ROBERT WALLACE PAOLINELLI
My name is Sardonios. Yes, I know it's an odd name; nevertheless, that's my name; it is an old and honorable name which I carry with great pride. Although I have a Greek name, I am not a Greek, nor of Greek extraction; it is simply a fact of my life and that's that. I am forever amused that my name would make people always ask me if I am Greek. How odd, that people are so interested in knowing one's ethnic origin. Be that as it may, I had a most interesting exchange a while back with a rather stuffy Englishman. Admittedly he was a good-intentioned chap, warm in his own convoluted way. I have to give him credit where credit is due. I don't want to give the impression that I'm bad mouthing the stuffy Englishman, whom I'll call Herbert; it's a rather English name; he was a Londoner and was about sixty or so years old. He was in no way a stereotypic "Colonel Blimp," but more like a Terry Thomas without a sense of humor. We had our exchange in San Francisco and then, later in Nevada.
In San Francisco, Herbert was talking about art, taking the stand that art was definable, and that he knew the difference between good art and bad art and non-art. Well, I was immediately put off and, I did not wish to engage in such a tried, old polemic, when all of a sudden my friend, Robair, walked into the cafe. I was both saved and surprised.
"Robair!" I called out, waving my hand. He came like a white knight to my rescue. We'd not seen each other in ages. Robair does not live in San Francisco any more, and his visits were rare. "Just the man I was looking for," he said, coming up to me with open arms. I got up and hugged him. We've been friends for many years and we've suffered and rejoiced together and we've been broke together through the years. "I went to your room, but the manager said you'd gone out and I took a chance hoping you'd be at the old haunt. I was right in coming here."
"It must have been destined," I said, "sit down, join us, I want you to meet Herbert Fitzmorgan.
The three of us ordered beers and large sandwiches. Robair and Herbert became fast friends and soon these two were having the very argument I'd hoped Robair's unexpected, salvatorial arrival would prevent; but it had only postponed it long enough for us to eat half a sandwich each, and swill half our beers.
There was nothing to do, I sat there and heard the same old arguments I'd heard for the past thirty plus years. There is no answer to this question. I was about to suggest the subject be changed, when Herbert changed it unintentionally, when as part of his argument, he gave an example of North American petroglyphs. My friend, Robair, is an authority on petroglyphs, that is why he lives in Carson City. And soon, Herbert having an interest in such things, was on another track and I was glad for it. My long association with Robair made me well acquainted with petroglyphs, and I've been on a couple of field trips with him. Now I was pleased stuffy Herbert had been lured away from that old question about art and non-art, which is unanswerable.
We finished our sandwiches, toasted with our beers, then took out our smokes and lit up, but not before we ordered three black coffees with a touch of vov.
And, as we sat smoking, I asked Herbert: "Herbert, why is it important to you to define what art is or is not? I find it rather strange--if not amusing--that something so vastly over-rated is spoken about with such passion. Art shouldn't arouse any notions about quality, when it is based solely on subjective observation and opinion."
The look on Herbert's face reflected a slight shock; a mild incredulity swept over him and he cocked his head and squinted at me. "Did you say art was vastly over-rated? My good fellow, you have just put into question the aesthetics of the Western world--for that matter, the world of art universally. And not to deem art important--well--I am shocked that you, of all people, should even think of such a thing. And yes, I speak of it with passion. I know what I know and, excuse me for being so blunt, Sardonios, but you do not know whereof you speak. Art is important, for it is the divider between the cosmopolite and the herd; it is our aesthetic link to the past and keeps us aware of art's long and glorious history." He sat back smugly in the booth.
"What a lot of balderdash and rot. Stuff and nonsense. You sound like an introduction to a college art book--and what you've said is undemocratic: '...the divider between the cosmopolite and the herd.' That smacks of an elitism which is unworthy of a man who truly loves liberty. You sound like a pompous old fuddy-duddy at some afternoon tea."
"I don't take kindly to your calling me names, but since I know what kind of a man you are, I'll let it go because I know, as you Americans say--you always shoot from the hip--I rather like that term, what. Nonetheless, as I was about to say, an understanding of art is the indicator of a person's character, upbringing and education. Why I can't imagine anyone--least of all you, Sardonios, holding to such ignorance."
I laughed and retorted: "That just goes to show how much you don't know about me. I guess our mutual friend, Sir George, never mentioned that I am an iconoclast of the first order. You hold that art is some high place where only the cognoscenti can trod, and I hold that your argument is specious and sophomoric. How can form, color, subject, material--how can any of these have an aesthetic value when there is no agreement on what all these elements mean individually, or, when they are combined?"
"What agreement is needed? We all know who the great artists are. Why anyone who has the slightest knowledge knows how great Michelangelo is and Caravaggio and Rubens and Picasso and Kandinsky--we've only to look back a hundred years with thousands of tangible demonstrations of 'agreement,' to use your term."
"Herbert, I can't believe what I'm hearing. You banter words like a cat swatting a mouse. Thus far, you've said a lot and have said nothing--just that so and so is great, as if great really meant something."
About this time Herbert started to bluster and turn red and I thought he was going to have a fit and I was prepared to rush to the telephone and call 911; but he took a sip of coffee and regained his composure.
"You have absolutely no artistic or aesthetic values, Sardonios, You are worst than a barbarian, You are a...a...a...I don't know what to call you, perhaps an aestheticsless relativist."
"An 'aestheticsless relativists?' Herbert, you give me greater status than I deserve. How can I be such a definition? Who are the barbarians, and how can anything I say be relative? Relative to what?"
"My God, man," he said, in an agitated voice, "you are either completely insensitive to the subtler things of life, or, you are playing a damn good game of devil's advocate." He was serious.
That's when Robair stepped in. "Herbert, I've known Sardonios for more years than I can remember and I can tell you flat out, he's not an aestheticsless relativist, and, he's certainly not playing the devil's advocate. He believes every word he says. I know, and, he's not playing mind games with you, either. And since I've put my two cents in, I'd like to say that you have a way of saying things which seem to have substance on the surface, but are lacking utterly in substance. Art may seem to be a lot of things to you, but it doesn't mean a damn thing to Sardonios. You can talk until you're blue in the face, and you'll get no where with him. I can't say that I disagree with all of what he says; but I sure can understand his point of view. Listen: I've spent the better half of my adult life ferreting out petroglyphs. I've photographed them, drawn them, classified them and written books about them and I have lectured on them. But you know what? They don't mean anything--no one can read them. Oh, we can see images with which we are familiar, birds, deer, bears, stickmen and the like, but they don't mean anything except to the people who scratched them onto the rocks. They only have value because I give them value merely to please my insatiable curiosity about them. So whether or not you hold art and aesthetics in such high esteem, ultimately means nothing."
"I can't believe this is happening to me," Herbert said, shaking his head and lighting up one of his Senior Service. "Here I am in, in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world with any number of fine art museums, art schools and a plethora of artists, and I marvel to think that in the midst of all of this, I am flanc en flanc with two men completely void of any understanding of one of the greatest contributions and definers of civilization, to wit, sirs, Art. Never in my wildest thoughts could I imagine myself confronted by such base ignorance about something so obvious. Really, both of you amaze me," he said, with an emphasis on the "amaze."
Robair and I turned to each other and burst into laughter. Herbert sat, his vision transfixed about three feet in front of him and three feet up. He had the look of an impatient parent waiting for his naughty children to quiet down.
I couldn't help liking the guy for how he stood his ground. His British adamancy endeared him to me--even if I didn't like his narrow view of the universe.
Herbert took our laughing astride and to acknowledge no hard feelings. I ordered another round of beers and we fell to small talk and it was then that I learned the reason for Robair's rare visit to San Francisco, a place he avoided at all costs--so it must be a very important reason--and I was right. He said:--
"Professor Waldtraude Von Salis, a Swiss archaeologist and petroglyphologist, who has never been to America, is arriving." He went on to say that she'd read several of Robair's papers and his book and that she had written to him. She had made a study of petroglyphs all over Switzerland and Bavaria; she'd tramped the Australian outback searching out and studying petroglyphs, and had even made a trek to Tassili n' Ajjer, in Algeria. She'd always wanted to do some field work in the United States, so she wrote to Robair asking if he would have the kindness to show her some sites and exchange notes with her.
"She's arriving at San Francisco International in about three hours. I'm going to pick her up and go directly back to Nevada--so my visit with you can only be for an hour or so more," said Robair.
I was sorry to hear that; but I got a brainstorm. I turned to Herbert: "Herbert, didn't you tell me you wanted to go up to Lake Tahoe and try your luck at the tables?"
"Quite so. I did say that."
"So why don't we go up there behind Robair, place a few bets, then go spend some time with Robair and the Swiss professor?"
"But won't he mind" he said, turning shyly to Robair, "our barging in on him and his learned guest?"
"I won't mind at all, Herbert. I was about to suggest something like that myself," said Robair.
"Excellent!" I exclaimed, and Herbert beaming said, "A jolly good idea, and I want to thank you both for the consideration you have shown me."
"It's my pleasure," said Robair. "You two hang out at one of the casinos and when you get tired of the noise and the crowds, swing on down my way--there's plenty for my guest to study close to home, so we'll be in and out. You know the way, Sardonios, and you can let yourselves in and make yourselves at home."
"Most excellent," ejaculated Herbert. "I'm certainly having a bit of an adventure on my American holiday. It's so good of you to allow me to be a guest in your home, Robair. You Americans are certainly a hospitable lot."
Herbert and I made the rounds of the casinos and even took a boat ride all over Lake Tahoe. Midlake, I remembered Robair's words about getting tired of the noise and the crowds; and with the lake's wind blowing in my face and with a warm sun on my sleeveless arms and the gentle knock of the wavelets on the hull of our boat, I wanted to leave the gaming areas and take refuge in Robair's place, where I'd not been for a very long time.
I broached the subject to Herbert. He jumped at the suggestion, admitting that the casino crowds had caused a buzzing in his head. We checked out of our rooms and, a short drive later, we were in Robair's driveway, in Carson City. There was a note on the door: "We've gone to Wabuska. Be back around sunset. Cold beer and roast in the frig. Enjoy. Robair."
"Now that's the kind of hospitality that endears one to one's host," said Herbert almost solemnly, after he had read the note.
The beers were indeed cold and the leftover roast was a leg of lamb cooked with plugs of garlic and rosemary with pepper and salt. We found a setting for two already laid and another note saying where the bred was kept.
I took a nap on the porch couch, and Herbert settled in with Robair's tomes of petroglyphs inside.
It was Robair's gentle shake of my shoulder which waked me. He was dressed in an old pair of twill pants with high-topped boots. Around his neck dangled a camera and a lensatic compass, the kind surveyors used to use.
Just behind him stood a petite woman around forty-five years old or so, dressed similarly as Robair; but around her neck was a small pair of binoculars, the kind opera goers use. She had sandy colored hair, light brown eyes and a friendly smile on her face. For a moment, after my gentle wakening, my eyes and hers met and it seemed I already knew her and Robair's formal introduction seemed superfluous.
The four of us sat out on Robair's patio drinking pink lemonade and getting acquainted. Waldtraude and Herbert, who asked if he could practice his German with her, got along quite well. He could speak pretty good German, but not as good as mine; but I didn't let either of them know I could understand them because I prefer (above all the languages I know) to speak English. Nonetheless, we all got along marvelously and when Herbert went into the house for his pipe, I asked Waldtraude to tell us about her trip to Tassili n' Ajjer. She opened up immediately and waxed prolific on her finds, observations and conclusions about her work there. I was fascinated. She was a good speaker and I listened to her with great interest. One of her observations she touched on was that in most every place she'd found petroglyphs, whether in Europe, Africa, Australia or elsewhere, she saw that there was always a petroglyph with a circle with a dot in the middle; sometimes this appeared as a square with a dot in the middle. This motif seemed to be universal, and its significance obvious. She said she was convinced this particular symbol was archetypal and not a contrived symbol; that it manifested itself through the collective unconsciousness. Herbert seemed baffled by her otherwise clear explanation, so he had her repeat her statements in German for further clarification. He seemed to get the drift of what she was saying and then she went on to say that Robair told her he had found several such petroglyphs and would show them to her.
"I invite both of you to come along," said Robair. He was like that. "I've got my camper shell and it sleeps three and we can toss for an air mattress outside."
"I'll volunteer for under the stars," I said.
"And I'll join you," said Herbert, enthusiastically. "You Americans do things with such alacrity--at the drop of a hat, as you say--your language certainly reflects that, too. Interesting idiom, that, if I do say so."
"Ah," said Waldtraude, "those are exactly the things I enjoy talking about, sir: How language corresponds to cultural outlook, dynamic and dialectic. I think, gentlemen, you shall have a third party under stars--and, Herbert, if you don't mind me calling you by your Christian name, we can have a long examination of this very important topic you have brought up."
"I don't mind Herbert at all; but what I don't understand is what you've just said about cultural correspondence and dialectic and all that."
"Well, Herbert, it's quite simple," she said: "Language doesn't grow in a vacuum; it springs from humanity itself; and humanity is split up into many cultural and linguistic groups, and each of these groups--tribes, if you will--has its own dynamic which is either shaped according to the development of the cultural consciousness or shaped by the evolvement of its language or both simultaneously and symbiotically, including the evolvement of the dialectic. As I said, it's all so simple."
Herbert looked uncomfortable and he fidgeted in his chair; and I knew he didn't understand a word she'd said. He could really be obtuse at times; nevertheless, he was honest and the next thing he said was: "I'm afraid you have me completely baffled, Dr. Von Salis. I haven't a clue as to what you are talking about. I think you shall be a little disappointed in anything I might say on such an esoteric subject."
"Come, come, Herbert; it's not as esoteric as all that. I can explain it all in five minutes--but let's wait for our trip," and turning toward Robair she said, "If my good host doesn't mind, I'd like to volunteer as cook's helper tonight, if someone else will cook," she said with an impish wink toward Robair, who smiled.
"What an amusing way to say one is hungry--simply delightful," said Robair. "Forgive me, dear guests, but I've been having such a pleasant and interesting time in your company that I've neglected my duties as host. I'll take you up on your offer, Waldtraude; and if any one else wants to help, we can eat in about an hour or so."
"Righto," called out Herbert. "I can handle a little kitchen fatigue. Lead on sir, lead on."
The night air was warm and we ate outside. The four of us had managed to create a feast. With Robair as our leader, we were able to bring together a large salad, macaroni prepared with mushrooms, cheese and butter; canned salmon omelets, which Waldtraude insisted on making, and they were perfect and delicious. We had wine or beer and for dessert we had coffee and some Danish butter cookies.
I was tired and withdrew early to shower, write in my journal and be alone for a while before I went to sleep. I sat in bed in my pyjamas and listened to the crickets and shut the light off. The house was quiet. I could hear muffled voices from the patio; that was reassuring, I closed my eyes and assuming a comfortable position, slowly fell asleep.
The next morning after breakfast, we helped Robair load gear and food into his camper for a three day field trip.
Once we got into the Pyramid Lake area, Robair didn't stay on the main road; instead, he took a dirt track, northeast. We traveled, maybe, ten miles over a washboard road with plenty of protruding rocks and kidney shaking pot holes. But at the end of the road, Robair had brought us to a still, stark place, filled with basalt boulders, but nonetheless, serene, timeless; and for a long time none of us spoke as we stood in awe of this most primitive of places, with its rugged beauty and mystical quiet.
We were on high ground looking down into a broad valley which made me immediately think of a sea; and, as it turned out, I was right, for Robair told us that millions of years ago (I can't remember how many millions of years ago) this valley was a sea and further down were prehistoric marine fossils all over. "And up here," he pointed to a boulder strewn hill, "are the other fossils--the petroglyphs. Come on, I'll show you some very interesting ones."
We hiked over the boulders and in between them for about a hundred yards straight up. Robair stopped us and pointed. We followed his pointing arm and finger. On a flat surface we saw an outline of a bird with out-spread wings and next to it the profile of what seemed like a mountain goat with curved horns. Waldtraude and I took pictures. Robair guided us up a few more yards and stopped. He pointed; our eyes followed his direction: On the flat surface of a stela-like boulder, that by some means had split in two, we saw a clearly outlined uroborous, a snake with its tail in its mouth.
Waldtraude clapped her hands together and exclaimed: "Incredible! Simply incredible!" She took out her sketch book and, with an extra fine-tipped pen, drew the uroborous with great precision.
She and Robair then got into a conversation which I missed because I walked down the slope and scouted out a couple more petroglyphs and called up to the others. What I'd found was the other half of the broken natural stela, which had fallen face up, and on it was a parade in file of warriors with bows and spears in their hands; and leading them was a large feline, perhaps a mountain lion or panther.
Waldtraude was in her glory. She ooed and ahed and took out her sketch book and in a few minutes meticulously reproduced the cat and men with fine black lines, then sat down and took several photographs. "Why haven't I seen these in your books?" she asked Robair.
"Because I haven't published any of them. They are a special find, and I've not yet finished cataloguing them. In all my years of study I find the petroglyphs in this area the most intriguing and extraordinary images I've ever run across. They have--as far as I can see--no relationship with any others I've looked at. Come with me, I'll show you what I mean.
We followed him up what seemed to be a deeply worn runoff channel. It made a natural path for us. The climb was not easy and twice we rested. It got pretty steep near the top; but once there, there was a ledge about sixteen by sixteen or so; it seemed out of place on this hill of boulders. A basalt wall was filled with petroglyphs. We all stood in breath-taking wonder at this mural, for many of the images had been painted after they'd been scratched onto the basalt, and the colors were still sharp blues and reds, yellows and white. At first there didn't seem to be any order that I could see, but Robair started to point out the "story" as it were: Dome-shaped huts, some on fire; bodies with arrows and spears in them lay about; there were animals, bovine-like creatures with long horns, men were riding them and shooting arrows at the people of the dome huts; another scene showed two groups of warriors, infantry, if you will, with spears, clubs or swords, it was hard to tell which, engaged in battle. The men in the army of bovine-mounted archers were arrayed in three disciplined ranks, whereas the group (obviously the dwellers of the huts) were simply collected in an unorganized group.
"The question which needs to be answered," said Waldtraude out loud to no one in particular "is, did the conqueror inscribe this or did the vanquished leave it as the history of the attack?'
"That's the very question I asked my self," answered Robair, "and I have a funny feeling it's the vanquished."
"Hmm," she said, "something tells me you are right--but I can't say why."
"Yep, I know exactly what you mean because I've had the same feeling. Odd, don't you think so?"
"Odd, indeed, odd indeed," she responded, as if preoccupied, as she snapped several photographs.
It was now past noon and I was all in favor of taking advantage of the ledge and drinking some coffee and eating. Robair pulled out his large thermos and we had a simple lunch of sandwiches we'd brought along, some dried fruits and nuts and a good cup of coffee which I always enjoy.
As per my habit, I withdrew to the other side of the mural and took an after lunch nap. Moreover, I was tired from the up hill hike and I fell asleep immediately. While I slept, I had a very strange dream:--
I found myself in a dreamscape of domed huts and they were aflame; archers riding bull-like animals were shooting their arrows into panicky women and men. I was like an outsider looking in; I could see the disciplined ranks of warriors felling the unorganized people of the village. I was neither afraid nor anxious, for I knew I was in no danger. I looked up and I could see the hill where I knew I was sleeping. I looked around and saw that the action was taking place where three gigantic boulders were positioned in a triangulation--whether by design or natural occurrence, I could not tell. The fight was still on. Then I became aware that in spite of the flames, the clash of arms and the screaming, my dream was mute; and on that recognition, I awoke.
My companions had followed my lead and were all in the shade of the mural, also taking a siesta. I decided to climb a little higher and observe the valley below with my binoculars, and finding a comfortable spot, I looked into the valley trying to imagine what it must have been like when it was a prehistoric sea. It must have been huge, for the valley was vast and deep, and so too must have been that ancient sea.
Being an inveterate fisherman myself, I played with my imagination and, as I scanned the area with my binoculars, I imagined myself a fisherman, the first human being in these parts to have conceived of the act of fishing by means other than one's hands or with a spear; in my imagination I had contrived a pole, some line and a pointed piece of bone onto which I'd impaled a chunk of meat. I daydreamed a dramatic catch, hauling out a kind of fish, something like a sturgeon. My mind was thousands of years away from me, but my eyes were examining the land. In my traversing, I spied a peculiar rock formation: A triangulation of huge stones--and then it hit me, the stone triangulation of my siesta dream!
I'm ever the foolish romantic who takes dream images seriously and tries to connect them to something in my daily life which might correspond to the dream image. (That has 1ot me into some hot water and tight fixes in the past, but I never change, and I have remained a romantic). The rocks resembled the ones in my dream, and in my fancy I was certain, that in that area was the evidence to prove the existence of the destroyed, prehistoric village as depicted in the petroglyph mural and re-echoed in my dream.
I was thrilled at my fantasy. I put my binoculars away, and made my way back down to my comrades-in-petroglyphs, who were awake and had begun to wonder about me. I told them about my dream and about having seen the lithic triangulation from above. Herbert smiled as if taking pity on an idiot, but Waldtraude was beaming. "Marvelous, I love such associations; Dr. Jung, whom I knew personally, would have been most impressed, Sardonios. Robair," she said, turning to our guide, "do you think we could drive to the triangle and do a little superficial observation? There just might be something to his remarkable dream."
"I don't see any reason not to," he said. Robair is always so accommodating and that's why we've been good friends for such a long time. "Let's go up, and, Sardonios, you show me the spot and I'll pinpoint it on my map." We did just that. At my former lookout point, he spread a 1:25000 map out, oriented it, and with his lensatic compass shot an azimuth, drew a light penciled line on his map corresponding to the azimuth. "Good, that spot's just a couple of miles off this depression," he said, pointing with his pencil point to the map. "The terrain's pretty rough. We may have to park the camper and go it shank's mare."
"Okay, by me, Robair."
We waited for Professor Von Salis to finish her drawing of the mural; she was quite good. I took pictures of her drawing and took some pictures of Herbert looking very seriously at the mural and shaking his head as if in disbelief of something.
Robair was right about the terrain; it did get rough; but we had a stroke of good luck, too; an arroyo, which was not on the map, branched off and we were able to use it as a road and when it rose up and ended, we found ourselves on the valley floor. We stopped and looked up and could see where we'd been and it seemed so far away. Robair stopped the camper, took out his map and compass and shot another azimuth, then drew a corresponding line on the map and where the line he'd drawn previously at the lookout point, and the new line intersected, was our destination. "It won't be long now," said Robair, as he put away his navigation gear.
The long shadow of the camper preceded us. It was like an arrow pointing us to our destination. I had my binoculars trained due east. The sun being behind us, I had lots of light and at last, when we mounted a rise, I was able to see the triangulation about three-hundred yards away. "There they are!" I shouted, and every body craned his neck.
The last hundred yards or so were relatively smooth and we pulled up and got out and looked at the massive boulders, They must have been twenty or more feet high and the bases about fifty feet around. From the mountain lookout, they had not seemed so huge; up close, however, they were colossi.
We walked all around and then Herbert cried out, "Look!" He was ahead of us and I saw him pointing to the base of the stone facing north. We rushed to his side. What his finger pointed to was the unmistakable form of the bovine-like creature we'd seen on the mural; and on the beast's back was an archer! And there were stick drawings of bodies lying about with arrows in them. Waldtraude and Robair looked at each other very seriously for a long time. Then suddenly, they both burst into laughter and, opening their arms, they turned to me and hugged me and said I was the discoverer of a most important find in the history of North American archaeology, anthropology, petroglyphology and, added, Waldtraude, "The history of consciousness."
"I imagine a celebration is in order, said Herbert."
"Indeed, indeed, a celebration and you will also be celebrated, Herbert Fitzmorgan; after all, you were the first to find the confirmation," said Robair, dropping me and giving Herbert an unexpected bear hug. We all joined hands and danced in a circle like children. When our euphoria had abated, we examined the other domes for petroglyphs, but only the one Herbert had discovered was to be seen.
We were elated but tired, and we agreed to make camp. Herbert and I collected what brushwood and wood we could find and dragged it back to our camp site. On our third trip, we found a half buried log, we rocked it back and forth a couple of times to loosen the earth's grip on it, then we pulled it out. We had a time with it, but eventually got it out. I noticed as we pulled it out the log was black as if it had been burned; and the portion we'd found on the surface was not. I didn't pay any mind to it until we got back to camp and I was about ready to saw it into logs for our night fire, when something made me call Waldtraude Von Salis. I showed her the charred log and told her, "Could it be possible that this is a piece of the frame of one of the burning huts in the mural?"
She furrowed her brow and pursed her lips and stared at the specimen, touching it and mumbling something in German to herself as she examined the wood closely. Lifting her head she looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Sardonios, I think you and Herbert have done it again. Robair, Robair!" she called out.
As we afterwards sat around our night fire with the preserved specimen of burnt frame standing out in the leaping orange flames, I couldn't help feeling proud that I had had a part in finding a great mystery. And while in that frame of mind with my spirit elated, I turned to Herbert and said, "Herbert, we must collaborate on a book."
"Well, I'm not much one for writing. I do manage a letter or two when necessary, but I've no talent, otherwise. And, besides, what would we say? Frau Doktor Von Salis and Robair are the experts. It is with them you should collaborate," he said, smiling condescendingly in the direction of those he'd just named.
"Now, now, Herbert," said Waldtraude, None of us are experts. This discovery is not yet excavated and examined and analyzed. No one, except ourselves, knows of its existence--so there is no expertise. No matter what body of knowledge we may have about similar phenomena, we can't presume to use it as some basis for comparison. Each discovery must be treated as a unique entity. True, we can apply certain accepted technologies and techniques in terms of excavation, preservation and the like, but the artifacts, symbols and chards must be examined for what they are, and only after an exhaustive examination can we speculate on whether they relate to some other find. That, sir, is good archaeology and good sense. What I think Sardonios meant when he suggested collaboration, was a putting down of one's immediate impressions and thoughts when confronted with his extraordinary dream come true. It is positively fantastic that he should have had that dream and that both of you, amateurs, have been twin instrumentalities in this discovery. In other words, the collaboration would be more of an emotional, poetic exposition than a scientific one. Isn't that so, Sardonios?"
"Yes, yes. You've hit the nail on the head. Those were my sentiments exactly and you expressed them so clearly. Well," I said, turning once gain to Herbert, "what do you say, old chap?"
"No. However thank you for your confidence, but I'm not the one to write anything. You can use my name, and give me a percentage of the royalties."
For a moment I was stunned. There I was, feeling on top of the world, My whole life at that moment was being defined in a new way, and I had no thought of any remuneration, no glory, but just to tell an amazing story of how this place came to be discovered--almost as if in a dream--and then, Herbert shatters my noble intentions, my altruism, my lofty intentions on the progression of man's consciousness, by saying I should give him a cut of the royalties! No royalty had entered my mind.
All at once I was filled with indignation and I spewed forth a litany of pejoratives about Herbert that I never thought myself capable. I said he was greedy, a mercenary, an illiterate, insensitive man who belonged in his vacuous world, spouting worthless notions about what art is or isn't, based on petty, smug, subjective standards which had value only for himself and other narrow-minded and weak-brained, pretentious fools who thought they knew a lot about art when, at bottom, they knew nothing; that he was unable to open his self-sequestered mind to the great possibilities and potentials of this stupendous archaeological and petroglyphical mystery my dream had awakened us to-- which went beyond drawing room notions about art; for here in the desert we had found the origins of art! I was fit to be tied, for during my diatribe, I had stood up and even shook my fist in his face. Robair gently took hold of my arm and asked me if I wanted a glass of water.
I was about to say something rude to Robair when I noticed he was smiling a bodhisattva's smile of concise understanding which made me realize what an ass I'd been and I burst into laughter which made me eventually come down from my apex of anger. When I was once again calm, I apologized to Herbert and offered him my hand and a future gift of recompense when we were back in San Francisco; but he would have none of my genuine contriteness. He flung his vituperative barbed words at me with a vehemence I did not think possible from him. However, I amazed myself by being able to withstand his railings. He bent down and picked up a stick and threw it into the fire and said: "There, may you and your kind burn in Hell! Now I feel better and I'll take your hand, and do forgive me. I didn't realize my point about any royalty would touch you off as it did. I, in turn, offer my apologies." We shook hands and then, the hour being late, we all turned in.
For three days we stayed at the site taking pictures and gathering pieces of surface evidence. We found some arrow heads and a broken spear point. The arrow heads were stone; the spear point was of crystal, neatly gouged resembling a fine-worked objet d'art, instead of a primitive weapon. Waldtraude made many, many sketches and Robair, who had a hand cultivator dug a shallow trench and found more arrow heads and a fragment of what seemed to be some kind of cloth.
Herbert and I had a long, silent trip back to San Francisco. It was a tension-less, friendly silence. I drove him to his hotel and just before we said our good-byes he said, "You, Sardonios, are the most complicated man I've ever met. I'm glad I'm who I am because I know more people who think like me than I know who think like you. That's all I wanted to say. Good luck to you and thank you for your hospitality. I shall tell Sir George I saw you and that you send your regards. Goodbye." We shook hands and I never saw him again.
I got together with Waldtraude when she was on her way back to Switzerland. Robair didn't come to San Francisco. We had dinner together; and during our meal Waldtraude said to me: "Sardonios, you are one of the most uncomplicated men I have ever met in my life. It has been my sincere pleasure meeting you." I thanked her for her kind words, then I drove her to the airport. She invited me to visit her in St. Galen if I ever made it to Switzerland. I said goodbye to her and never saw her again.
I received a letter from Robair saying he had decided not to reveal the location of the find; but anyone of us could, he added. He was too busy doing other things. Moreover, petroglyphology was something he was going to put aside for now and, instead, he would take up throwing pottery and propose marriage to his girlfriend. He sent me copies of Waldtraude's sketches, copies of his photographs and the crystal spear head. I am now in the process of
writing a short monograph on the discovery; but I am omitting the location.
se days, but in his youth,
stela, which had fallen face up, and on it was a parade in file of warriors with bows and spears in their hands
a large feline, perhaps a mountain lion or panther.
Waldtraude was in her glory. She ooed and
"Because I haven't published I've not yet finished cataloguing them. In all my years of study I find the petroglyphs in this area the most intriguing and extraordinary images I've ever run across. They have--as far as I can see--no rel