Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Meeting the Ancient Ones

Art Rosch
This will be the third Art Rosch story to be posted on Tales of Relentless Pursuit.  Art is an adventurer and a gifted story teller who has the ability to place the reader so much into the story that we forget we are sitting in a comfortable chair, far away from danger and the world of the Spirits.

If you have not read his other two tales, I highly recommend that you do before continuing with this one. If you have time for only one, make it "It's All Downhill From Here,"  where you will be introduced to Fox and Yertle. 

Once you've read the above, you will be hungry for more--trust me! So go on to read "I Might Have a Little Gas."  

Art's latest story, entitled "Meeting the Ancient Ones," will have you mesmerized, to say the least.  Yes, it's unbelievable, but if you knew the Rosches, you would know that every word is the gospel truth.

"Meeting the Ancient Ones" also appears in Art's book, Avoiding the Potholes.


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Michelle Alton

Meeting the Ancient Ones Art Rosch

I don’t exactly know when the Raven thing started.  Somewhere on the road towards Moab, Utah, my wife Fox began to see ravens as totem spirits, as guides. She's half Apache, so I guess that gives her a license to have unusual relationships with nature.

One day Fox saw Ravens flying parallel to the road, and she said, “The ravens are with us. They tell me we’re going to be okay.”

If a stranger said this to me on a bus, I would have changed seats.  But this is my wife.  I had first-hand experience of her integrity.  I had passed through the “I think she’s crazy” phase in our relationship and I trusted her.  Fox has an extraordinary gift: she converses with animals.  She is receptive to images that animals project. When Fox began to read the flights of the ravens, I paid attention.

This was our second trip to Arches National Park.  During the first trip, just before we left the Moab area, we found an out-of-the-way petroglyph site.  It was deep in a remote canyon.  Fox's Apache connections had evoked this "tip".  We found the petroglyphs, and we found something else as well: a ghost. 

In spite of the site's spooky nature, we wanted to re-visit the place on our second trip to Arches. I thought I had memorized its location, but I was wrong.  We drove along the side roads leading off Interstate 70, looking for the landmarks: an unused railroad crossing, a ruined town and a gravel road leading into the canyon.

The Railroad Crossing
What we found were many roads, and many derelict buildings, all of which resembled the route we had taken two years ago.  At last I came to a place that felt familiar.  I crossed a cow-catcher, bounced into a dry wash and began heading into a parched wilderness.  At that moment, two ravens on opposite sides of the road flew into the air and crossed one another’s flight paths, forming an “X” directly in front of our RV.  By the way, if you haven't read my other stories about our adventures, the RV's name was Yertle.

“Stop!” Fox commanded.  “This is the wrong road; we’ll get horribly lost. The ravens just told me.”

I stopped.  We had spent much of an hour looking for our mysterious site, and now I was frustrated and feeling a little foolish. 

Then, two more ravens in parallel flew over Yertle, from front to back, while a third raven simply hovered in front of the RV, balancing itself on drafts of air. “Wait here, “ Fox said.  “Something will happen.”

The Canyon
I killed the engine and watched as clouds of dust dissipated in the wind. In about a minute I saw a plume of dust emerging from between the walls of the canyon.  It quickly resolved itself into a pickup truck.  It curved here and there but inexorably moved towards us.  I started Yertle, backed up and got her out of the way.  Then I stepped down from the cab and waited.  Momentarily, a hefty four wheel drive pickup pulled alongside.  An elderly Native American couple was inside. They had a solid, vital look to them.  They beamed at us with patient good nature. I could think of no other people who would so perfectly belong to this landscape.

The man looked at Yertle, then at me.  “This is no place to drive something like that,” he said, amiably.  “You’d be in terrible trouble if you went down this road. The next wash would’ve hung you up and ain’t a tow big enough round here to get you out. Woulda had to come from Salt Lake.  B’lieve me, I know what I’m talking about.  Happens about once a year.”

“I’m glad we didn’t drive any further,” I said, looking at Fox with gratitude.  I searched the sky for Ravens and there they were, circling overhead. “We’re looking for a place with petroglyphs that’s around here.  There’s a ghost town…..”

Ghost Town

Ghost Town
The man laughed.  “That’s my place, I own the land up to the reservation boundary,” he said.  “Just follow us and I’ll take you to the road."

I got into Yertle and we followed the pickup truck down the road, just a few miles, and there, sure enough, was the ghost town, and the road, and a hand lettered sign that said, “Petroglyphs 15 mi.  Ute Reservation 23 mi.”

The driver of the pickup beckoned with his arm, and we knew which way to go. His wife looked back and waved sweetly, cupping her fingers into her palm, again and again, until they drove out of sight.

There are still about 20 people living in this town.

Now everything was familiar.  We chunkalunked down the road, while the canyon became deeper, higher, more amazing, more remote.  Where did we find the nerve to come here, two years ago?  I know, we’re dinky little adventurers, we don’t go to Antarctica or base jump in wing suits off Angel Falls.  I’ll never kayak down the Niger River. Everyone has their scale of things and going alone into a remote canyon that we already knew was spooky, that was pushing our limits.  Fortunately, the road was recently graveled.  And, fifteen miles is fifteen miles.  Driving slowly and carefully, we were there in just under an hour.

The sides and floor of the canyon were full of plant life: sage, yarrow, dandelion, all kinds of grasses.  Huge brown and grey jackrabbits skittered across the road every few seconds. This was an entire eco-system.  Though the creek washes were dry, we could see what might happen during the rainy season. The songs of wrens, chickadees and cowbirds bounced from the walls.  No wonder this was a sacred place, eight thousand years ago, when rain was plentiful. A sacred place, today, though perhaps no one but a few tourists worship here.

 Perhaps no one but Fox and myself.

Fox, in the tall growth
The place was exactly as I remembered. The plant life was vigorous from autumn rainfall.  The ocher figures painted on the cliff stood sentinel over the road, the canyon, the dry wash.  Here and there, horse flop testified to the Ute presence down the road.  Otherwise, there was utter solitude. 

The sage bushes were so high that as Fox and I wandered around, we lost sight of one another.  I would see her emerge where the cliff face bent outward and twisted around on the west side of the canyon, where the tallest shamanic figures, the ethereal masked ones with no eyes, stood watch over the eons.  A little finger of waterfall came off the top of the cliff, falling with a plink into a pool down in the wash. The place was magnificent, eerie and profound. 

For half an hour or so, we wandered quietly, and I heard the sound of Fox’s drum emerge from the bush, and her gentle song, “hey yey yey hey, yey yey”. I joined her singing, and we made a loving duet, paying tribute with our voices to the Ancient Ones and to the Great Spirit.

It was a moment of perfection, and it came to an abrupt halt.  A motor noise intruded, coming down the road from the direction of the white world, from the ghost town and rural Utah.  The motor was loud and rough, it conveyed a gestalt of information: no tourist had a car or truck that sounded this way. Rough and burbling, it was an engine in poor condition, old and belching oil fumes.
For reasons mostly subliminal, I was immediately frightened. I could feel terror in my chest, pushing at my rib cage.  I quickly located Fox, and we both circled towards Yertle.  I was holding a very expensive camera.  I stashed it away in Yertle’s innards. 

Then, before we could do anything else, a green pickup truck came across the wash and stopped on the opposite side of the road.  There were two men in the bed of the truck, two men and a teenage girl in the passenger compartment.  One of the men was in his forties.  The others were in their early twenties.  The men looked somewhat alike: short reddish hair done in buzz cuts, freckles, bad teeth.  The girl was plump, dark, heavily coated in makeup.

These were members of a family, maybe dad, brothers, a cousin.  They had a brutal unconscious look, and they were not happy to see us there.

The opposite wall of the canyon. You can just see the interlopers' pickup.
The driver circled the truck towards the small parking area in front of the petroglyphs.  He flipped a cigarette out the window.  “How ya doin?” he asked.  The younger men jumped from the rear truck bed and walked aimlessly around.  One of them snickered for no reason, and scratched the red stubble of his head.  A tattoo of a fat woman in cowboy clothes worked its way up his arm.

“We’re okay, “ I said.  Assessing, assessing.  If they wanted to rob us, kill us, they could.  I tried to read how I looked to them.  A burly middle-aged guy with a shaved head and an earring.  Not very scary. I discerned that the business at hand was some kind of group sexual encounter with a willing and very foolish girl.  We were simply in the way.  They hadn’t expected anyone to be here.  For a few tense moments, the older man watched us, while the kids opened cans of beer and circled around us, thinking about an opportunity to rob the tourists.
The girl was more important.  At last, they got back in the truck, and one of them banged on the window.  “Let’s go, man,” he said.

The truck shaved a pile of gravel off the road and circled back to the other side.  While Fox and I got into Yertle, we heard the pop of beer cans and a loud giggle from the girl.  Our hearts were pounding in our chests.  I looked up at the silent petroglyphs. 

“You’ve always got a surprise for us, don’t you?” I thought.  The darkness and the light, always intermingling.  A holy place may not always be a peaceful place.  It may be a place of blood and silence, of sacrifice, death and re-awakening.  Something awe-ful lived in this canyon, something that pulled us in, and then chased us away.

There are glyphs from many eras here, from 2000 BC to the 1870s when white prospectors did their own version of graffiti.
Just as we crossed the wash, Fox cried out, “Stop!” Her voice was so powerful that I hit the brake, rocking us both towards the windshield, then back into our seats.
Our rear wheels were still in the wash, so I finished pulling through and braked Yertle to a halt.  Fox jumped from the passenger seat and went back into the wash.  I saw her in the rear view mirror.  She was digging in the sand and gravel, digging towards something that was revealing itself.  She grabbed a nearby stick to penetrate the packed sand.  Finally, she pulled a red egg-shaped object from the ground. Panting, she ran back to Yertle, and I got down that road as fast as I could.

When we were finally back in the old wrecked town, I pulled aside to see what she had taken from the earth.

She held it out to me.  “Look,” she said, “It called to me, I knew it would be there.  I can’t explain it any better than that.”  In her hand was an oval stone, red colored, sized to fit perfectly in a human hand. When she passed it to me, I knew that someone had used this thing centuries past, used it to pound acorns, chestnuts, to work flint or break bones to get marrow.  My fingers closed around it as if responding to its invitation.  Its surface was smooth, except for several lines that had been incised at regular intervals, as if to count years or seasons.  Tiny crystals glittered within the granite matrix.

“How did you find this?” I was incredulous.

“As we crossed the wash, it just spoke to me…”  Fox shrugged.  “I heard it…I don’t know….a Grandmother once used it.  See, it was buried lengthwise”, she showed me.  She had dug about six inches of the creek to get to it.  Only a tiny arc of the object had broken the surface, but she knew it was something that needed to be found.

“There’s got to be an irrational explanation for this,” I commented.

Fox laughed as I passed the ancient tool back.  She put it in her medicine bag, reverently, with her collection of sacred objects.


  All photographs by Art Rosch

Bonus Photos by Art

Art Rosch's Biographical Sketch

Art Rosch boomed with the other babies of his generation in St. Louis, Mo. He was drawn to music as a child and learned trumpet and drums. As he got older, he became enamored of modern jazz. At the age of sixteen he set out on a pilgrimage to New York City to study with his idol, avant garde musician Ornette Coleman. This adventure led Art to associations with many jazz musicians.

He spent two years as the house drummer at Detroit's Artist's Workshop. His interest in writing and photography also continued to grow. After winning Best Story Award from Playboy Magazine, Art signed with an agent and began working on novels. He is still working on novels, memoirs and essays.

His photography has been featured in Shutterbug Magazine, where he is a contributing writer. One image, Lone Tree In Utah, won an important award from the United Nations. Much of Art's photo work is done at night. He is a passionate amateur astronomer and likes to explore the potential of long exposure photography. He continues to work from Sonoma County, California.

Art's photography may be viewed on his
website and many of his writings can be seen on his "Blogazine."


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Carolyn McIntosh said...

OMG . . . you are a great story teller . . . you had my heart just a-thumping . .. . however I should have figured out it was going to be OK as you obviously lived to tell about it. Great story, enjoyed it very much.

Carolyn Fletcher said...

Totally cool story, as they all are. You are a truly gifted writer, my friend.

Gina Cormier said...

I think he should start a blog about his adventures because he does have a way with words! I love it and the images!! And Fox,....what a beautiful woman!! May you have more peaceful and safe adventures ahead of you! :-)

Bob Cammarata said...

Terrific tale Art!
As usual, your eloquent words paint the perfect picture and your photography is first rate.

...keep 'em coming!

Art Rosch said...

Thank you so much. I haven't yet been able to publish/self publish the book of these adventures, "Avoiding The Potholes." Anyone who wants to read it is welcome to contact me. By blog is a mix of poetry, essays, reviews and writings to be found at Please visit, please comment!

Dave Phalen said...

A trnse, riviting and amazing story!! As usual, the photos are great!!

Anonymous said...

Fox sounds like an amazing woman...they pictures are amazing!
Linda Bielko

Anonymous said...

Great storytelling. I can picture the place in my mind even without the photos...the photos are great as well. Quite a gift Fox has.

Robert B.