Friday, June 19, 2015

Petroglyphs Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

We took a day-trip out to Petroglyphs Provincial Park, an experience I'm still processing.

No pictures, however, as per the injunction. Walking toward the building that now protects these ancient carvings from the elements, it seemed the least we curious two-faced interlopers could do was turn off our cell-phones and leave the cameras pocketed.

We were fortunate to catch the coat-tails of a tour receiving a lecture from one of the park guides. The explicit significance of the petroglyphs, to the people who carved them, and the people who now return to them on various sacred quests, is a matter of considerable debate, as well as meditation and mediation.

The Ojibwe Learning Place on-site refers to the petroglyphs as "the teaching rocks." Many of them appear to refer to agricultural, medical, and life-cycle practises. Viewing these through my usual haze of poorly negotiated Anabaptist/not-so-Post-Modernist sensibilities, I was struck by just how deeply ingrained these indigenous concepts must have been. The people who gave shape to their expression worked with diligent observation of the materials at hand and the space they were in.

To give just one example, there is an indentation at the top of the slope where iron is clearly an element among the soft marble. When the snows melt, the sediment turns red, and runs in a rivulet down a narrow crevice on the face of the slope. The petroglyph carved on either side of this rivulet/crevice appears (at a superficial reading) to depict the menstrual cycle -- an apt metaphor for spring.

This "white" boy, the father of daughters, was struck by the obvious veneration these people had for what is truly elemental to human existence. I can't begin to contrast this with our culture's squeamishness toward the subject. We seem to be profoundly alienated from something (here's that word again) elemental. That can't be healthy.

More to be said, I'm sure -- or left unsaid, perhaps. It is a place well worth one's consideration.


DarkoV said...

I'd love to use the word "ironic" for the menstrual flow petroglyph, but it would be inappropriate and worthy of a Lit Technique Fine, payable upon exiting this comment.

Darrell Reimer said...

We'll have none of your metaphallic thinking here, DarkoV.