The root of petrified is the greek word petro, meaning stone. When are we petrified? Could there be petrified forests in our minds? Perfectly preserved fossils of bits buried so quickly and so deep, now made more solid and enduring than any aspects of the original events? Some stone age people raised wooden pillars to celebrate the world of the living and constructed stone monoliths to represent the world of the dead. What would they have to say about wood turned to stone?
I went to see the geoglyphs in Blythe, CA and they hurt me. The Blythe geoglyphs are giant pictures made as ancient artists scratched away the top, darker layer of earth (like a handsome scar) sometime between 900 BC and 1200 AD. Now hemmed with chainlink, they are almost eradicated from tires and footsteps over the 90 years since white people noticed them. The work is durable enough to survive at least 700, if not several thousand, years of environmental elements: animals and windstorms and torrents and all the processes of growth and death, but is so fragile that a few stones displaced by gym shoes can erase the image.
This guy’s hand used to be here:
I was sad thinking about the original impulses that drove the makers to create these intaglios, and the impossibility of making anything so sincere today, so I turned around and climbed a hill. From the top I could see an oasis in the distance beyond the two-dimensional man.
There was a small, recent pile of stones on the hill, set with an engraved plaque remembering someone’s beloved brother and son. Across the top, I saw some dark stumps, which seemed out of place. Approaching, I realized they were small tree stumps, with logs and bits of wood around. I got closer and saw that the wood was actually rock. It was all the deep brown shade of real wood that has been scorched, and maintained every crevice and crack, the exact texture of bark, but was harder and heavier, and glittered dimly in the sun.