September 26, 2016

For the Creatures of the Desert

By Kaitlin Bryson
Muley Point
September 8, 2016

It was a sweet relief to find myself in the aridity of this Mesa. I have a profound reverence for the old Pinyons and Junipers that populate the complex and complicated soil structure, which the lichens, microorganisms, and sparse rainfalls are slowly constructing. I wandered through the ancient landscape and found the indentations of numerous tinajas (basins) pocketing the sandstone boulders. These pools blossom after a rainfall and provide the desert’s creatures (plants, animals, soilweb, fungi, etc.) with life-giving waters. The observation of this made me reflect on a previous experiment in which I was dragging a large stone behind me in a giant circle as a meditation and dedication to the process of grieving. This action was physically difficult and put me in a trance-like state. Unfortunately, it was also a form a destruction to the ground below. This left me deeply troubled. Once I saw the tinajas, I decided that I wanted to grind the stone down and create a basin with my own hands. It would be an ode to grief, but also make a mark with the potential to hold or foster life, instead of destroy it.
an existing tinaja

I grinded on the sandstone slab for 20 hours over the course of three days. The action was laborious beneath the pounding heat and against the wind, my body folded over in constant effort. And yet, I managed to make a small impression in the sandstone that will hold water and ultimately give life to the creatures of this land. I know that through time and with more rainfall, water will pool in this space and the lichens and innumerable microorganisms will enter and begin to work to make the tinaja wider and deeper, enriching its effect.  

the first hour of work

The work quickly became a constant meditation in which I was able to sift through my grief and also get outside of my normal thinking patterns and instead focus on the abundant life that resiliently resided around me. There are many trees and brush growing directly out of the rocks, windblow on the edge of the cliff. They are dwarfed, maybe growing just a few inches per year.  And yet, they are able to live in this incredibly difficult environment thanks to the community they share with one another, with their ecosystem, as with the ground—the Earth—itself. The plant roots are connected through a symbiotic mycorrhizal network that permeates the soil and sandstone. Because of this partnership the plants are able to get the nutrients that they need from the deeper soils that are composed of more organic matter further north. One thought that came through strongly for me was that this nourishment and support is much like my own grieving and, in a larger sense, like the act of existing. All beings independently occupy their own small corner of space, but all need one another (humans and nonhumans alike) for nutrients, for life, for support.  

the finished tinaja

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