Writing Names in Dust

“Ashes to Ashes.  Dust to Dust.”

I met an Archaeologist recently.

She has been doing “shovel testing”  and has unearthed some ancient artifacts.    One of her most interesting finds to date has been a spear point that is at least 10,000 years old.   She is painstakingly cataloging each tiny bead, each arrowhead, each pottery shard she finds as she scoops earth onto a screen and lets the dust take to the wind.  She told me that during her research, she has found, in addition to small animal and fish bones, the bones of moose..an animal that is rarely seen in this part of the county any more.

The pottery she has found has a name.  It is Brainerd pottery, which I have learned is older than Blackduck pottery.  Each type is unique..with specific markings that make it easy to identify.  She let me hold one of the pieces in my hand.  It wasn’t much to look at….just a piece of gray, dusty earthenware about the size of a book of matches.  But I was connected, for just that moment, to the person who had made the vessel thousands of years ago. I wondered what the vessel had held when it was whole.  Who had stamped the tiny, evenly spaced, marks along the rim?

The shard  I held was unearthed in the front yard  of our cabin at the lake.

Across the road from where the pottery I held was discovered,  there are three unmarked graves on the western bank of the Bowstring River.    The wooden Spirit Houses that once covered them were removed long ago. However,  images of the houses are visible in several photographs kept for generations within my family.  The photos are proof of a final resting place for three people who were born, and then lived, and then didn’t.

What is permanent?  What remains?

A bead here.  A bone there.   An faded, curled photograph.

Sometimes, if we are fortunate, like the Moose…

A Name.

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