Wordie Wednesday: petroglyph

noun

pet·​ro·​glyph | \ ˈpe-trə-ˌglif \

Definition of petroglyph

: a carving or inscription on a rock

It’s strange to think I would never have known about the petroglyphs if I hadn’t taken that left turn. As I stood at the trail fork, trying to decide which way to go, “The Road Not Taken,” the Robert Frost poem, popped into my head:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I know I’m supposed to stick to the marked trail, but that faint pathway through the brush beckoned. Curiosity got the better of me. I chose the path less travelled.

The rock face was not so steep that I couldn’t shuffle down to the water’s edge. Long and sloping, the rock lined the shore and dissolved into boulders under the water. It rose jaggedly off to my left, deep crevices gouging it vertically.

I dropped my pack, pulled out my water bottle and took a long drink. And I listened.

To the starlings cackling in the trees.

To the blip drip of a fish nabbing a waterborne insect close to the surface of the lake.

To . . . the silence.

The late-afternoon sunshine seeped into the dark cracks of my day. Finding some moss in the cracks of the rock, I gathered some to cushion me as I sat by the water’s edge. It’s actually quite comfortable. I dug out a granola bar and scanned my surroundings as I chewed. The rock glistened in the sun, shooting bright sparks as the limestone reflected the rays. I noticed something else, though. Getting up to take a look, I carefully picked my way along the rocky shore strewn with fallen branches, mud and stumps.

And there they were – images scratched out of the bedrock. A turtle, birds, some human-like shapes. Carved by ancient hands. Worn by rain and snow over hundreds of years of exposure, their shapes now little more than grooves in the rock. Sacred.

Touching nothing, leaving nothing, taking no photos, I traced my steps back to the trail, the primal images imprinted on my memory; a message from the ancient ones to us as users and consumers: What is sacred shall remain sacred.

And for me, that has made all the difference.

NOTE: The Peterborough Petroglyphs, proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976, are the largest collection of ancient rock carvings in North America. More than 900 images are carved into crystalline limestone located near Peterborough in Ontario, Canada. Called Kinoomaagewaapkong, which translates to "the rocks that teach," by local indigenous people, who believe that this is an entrance into the spirit world and that the Spirits speak to them from this location.

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