In 2005 I found myself passing through Albuquerque and thought I’d stop by the Petroglyph National Monument.
It’s not very big. Maybe at one time it used to be out there, on its own in some pristine setting, but now it’s butt-up against the sprawl of the ever-sprawling city, “adobe” houses on one side, an airport on the other.
The petroglyphs were cool.
Different peoples made the petroglyphs. Some of them are really old, thousands of years old. Who made them? Who knows.
Most of them were made by the Pueblo Indians, four hundred years ago to eight hundred years ago, something like that. The Spanish came in 1540 and, well, you can guess how that went. There was a little “back and forth.” The Spanish made their scratches on the rocks, too. There are no doubt petroglyphs in there made by bored teenagers and ne’er-do-wellers of all races, colors and creeds.
All these layers upon layers of marks on the rocks, all these layers of purposes and intents.
Then you have the National Park Service, adding their own signs, their own layer, highlighting certain rocks, guiding the visitor along the walkway.
I thought I would add my own layer, my own record of my presence upon those same rocks, however ephemeral. But maybe not ephemeral at all. The record of my shadow, here upon the ancient pictures and shapes, upon the signs of people long dead, is already sixteen years old.