So a couple of friends of mine moved into a new house a few months ago (New to them, but the house was built in the 40s and oh boy it’s a rabbit’s den of old and new additions, cubbyholes, and questionable wiring), and in the back yard, once they’d cleared away about a decade’s worth of uncontrolled blackberry growth, they found what looked like a little pet grave marker (This is the point where pretty much everyone who’s ever read “Pet Sematary” would get a little creeped out)
Since they know I’m trained in archaeology and love working with bone, they asked me to come check it out, so I got out my trusty flat-nose trowel and started carefully digging (Many archaeologists prefer the pointed-nose trowel, but my flat-nose is my very first trowel and it’s served me well through four field seasons and I love it. Archaeologists get very protective of their trowels).
I dug down about a foot and didn’t find anything at all, nothing but loamy-clayey dirt, and we started to wonder if maybe the grave marker was a prank or maybe a raccoon had already dug up whatever was down there, but I decided to keep going just in case, and at about 18″ (Archaeology is always done in metric but I forgot to bring my metric tape measure) I saw a little hint of blue fabric, which you can see at the top of the photo above, as well as a little peek of the side of a skull, which you can see in the photo below just to the left of that leaf.
I carefully scraped away the rest of the soil and found a perfect intact cat skeleton, carefully wrapped in a pillow case and a t-shirt with a baseball team logo on it (couldn’t read the team name, unfortunately). I set the bones on top of the dirt pile to keep them together and did my best to be sure that the hole was clean of all materials. You can see the very dirty, moldy bones at the top of the photo below.
Now if you’ve done any archaeology fieldwork you’ll probably notice that my walls look terrible. In my defense it was VERY sandy clay, and quite damp, so my walls were crumbling all over the place, plus I am FAR more careful on official digs (I can cut a damned gorgeous profile, if I do say so myself) and this was pretty casual and exploratory, with no expectation of finding culturally or historically significant materials.
I took the newly unearthed CT (Since those letters were painted on the grave marker we decided to keep that as his name. I’m only guessing it’s a male from the size of the bones, but I’m really not an expert on feline skeletal anatomy) back home with me and carefully washed him in clean water and cleaned off the remaining dirt and mold with a soft toothbrush, and here he is in all his glory. Such a beautiful set of bones, and nothing broken! (Usually the bones I use in my art come from road kill, so I typically end up with a lot of fractured and broken bones, and they can be a real pain to piece back together). I’m missing most of the tail vertebrae, foot bones, and teeth (probably got lost in the fill dirt, though some of the tooth loss could have occurred before death), but otherwise it’s a pristine skeleton, and I look forward to using the bones for making beautiful new art, always keeping in mind that this beautiful creature was loved, and deserves respect and care every step of the way.
I’m finally back from Burning man and it was by far the most wonderful burn I’ve ever had. Even the hard parts were well worth it.
So I’ve been showing you all the project we’ve been working on here in Portland, and I can finally give you a glimpse of what we’ve been working so hard to create. All the months of stress and craziness and tears and ulcers and exhaustion, the hundreds of people who gave everything they had and more to make Embrace happen, it was all worth it.
The Embrace project was beautiful. There were so many times we thought it would never make it to the playa, but here it is. The build crew in Reno did such an amazing job of building her, and then rebuilding her on the playa, working themselves to the bone and then working some more. I am so proud to have played even a tiny part in making this wonderful work of art a reality.
And here is our heart. Each of the two figures had its own heart, one from a crew in Vancouver, B.C., and ours from Portland. I’m so proud of what we created, it was absolutely beautiful.
And to top it off, for months the BLM, who owns the land, was telling us we would not be allowed to burn Embrace, but at the last minute they said we could try a morning burn because the wind is usually calm in the morning (This is only the 4th or 5th morning burn ever, so that makes it doubly wonderful) and a crowd gathered Friday morning at sunrise and we watched what may be the most perfect, beautiful burn I will ever see. I was so full of joy I could barely stand it.
This is what we were working for all those months. This is why we do the crazy things we do. This is why we burn 🙂