One day in the late 1990s, I visited the poet William Witherup who was house-sitting up car-rattling dirt road near Santa Fe. Scrambling over a volcanic basalt outcropping that ran behind the house, I found a petroglyph that would have had to been painted by an artist suspended like a hummingbird in mid-air. This reminded me of the young Navajo who, when told about the astronauts landing on the moon, said, "So what? My grandfather's been there several times."

The spiral that might have represented the sipapu from which humans had emerged from the womb of Mother Earth, the line of dots that might represent the clan's migrations, the wide-shouldered forms the ethnographers believed represented kachina spirits.

The pregnant Earth Mother represented in human form would have emerged from the mystery of birth. Then a complementary Sky Father would have naturally epiphanized, as "The life of the imagination is one of exchange."

Siren—woman and bird,
you have folded into yourself
in a sleep that excludes me.

By the Upper Paleolithic, artists were culling humans from the complex rhythms of the larger primate world by grafting them onto the bodies of animals, or projecting animals with prostheses of human limbs. Therianthropes, they're called, for the significance of a symbol is not that it is a disguised indication of something that is generally known, but that it is an endeavour to elucidate by analogy what is as yet completely unknown and only in the process of formation. The phantasy represents to us that which is just developing under the form of a more or less apposite analogy hidden in the shadows behind skills of imagination and wit, painted as the uncanny gnosis of a star-born psyche onto rugose cave walls and covens of stone.

Not just decorating rocks, but embodying
their mineral being, "A man was struck by a rock he had stared at too long. "The rock," he added, "never moved."