Last evening I washed buckets of broken ceramics in the bathtub, then conveyed them to the back porch to dry, having collected assorted discards in the afternoon at an abandoned mine dump.
The dogs scrambled past me across the tailgate, then took off down patches of broken asphalt that distinguish the road from the mud around it, disturbing foot prints we had made the day before. Conditions were tolerable and little snow remained. The bare and brushy valley where the dump lies, is one of the quietest places I know, the air so still that the silence draws attention to itself. The site is clean, the trash having burned off years ago.
Thousands of food cans dumped along the railway grade by miners have been reduced to rust. Little is intact except for an occasional small bottle that held shoe polish or naughty cologne. The simple act of plucking items from the earth, and dropping them into my bucket, restored something essential, my need to comb the earth for bits of history never subsides.
Whether or not my loot results in artistic objects hardly matters. (It did.) A cross-country trail of left-behind work maps my migrations, and only a small stack of drawings and a few sculptures reveal anything about me.