sidebar
Logo Top Banner
Home
slogan Alaska Timeline Alaska Kids About
Peer Work
Family & Community
History & Culture
Digital Archives
Narrative & Healing
Reading & Writing
Libraries & Booksellers
Teaching & Learning
Contact Us

  
Sign up for newsletter
  
Find us on Facebook

Peer Work

Home  >  Peer Work
Configuration
By Carmen Gordon-Rein
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Junior 7-9
Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

Entry from the journal of Carmen Gordon-Rein, Wednesday, December 29, 2016

             Today I climbed to the top of the world and carved "SNIT" into a rock. If someone had asked me why I wrote "SNIT" on a rock on the top of the world, I probably would have shrugged because I was being mysterious and eccentric today. But I had a reason.

            I wrote "SNIT" on the top of the world because I originally meant to write "TINS", but I was upside-down when I wrote the stick of the "T" and then I decided the word would be better if it were oriented the other way, so I drew the cross where the bottom of the line was, from my vantage. I forgot that when you are upside-down you are also backwards, so I ended up with a large "T" at the right-hand end of the space where I had planned to write "TINS". My solution was to go with the flow and write the word backward. "SNIT" is "TINS" written (or scraped) backwards.

            I wanted to write "TINS" on the top of the world because initials and cairns are unoriginal, and because I was being eccentric and mysterious today. I built a cairn anyway, but at least it was a cairn that was a thumbs-up and a tooth and a middle finger aimed at the sky. I made a cairn flipping the sky off at the top of the world because I could and because I am an angry teenager.

            I wanted to write "TINS" specifically on the top of the world because it stands for: There Is No Spoon. Because there isn't.

            Before carving "SNIT" into the top of the world, I carved "ACS". I forgot until after I'd carved it that ACS also stood for Alaska Communication Systems. A telephone company. I carved "ACS" because I hadn't thought to carve "TINS" yet, and because I wasn't about to carve my initials into stone, so I chose instead to carve the first initials of my friends. They would never be here, I thought. ACS would never be here, either, I thought. By carving those letters, I brought them to a place where they would never be. That was a little magical, I thought.

 

...

 

            I should clarify. The previously mentioned "top of the world" is not actually the top of the world. I didn't climb Mt. Everest or anything. I just clambered up a random hill at the top of a cairn-led hike on the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez. I call it the "top of the world" because that sounds better than "random hill in the Sea of Cortez". Although, to be fair, it was a pretty damn cool-looking hill.

            The hill was made up of large boulders with flat sides and dull edges, and they were dark orange and red and perched in a way which suggested the entire ensemble might come clanging down at the tempting of a feather. That was another thing. They clanged when we struck them, they did not knock or thud. And they were very structurally integral and did not shift when I climbed them.

            The hike which led up to the precarious rock heap that was the top of the world was situated in a fairly stereotypical Baja-side-of-the-Sea-of-Cortez bay. That is, if there were stereotypes for such things, this bay would be one. It was called Bahia Concepcion, and and the cove where our ketch was anchored was called Coyote Cove. On the way up I had "This Little Light of Mine" in my head, timed to my steps. On the way down it was the wordless section of "Deck the Halls". At the precipice I was thinking "I'm on top of the world, eh".

            On the way up, I had the camera and so I was taking pictures. I was trying not to take pictures of obvious things. Once, I stopped at a place with a good view of the crescent bay to fix my bandana. I stopped there so I could stand on a flat clump of mineral which was too large to be a rock and too small to be a boulder. Someone had built a smallish cairn on the edge of the rock-boulder, so most of the surface was clear. It was out of the way, past prickly bushes, so I doubt the remaining surface was intended to be stood or sat upon. I stopped there because the cairn (while prominently and well-placed) looked small and lonely, and because in that moment I wanted to be a cairn too. So I was a cairn while I stood and fixed my bandana.

            While I was busy being a cairn and fixing my headpiece, my mother came up to me, and looked at me looking to the view and looked at the view. She had her hands on her hips. She said, "Take a picture," and she sounded a little annoyed and a little bossy. I said, "No," in a voice that was a little floaty and a little thoughtful and far-away. I knew it would annoy her but I didn't care. She said, "Why?". I said, "Because it isn't original," then I turned and scampered up the trail.

 

...

 

            We tend to hike in formation, with Mom, Dad, and Richard in a shifting cluster and me usually up in front. I would say I was leading, exploring, discovering. My brother would say I was bear-bait. This is because we are from Alaska. Here in Mexico, I suppose I am snake-bait.

            I am not sure what to make of our configuration, or if anything should be made of it at all. I have several theories, but all seem shallow and mundane and none seem especially eccentric or mysterious at the moment. It is still today, so I am still trying to be eccentric and mysterious.

            Regardless, because I was at the head of the pack, I was technically the one who lost the trail on the way down. Actually, lost may not be the best word. It was a simple matter of ceasing to follow the piles of rocks and following instead what appeared in any given moment or crossroads to be the best way down. The rest followed because that was what they were used to. They followed because not following would be the same as leaving me behind, even though I was the one doing the leaving. They followed because even if I was the runt of the pack, I was going ahead and we were and are a unit so we must only go where the others can and will follow.

            Because I was at the head of the pack I was technically the one who lead us to the petroglyphs. They were in the last leg of the non-trail. Or the first leg, depending on how you were counting. There were many. Because there were so many, someone said, "They [the ancient carvers] must have been here for hundreds of years!". Dad made a joke about it being that or one very prolific man. He pronounced prolific wrong.

            I asked Richard about the difference between petroglyphs and hieroglyphs. He told me the term petro referred to pictures whereas hiero referred to words or writing. He then continued rambling with a mnemonic device which I was not listening to.

            Petroglyphs are ancient pictures. This means they tell ancient stories. Hieroglyphs, as ancient words, could be statistics or names or calendars or anything. But pictures always tell stories, even if the meanings are lost.

            There were a few carvings of which we were fairly certain were fish, and some were probably-bugs, but the stories could be innumerable and infinite. Mom suggested jokingly that one was a rocket, and it could've been, but she was thinking too modern and familiar and material. Too easy.

            It could be the path to the answer.

            It could be what love or fear or guilt looked like.

            It could be a wave "hello" or a wave "goodbye" or a wave from an ocean or a lake.

            It could be the truth or a lie.

            It could be anything. It could be A. N. Y. T. H. I. N. G.

            And we will never know.

            To me, it is the conviction to carve all of those stories into stone. I think it is one prolific man, one prolific woman, one prolific child and the prolific, persevering pertinence which they spell out in an eternal language for future eyes to decipher. To me that is a little magical. To me, that is all they need to be.




 


sidebar
  Contact Us       LitSite Alaska, Copyright © 2000 - 2017. All rights reserved. University of Alaska Anchorage.
University of Alaska Anchorage