or why do we want to document our past family histories. I'm not opposed to it. I've just been thinking more about this, how it becomes more important to us through life [or feel so to me at age 50 now]. Is it that I want someone to remember my things - whne I see people in obituaries that I don't know, or old photos at flea markets, many of them move me. One so much I did a portrait and made a story up about her. Perhaps that is the human connection. We can still touch each other after we're gone.

I don't know, I was just hinking about it -

Dan, someone wrote me about our Pie Day and was talking about the energy of our farm and that day, and she said, "and there was that man walking around and singing and it was so soothing."

Cathy said...

That must have been before he tried to become one with the cool concrete floor.

Dan Dutton said...

He he ~ ok there's me the effect & then there's me, wedged in the frig door, swilling beer & stuffing brownie - that's right, TRYING to survive!

It's strange (or not) you mentioning the need to document family histories, or something that denotes that we lived - because I've been thinking about that all day as I sort old photos and ponder the past. Maybe it's as human as the desire for conversation, not only with friends, but with the imaginary.

Mary Beth your comment reminded me of the rest of the Birago Diop poem ~ I started to quote it in its entirety in the post, but thought the first stanza alone was evocative - here's the first two:

Hear more often things than beings,
the voice of the fire listening,
hear the voice of the water.
Hear in the wind
the bushes sobbing,
it is the sigh of our forebears.

Those who are dead are never gone;
they are there in the thickening shadow.
The dead are not under the earth;
they are in the tree that rustles,
they are in the wood that groans,
they are in the water that runs,
they are in the water that sleeps,
they are in the hut, they are in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

SBD said...

wwwwwwwoooooooooooooowwwwwwww
are we dead or alive here?
Deleting from a blog is THE choice of THEE blogger....the Sarah Palin school of thought doesn't work here!

William said...

Very "interesting." Looks like a "change" has been made.

Cathy said...

Deep?? Try delusional. Sheesh.

The poem is beautiful.

Dan Dutton said...

Sorry guys! Ignore her ~ she's been asked, repeatedly, to stop her very unwelcome attempts to intrude, and apparently she hasn't a molecule of respect for my wishes, or the slightest grasp of common courtesy.

(Hint: if you don't know what that means - it means that when someone tells you that they do not wish to communicate with you in any shape, form or fashion EVER, then you should direct your interests elsewhere and leave people who have asked you to cease and desist harassing them alone. The posting of an author's writing without permission is a violation of privacy and trust, as well as a crime. Shame! Personal communications are a gift, not a commodity for public display.)

This problem originated when I made the naive and now deeply regretted mistake of engaging (briefly) in an email conversation with a stranger who bought a CD several years ago. That ordinary conversation was mistaken by this person as an intimate one, and that delusion grew into an unwelcome harassment.
When she refused to respect my privacy, I asked her to cease and desist (several years ago!) Alas,
apparently she has no intention of quiting. I've decided to ignore it and hope it will go away. Sigh!

I did learn a valuable lesson about not trusting people online. You all know how I love to gab and write - I never dreamed that anything like this 4-some year harassment would be one result of that, but so it is. The up side is that after communicating with hundreds of writers via email, and meeting many wonderful and generous personalities, some of whom have become dear friends, this individual is the only one who has engaged in rude and invasive behavior.

.......and now back to our regular program.

Apifera Farm said...

Let's get it out in the open, Holly.

It's not that 'we don't like you", it's that you are violating clear boundaries that Dan has asked of you.
That upsets us, as we all have real, living, one-on-one friendships in the real world with Dan.

You seem to make a lot of art. Why don't you put all your energies into your art, who knows how far you will go, rather than putting daily attempts into something that is closed to you. If you knew you were going to die next week, would you be trying to be part of this blog group? Isn't life more precious than that?

We all know the entire story, and ALL the details of 'the encounter' at one of Dan's shows. Harrassment is an act of aggression.

Bring people into your world that want to be with you. Quit wasting energy.

Apifera Farm said...

The Diop poem - especially with my thoughts so entwined with my father,
is so wonderful. Thanks for that.

Cathy said...

Katherine is a wise woman. Holly, that's probably the best - and kindest - advice you're going to get.

This obsession with Dan is not bringing you any happiness, and it's terribly disruptive. (Yes, I was at 21C when you got arrested for harrassing him.) Please give it up.

Anonymous said...

I was not arrested for harrassing Dan. I was arrested because I was humiliated and tried to leave 21C at 3:30 a.m. in the morning. They said I was drunk, but I was not. I was embarrassed and wanted to go home. If you know the whole story, then you know about Bob also. Bob approached me and I did not understand so I went to the restaurant and excused myself to Dan and asked if I could see me when he was finished. He said yes. I then went to the bar and then the folks in the bar were harrassing me. They said they were friends of Bob's and they didn't care about Dan. I then tried going back to the restaurant but was blocked. That is all I remembered until I woke up at 3:30 a.m.

Cathy said...

You're missing the point. If you were humiliated, it's because you refuse to acknowledge that Dan doesn't want anything to do with you.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to stay away from Dan. It is like a magnet which pulls me. His words and all his stories. I KNOW he doesn't want to have anything to do with me. That is why I was hiding (trying to.)

Cathy said...

Maybe you need some professional help.

Apifera Farm said...

Holly, I only have time and energy to write one more thing here, as I have many paintings to get to, but my hope is that you can walk away from these recent comments as HELPFUL, not as angry taunts.

It is good you say you know Dan doesn't want to have anything to do with you. Now you've said it, we've all read it here, in writing. Now you can begin to look for ways to find other magnets- your OWN inner magents, not Dan.

Come on, one person can't have that power over you. You just have to find other magnets. Write, draw, create, meet people that are interested in you.

I, and others I think will agree, it's important you understand the gig is up. Dan has asked you to cease, so now we all know you KNOW you have been asked to. One step for you to be free of this 'magnet', as you call it, is to focus your eyes and heart elsewhere. And blossom there.

Good luck to you, Holly.

Holly said...
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Apifera Farm said...

Who ever's magnet it is, Holly, you have been asked not to write him or contact him. It's a boundary issue.
You can't hide any more. We all know now, and weather you feel ashamed or not, it's not the point.

You have been asked not to write or contact him. When you say you know what he says but your heart says differnetly, that is selfish on your part. That is harrassment, it is harrassment at this point.

Don't 'try', just do.

Again, good luck to you-

Cathy said...

Well said, Katherine. Being drawn to a person's work does not give you the right to intrude on that person's privacy, especially when you have been asked repeatedly not to do so.

I wish you luck also, Holly, but please respect Dan's wishes and stop stalking him.

Holly said...
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Mary Beth said...

In reading over the comments, I have come to realize that what I thought was a public forum is a private group.

Please forgive me for being a blog barger and being so excited in finding information on the Dutton Hill Battle that I completely neglected manners and protocol.

Might there be a process by which I could gain permission to lurk in the background? This discussion of documenting family history is an asset in turning my own little scribbles into something worth reading.

If it helps, I'm happily married and have no thorns.

Mary Beth

Apifera Farm said...

Oh I love the insider history you share with Dan on the Dutton place. Please don't go! It's not a private group, it's just it got a out of hand with one person who had been asked not to participate. I for one can say I was thrilled when Dan posted your letter to fill in some blanks about Dutton place's history.

Cathy said...

Me too, Mary Beth! Dan began this as an open blog and only made it private to deal with one bad actor. Please stay and post often.

SBD said...

civilized behavior is always a plus.... Please try to find a way to channel your behavior to make your life complete, and practice being civil to others~~~
Otherwise, life for you will be tumultutous and dreadfully unfulfilling

SBD said...

Mary Beth, I am ON Dutton Hill tonight, we need and want you ( and other sane) folks to join and contribute. It has been Dan's pleasure to have you write and comment

Holly said...
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Mary Beth said...

Has there ever been a project that won't leave you alone? One that rolls and tosses beneath you like a chick struggle to break free of its shell?

I timidly left the world of words for the certainty of a paycheck. My ration mind soothingly murmuring, "Ah but you shape souls and mold lives!"

Twenty years...I don't regret teaching. There is something to be said to planting seeds of hope and creating islands of calm for the refugees of the domestic wars.

Today, setting the stage for THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING, I told my students about growing up in Kentucky. The children were delighted to hear me speak "in my Kentucky voice" and excited to know that the old lady in the illustrations looked like my grandmother.

As we finished the story and our discussion (centering on scarecrows, gardens, and Halloween) one little boy looked up at me, earnestly stating, "You know you Grandma is a spirit now. She's standing right beside you as you read that book. She's real proud of you."

Mercy! Out of the mouths of babes!

I'm pretty doomed to write again aren't I?

Mary Beth

Dan Dutton said...

Mary Beth, if writing such interesting things can be described as a doom, you should have no fear of it! Please continue to honor us with your contributions. Everyone is welcome to comment here as long as they are respectful and don't cross boundaries when they are asked not to.

That is the issue we have been dealing with here of late, and I think now that perhaps it is best if I state my own boundaries clearly, so that there can be no doubt as to what I prefer.

To do so requires me to go back on my word, and I don't like doing that, but here goes - Holly, as you well know, at the point when you defiantly refused to stop sending me emails concerning my personal life, I warned you that if you continued I would cease all communication with you. In spite of being asked to stop, you refused to grant me the privacy and boundaries that I requested, and promptly began a seemingly endless stream of even more inappropriate emails. I considered, and still consider, that act to be an indication that you have no respect for me, much less love and admiration. I regret that you took that step, but step it was, and there is no going back to recover a trust that was broken when you took it. I'm under no obligation to be a saint, and I'm not one - it so happens that that particular boundary crossing is one that has an ultimate significance to me, I guard it for my own protection, and I know what I need to feel secure in my own skin. I harbor no ill will toward you, but in your dealing with me you willfully crossed a line that you were asked not to cross - what's done is done and I have no intention of revisiting it again. In my opinion, it is high time for you to move on and leave me alone. I would advise anyone, myself included, to take the lesson learned in this series of events and apply it to improving future relations with whoever we may happen to meet.

Each human being has the right to determine their own boundaries. Those boundaries do not have to be reasonable to any other person - if someone tells you no - no means no. Every person should know and respect this simple rule. Considering history, I would think that as a woman, you would be particularily keen on upholding this rule. It sets the exact limit of our decency. There are no exceptions that I can think of.

It's not that I don't have empathy for the situation of unrequited love. It's as old as our nature. I've felt desire, even passionate love, for several fine men, and courted some of them to the point of declaring my interest. I have even made the humiliating mistake of imagining that my overtures would eventually be sucessful, ignoring subtle hints that my interest was misplaced, even to the point of making a fool of myself and commiting the unkindness of making another person uncomfortable. I look back at the diplomacy of these gentlemen with some personal shame and regret - in some cases, I stupidly destroyed the potential of a real friendship in blind pursuit of my selfish desire. I can now see that I only proved myself quite unworthy of their affection as a friend, much less a lover.

The truth is that what we feel in our hearts for another is proof of nothing without that person's consent.

The crash of a fantasy of boundless love is sometimes called a heartbreak, but I think in truth nothing but an illusion is broken, and an impediment removed at that, since it is the shattering of such illusions that can lead toward the realization of love where it is truly welcome.
Without learning there is no real development, only the stagnation of repetitive stress.

I have a public life - what I present to others in my work is there for anyone and everyone to enjoy or not, as it may be. That is the gift that I received from others, and that is the gift I try to give to whoever may be there to recieve it. I do a lot of bungling in the process, and I am humbled and abashed that the gift comes through somewhat, if not entirely mangled by my ineptitude. I am determined to do better, hoping to merit the attention that I've been honored to experience in the public forum.

I also have a private life - it's really a tiny thing; as my beloved friend and tea teacher Chisato once told me, when I was struggling in the hopeless attempt to clean up my studio so we could have tea - "It only takes small space." I retain that small space where my imagination can flourish - my friends honor it with their presence on occasion, but basically, for now, it is a state of fertile solitude.

Apifera Farm said...

Mary Beth - that story about the child in your class, ooooohhh, hair stand up moment. I can see you and Dan collaborating somehowfor a class day with Dan...Maybe someday if my donkey book ever gets published you can read it to your class explaining that Dan actually knows the donkeys.
You probably have no idea what I'm talking about. Sorry.

Cathy said...

Well, Mary Beth should remedy that at the earliest opportunity by clicking the Apifera Farm link and reading.

Be warned, though, that you will want to stay a while and read everything.

SBD said...

I cannot speak for all of you but I do think I can speak for most of you,
this exchange has been so enlightening and exciting...
isn't it strange how much we learn from adversity?
I think all of us would sigh( SIGH) in relief if Holly could accept and learn from these comments...
Acts of desperation never yield positive results....
In the spirit of good will, take note, we all have offered some solutions to a very difficult situation....
now is the moment for you( HOLLY) to find peace and release the mental block that is holding you ....

Holly said...
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