By Paula D. Barteau
September 5, 2015
You can see the layers of time here. There are fossils in the rocks, potshards and petroglyphs, collapsing cabins from the homestead era, and the sounds of ATVs and gunfire up and down the road at night. It’s funny what those layers of time tempt you to imagine. People have been talking about their dreams here more than the other sites, talking about the energy, the magic. I felt it too, something about the night air that feels conscious and alive. I’ve attributed the possible creepiness to all the men with guns driving around looking to shoot some animals, but it’s interesting to think of some other kind of presence here and the different ways it might be perceived.
This place reminds me of home. The landscape, the plants, grasshoppers the size of small toads dressed in brilliant motifs. Teri, our guest artist, lead us in a deep listening exercise the second day of camp. I was surprised to find that when I closed my eyes and listened to the landscape I knew almost all the sounds I heard. I was struck the most by the wind, I used to hate the windy season when I was growing up, but I recognized the sound of the wind in the mountains like something very specific from my childhood. It sounded like the voice of home. It's nice to think that home is sentient, that it would be aware of me if I came back.
Before we left, I decided that I wanted to focus on the relationship between anthropomorphism and dehumanization as tools to project values and thoughts onto things outside ourselves while dismissing their actual existence. The idea of a place having some inherent consciousness spoke to this train of thought and I tried to imagine how it would manifest to other people. We think in terms of the things we’re familiar with and the cultural associations that go with them, but there’s so much that no one knows. I tend to think in terms psychology, priming, the physiology of emotional response to external stimuli, suggestibility in groups of people. Others might think in terms of history, or spiritual energy. I talked with a friend once about how chemistry was magic, that magic was not in any way effortless but one of the most tedious subjects to understand. I have another friend who says the same thing about math, that the moment of comprehension of what is actually going on mathematically can be extremely ineffable and personal. I like the idea that magic doesn't depart with mystery, but only starts to reveal itself with incremental understanding.
There are so many things that no one knows, at least no one present; so many things out of the reach of falsification, only accessible through subjective conjecture. I like not knowing. I think a lot of people decide to believe in their subjective conjectures, to feel like they know, people who believe in science and spirits alike. It’s interesting how that happens, what we decide to believe in, and how we cope with dissonance. My favorite coping mechanism is not knowing.