This mound of dirt and the summer are heirs to transfer from what lies before and what lies behind, pinch by pinch. Of the mound, she keeps a record. The point, the students have been assured, is not to find objects. Their object is to understand the ground. What water did with it, when. how often earthworms combed and cast it. Whether it was tilled or thrust aside, which seeds lay in it, which pollens settled. When it's too dark to dig, she makes a tent of reading assignments. A chapter on similarities between spear points unearthed in Virginia and Soultrean points in Spain, both kinds wrought as though for beauty and cached in heaps of red ocher. Another book invites her to peer at the keyhole shape of a bone the size of her index finger, engraved these ten thousand years with forty strokes-- fourteen, eight, eleven, then seven--and polished. A tally, a game, the score? We'll never know. And here's a review of arguments about a broken rock that might have been bashed into useful shape deliberately, with another rock, by some original axe-making biped, or might be a geofact, a tease, a found axe--or no tool at all. She douses the light and all the words disappear. Morning, back to the mound. It's two mounds now; she knows it halfway through, its wayward layers, silky and barren or matted with nutrients, heavy clay, a thousand shades of brown. She sees it with her eyes shut, with her palms, sometimes tastes it. Leaves the flints and bones to thrill-seekers and visionaries. Dirt answers her questions. She has dug past any props or plots or characters to the stuff all stories walk on
From Mount Clutter by Sarah Lindsay, published by Grove/Atlantic. Copyright © 2003 by Sarah Lindsay. Reprinted by permission of Grove/Atlantic. All rights reserved.